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Nama 'wants to look tough for taxpayer'

THE National Asset Management Agency has been accused of trying to target playboy developer Johnny Ronan because it wants to "look tough on behalf of the taxpayer".

Sources close to the case said last night: "The feeling is that Nama decided to take out Treasury Holdings for reasons other than commercial and financial motives."

Nama last week moved to put the worldwide Dublin-based property company run by Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett into receivership.

The full case will be heard in the High Court in the coming weeks.

"There's a feeling that Nama wants to look tough on behalf of the taxpayer. It might be easier to look tough and close them down but it's much worse on the taxpayer," said the source.

"Particularly Johnny (Ronan) is the poster boy for the excesses of the Celtic Tiger and they think you can't lose taking on Johnny. If it's Nama versus Johnny there's always only going to be one winner there."

The flamboyant developer was known for his lavish lifestyle around Dublin, which included a private jet, a lavish car and his involvement with beautiful women.

It is understood that Treasury Holdings sent a solicitor's letter to Nama in recent days warning the State bad bank to stop putting out what was described as "inaccurate information" about the company. Another source said developers should not be "taken out" to ease public anger, while banks, Government and the central regulator "get away with murder".

"It should be remembered that while developers have to take their share of the blame for the banking crisis it was not they who lent the massive amounts on mad deals. Yet developers are being vilified unfairly and being used as convenient scapegoats.

"Politicians should realise this; Nama is wiping out developers and putting massive amounts of property on the market which is driving down the value of every taxpayer's home in the country.

"Nama is supposed to be the national asset management agency. But it seems like it's becoming more the national asset liquidation agency or national retribution agency."

As the source explained: "How could this be in the interests of the Irish taxpayer? Nama may not approve of Johnny's lifestyle but that should not be Nama's concern.

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"Whatever you may say about them they have created great buildings and thousands of badly needed jobs.

"Nama needs to get real. It's about making a profit on the loans and retaining jobs, not destroying them."

It is understood Nama bought Treasury's loans from the banks for €560m, but it is claimed Macquarie and Hines were offering in excess of €600m for the loans -- an offer that has been turned down by the State agency.

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