Tuesday 20 March 2018

Project Eagle sale strategy was 'seriously deficient', PAC finds

Deputy Sean Fleming Photo: Tom Burke
Deputy Sean Fleming Photo: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found Nama’s sales strategy for the controversial Project Eagle loan book was “seriously deficient”.

The Project Eagle portfolio was sold to US investment firm Cerberus for £1.137bn (€1.6bn) in June 2014. The sale is the subject of a police investigation by National Crime Agency in the North and by authorities in the US.

The Committee found the sale resulted in a £162m (€185m) loss to the Irish taxpayer.

PAC chairman Sean Fleming said Nama was unable to demonstrate that it got “value for money for the Irish State” following the sale of the largest property portfolio in the history of the State.

“The Committee is firmly of the view that the sale of Project Eagle was not a well-designed sales process,” Mr Fleming said.

He also raised serious concerns about a decision by Nama to destroy contemporaneous notes of board meetings relating to the sale of the loan book.

The Committee also criticised Minister for Finance Michael Noonan for meeting senior representatives from Cerberus, the winning bidder of the property portfolio, the day before the bidding process ended.

In its final report on the Project Eagle loan book sale, the PAC said it considers that it was “procedurally inappropriate” for Mr Noonan to meet US investment firm Cerberus the day before the closing date of the sales process.

PAC chairman Sean Fleming said the meeting could have given the impression that Cerberus was “benefitting from preferential treatment”.

In a statement, Mr Noonan said he “absolutely” refutes that he or his officials acted inappropriately in their dealings with Cerberus.

At a press conference, Fine Gael TD and PAC member Peter Burke said the minister had been “denied natural justice” because he was not given a chance to respond to the accusation before the Committee’s report was published.

Mr Fleming, a Fianna Fáil TD, said Mr Noonan was not asked about the meeting when he appeared before the PAC because members did not know he had met Cerberus at that point.

The Committee also criticised the Nama chairman Frank Daly and chief executive Brendan McDonagh for not informing the agency’s board that they met with Cerberus on the day before the Project Eagle bidding process ended.

The PAC recommended that the Government establish a commission of investigation to examine the sale of Nama’s Northern Ireland loan book.

The Committee’s report will be debated in the Dáil in the coming weeks.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section