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Andrew Lynch: Sickening sight of rogue builders partying on

Brian Lenihan claims the rogue property developers who destroyed our economy "will be pursued to the ends of the earth".

Unfortunately, that's still no guarantee they'll actually be caught. As last night's Prime Time Investigates revealed in chilling detail, NAMA builders are still living the high life -- even as the public picks up the tab for their stupid and reckless behaviour.

The basic facts are simple. Less than two years since the creation of NAMA, the world's biggest property company still cannot force its bankrupt clients to give up their luxury mansions, private jets and all the other trappings of their millionaire lifestyles.

While the bank's balance sheets are being cleaned, all that toxic debt is being landed squarely on the shoulders of the Irish taxpayer.

Gerry Gannon is a prime example. At the height of the boom, Gannon Homes didn't just build homes -- it built entire towns. "The man in the hat" was also one of the so-called Anglo 10 who were so involved with that basket case bank that they were called upon to put up the €350m that bought Sean Quinn's 25pc share.

Today, Gannon is thought to owe NAMA the best part of a billion quid. Most of us would be out on the streets if we failed to meet a few mortgage payments, but Gerry hasn't allowed a little debt like that to get him down.

Instead, he is still doing very well for himself -- by the simple expedient of transferring over two dozen properties to his wife's name.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing illegal about this. It's a simple legal transaction that allows any developer who finds himself in trouble to put a significant portion of their assets out of bounds. NAMA executives may protest that the builders have personally promised to play fair with them -- but as we all know by now, those verbal guarantees aren't worth the paper they're written on.

Demeaning

The point of NAMA is to get the public's money back. It's hard to see how it can achieve this when top developers are busy squirreling away their money to where the law cannot touch it. Some of them are even showing a sense of humour by demanding salaries of up to €200,000, presumably on the grounds it would be demeaning for people of their class to live on anything less. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Last night's programme showed the builders living it up as if the Celtic Tiger were alive and well -- with trophy homes on the Howth peninsula, shopping trips to Brown Thomas and trips to race meetings in helicopters that cost at least €3m second-hand.

On the day of the Budget, Brian Lenihan tried to justify his savage spending cuts by claiming that "We all partied".

The truth is that most of us simply got on with our lives while the partying was confined to a small elite.

Now the party is over -- and the people who behaved sensibly have been left to clean up the mess.

Don't get mad, get even? Unfortunately, the Government hasn't left us with a lot of choice.


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