Irish government to order NAMA inquiry

The Irish government is to order an inquiry into the controversial £1.2 billion sale of Northern Ireland property assets by bad bank Nama.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 14th September 2016, 8:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:45 pm
Nama sold its Northern Ireland loan package for £1.137billion, having paid £2billion for it
Nama sold its Northern Ireland loan package for £1.137billion, having paid £2billion for it

The Project Eagle deal with US investment fund Cerberus in 2014 has been dogged by scandal for more than a year, including £7 million linked to it being found in an Isle of Man bank account.

The Irish government confirmed the Public Accounts Committee would first examine a Comptroller and Auditor General report into the affair before a formal inquiry is launched.

“The Government’s objective is to ensure that all matters of public concern are addressed in a speedy and effective manner,” a spokesman said.

Project Eagle involved loans linked to more than 800 properties in Northern Ireland being sold in one lot to the New York investment firm which boasts former US vice president Dan Quayle in its ranks.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny offered to meet opposition leaders on Thursday to identify areas of public concern around the deal that need to be investigated and how that should be carried out.

There have been calls for a cross-border inquiry due to the limitations of parliaments in Dublin and Belfast and their inability to compel witnesses from other jurisdictions.

Project Eagle has been examined on previous occasions at the Public Accounts Committee in Dublin.

Investigations have also been launched into the deal by the UK’s National Crime Agency, the US Department of Justice’s Securities and Exchange Commission as well as a parliamentary inquiry in Stormont.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Comptroller and Auditor General found Nama has losses of £162 million on deals linked to Northern Ireland properties, the vast majority from Project Eagle.

Its audit found the deal was worth £1.137 billion – with Nama having paid about £2 billion for the loans.

It found that two of Nama’s valuations of its Northern Ireland loans in late 2013 and early 2014 underestimated their value.

But Nama has insisted it got the best price possible for its controversial Northern Ireland property portfolio.

Ireland’s bad bank said the £1.3 billion sale to US investment fund Cerberus two years ago was “the best achievable result”.

NAMA said it “categorically rejected” the key conclusions reached by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Frank Daly, NAMA chairman, accused the CA&G of overstating the estimated value of the properties.

In Northern Ireland, Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster called for maximum transparency over the deal and argued that the National Crime Agency (NCA) probe should take precedence north of the border.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness backed calls for a cross-border investigation.

“I think there is an unstoppable argument in the south for a very intensive investigation and of course many of us are arguing that is a much more effective investigation if it’s done on an all-island basis,” he said.