Irish Republican News · October 3, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Fears of gigantic and prolonged corruption at NAMA


There was a telling development in the scandal over Ireland’s ‘bad bank’ this week as the Dublin government attempted to derail a parliamentary committee’s investigation by releasing a sheaf of documents on the eve of a public meeting of the panel.

The 26 County’s Department of Finance released 41 documents to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in a clear effort to further implicate Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness in the affair and detract from the actions of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.

Noonan (pictured, right) is being strongly linked to the sale by NAMA, the National Asset Management Agency, of property portfolios at billions of euro less than their real market value.

The issue has already become a highly damaging issue for the coalition government in the forthcoming general election, which must be held by the coming Spring.

Minister Noonan is reported to be keen to bring forward the date of the election to as soon as next month -- crucially, before reports of state auditors emerge which could expose the scale of the funds lost by NAMA.

At this week’s PAC meeting, chairman John McGuinness said the release of documentation by the Department of Finance at 9pm on Wednesday night was “nothing short of interfering with the work of the committee”. Independent TD Shane Ross said it was a “shocking” decision and designed to be “politically divisive” and to “provide a distraction” to proceedings.

The documents revealed that a conference call involving Noonan, McGuinness and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Peter Robinson had dealt at length and in detail with the efforts to seal a deal with U.S. bidder Pimco for the purchase of the northern portfolio, codenamed ‘Project Eagle’.

In the call, Robinson spoke of the “comfort” provided by the commitments of Pimco if they were the successful acquirer. Pimco withdrew from the process after allegations of a conflict of interest by a former Nama advisor who was acting for the company in an advisory capacity.

While no comments by McGuinness were noted in the official record of the conference call, has cast a new light on his claims that he had been kept “in the dark” over the meetings and correspondence relating to the sale of the ‘Project Eagle’ debt portfolio.

The North’s deputy first minister is now seeking to come before the PAC in an effort to counter allegations being advanced by the DUP and Fine Gael that he quietly approved of the shady transaction.

Sinn Fein has called on Peter Robinson and party colleague former minister for finance Sammy Wilson to also travel to Dublin to appear before PAC members. Robinson has so far refused to appear, but said he will give oral evidence to the northern Assembly’s finance committee later this month.

The DUP’s appointment of a barrister, newly-appointed South Belfast assembly member Emma Pengelly, to join the Stormont finance committee is seen as a tactical move designed to minimise damage to the DUP as the party’s representatives face questioning over the Nama controversy.

In the latest developments linked to the sale of Nama’s northern loan book, it was reported that the reserve price for the portfolio was reduced by £60m to £1.24bn in April of last year, ensuring that a bid by vulture fund Cerberus of £1.241bn was successful.

NAMA explained the reduction by saying it related to “asset disposals in the intervening period between the start of the loan sale and its closing”.

It had been claimed the sale of the portfolio could have sold for up to £5 billion.

There are allegations of systematic corruption in the handling of NAMA’s assets. Gardaí police in the 26 Counties are investigating a claim that one of its officials took €30,000 in cash from a developer. It is alleged that the official took two instalments of €15,000 in cash in exchange for allowing them to get out of the agency’s control.

Wexford TD Mick Wallace has also alleged that a developer complained “about being approached by fixers who were looking for a backhand in order for him to buy his loans back at 50p in the pound from Cerberus in the autumn of ‘13, months before Cerberus even bought it.”

Mr Wallace has demanded that the Dublin government step in to halt the sale of the 7.2bn euro ‘Project Arrow’ portfolio, involving assets and loans in the 26 Counties and Britain. Cerberus is widely tipped to secure the deal.

The US Department of Justice, the FBI, and the US Securities Exchange Commission have become involved in the investigations.

During a visit to attend an event in New York last week, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams held a meeting with an official from the New York Comptroller’s Office, which has ties to Cerberus.

Mr Adams said: “Cerberus is involved in the fire-sale of assets, asset stripping, facility closures, and the loss of jobs, and all of this is seriously impacting on the local economy.

“The very serious allegations surrounding the sales process of the northern loan book by Nama to Cerberus and allegations of political corruption and possible illegal activity are also matters we have brought to the Comptroller’s attention.”

NAMA chief Frank Daly (pictured, left) has so far refused to appear before the finance committee of the Stormont Assembly.

Sinn Fein’s Daithi Mr McKay said: “The continued reluctance of NAMA to appear before the Committee is regrettable and deeply frustrating.”

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© 2015 Irish Republican News