Judge probing Nama's Project Eagle loan to have 'high-level briefing' from UK's National Crime Agency
The retired judge investigating the controversial sale of Nama's Project Eagle loan portfolio is to receive a “high-level briefing” from the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA).
Ms Justice John Cooke will meet NCA investigators next month as he prepares to ramp up his investigation into the sale of the agency’s Northern Ireland loan book to US vulture fund Cerberus for €1.6bn in 2014.
He made the disclosure in an interim report to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
The judge said he hoped to complete his investigation by June of next year.
The sale of Project Eagle became engulfed in controversy in 2015 when it emerged a Stg£7m (€7.9m) payment linked to the sale was diverted to an Isle of Man bank by a Belfast solicitor.
Independent TD Mick Wallace claimed in the Dáil the cash was reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or party.
It subsequently emerged that businessman Frank Cushnahan, a former Nama advisor and close associate of former Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, had stood to receive Stg£5m in fees if another bidder had been successful.
Mr Cushnahan was one of three people arrested by the NCA as part of its probe.
He denies any wrongdoing and no one has been charged with any offence to date.
Nama was criticised by Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy for failing to take more action when it learned about the proposed payment to Mr Cushnahan.
Mr McCarthy also raised questions over how the portfolio was valued and marketed. He also found there was a potential loss to the taxpayer of Stg£190m (€216m) from the sale. The findings were hotly contested by Nama.
Among other issues, Mr Justice Cook is investigating whether the sale and the price received was appropriate, and whether any conflicts of interest were managed appropriately.
His commission will also examine whether decisions and actions of then Finance Minister Michael Noonan and the Department of Finance, including communications with members and officials of the Northern Ireland Executive and meetings with potential bidders, were appropriate.