Sunday 25 February 2018

Government rejects demands for full State inquiry into NAMA property deal

Mick Wallace
Mick Wallace

Brian Hutton

The government has rejected mounting demands for a full State inquiry into the biggest property deal in the country's history.

In the Dail, Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said allegations surrounding the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio to a US investment giant suggested "insider trading and political cronyism".

Independent TD Mick Wallace made the claims in the Dáil
Independent TD Mick Wallace made the claims in the Dáil

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin described the claims as so "serious and profound" that a Commission of Investigation - a statutory inquiry into matters of urgent public concern - was necessary "given the gravity of what has been alleged".

Read more here: Government under pressure to establish Commission of Inquiry into allegations surrounding sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland loan book 

But Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, representing the government during Leaders Questions, said Nama had done nothing wrong.

The Northern Ireland Assembly was investigating "fees that have been paid on the other side of the trade" which were of "public concern", he said.

"These fee arrangements were on the side of the buyer, not the seller of the loans," he said.

Mr Bruton said the US buyer Cerberus was asked by Nama to give an undertaking that there were no fees paid as part of the massive property portfolio sale and had done so.

"We confirm that no fee, commission or other remuneration or payment is payable to any current or former member of the board of the National Asset Management Agency, and current or former members of the executive of Nama or any current or former member of an advisory committee of Nama in connection with any aspect of our participation of the Project Eagle sales process."

Mr Bruton added: "So they (Nama) got a categorical confirmation of what the position is.

"There is an issue obviously in respect of fees that are in an account and due to be paid, but those matters are being investigated by the Law Society and they are being investigated by the Northern Ireland Assembly."

However, Mr Martin insisted huge public concern remains about £7 million in the Isle of Man account, a claim which he said no-one has contested.

"This is very, very serious and profound stuff that goes to the heart of whether a proper deal was done for the taxpayer," he said.

"I can see no other way given the gravity of what has been alleged, and given what we already know publicly and what Nama itself has confirmed, that a Commission of Investigation is urgently required now to investigate this entire episode."

He added: "It's glaringly obvious that this demands a very serious, independent, objective inquiry with compellability into the specifics of this issue.

"Very serious allegations have been made into what transpired, there are many more unanswered questions, it is entirely unsatisfactory.

"It is the largest property sale ever on the island of Ireland, 850 properties bundled together, a lot of intermediaries, a person operating allegedly in a discreet office within the Tughans solicitors firm building and people who served on the Northern Ireland advisory committee of Nama being involved in this situation.

"I don't buy the line Nama accepted assurances and that's the end of the matter. It is not the end of the matter."

Mr Adams said:"Last week, allegations by Teachta (deputy) Mick Wallace suggest insider trading and political cronyism in that sale."

He added: "One of the conditions of the sale was that no former director should receive payment as a result of Nama transactions.

"But we know that the law firm involved in the Cerberus deal had £7 million lodged in an offshore account. Now, £7 million is an awful lot of money, an awful lot of public money."

Mr Adams said he understood that Cerberus is a "leading bidder" in a planned sell-off of all the remaining properties in Nama before it is wound down.

Press Association

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