Minister rules out suspending NAMA work pending report into sale of NI loans

The Minister for Finance, Pascal Donohoe has emphatically ruled out suspending the work of NAMA pending the final report of the investigation into the sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland loan portfolio.

In June 2017, the Government appointed retired High Court judge John Cooke to investigate NAMA’s £1.24 billion (€1.43 billion) sale in 2014 of the portfolio to US distressed-debt firm, Cerberus.

Mick Wallace TD had alleged in the Dáil that £7 million in fees related to the transaction had been lodged in a bank account in the Isle of Man that was “reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or party” following the transaction.

The allegation sparked a number of inquiries, including the Cooke Commission.

New York-based Cerberus has denied any connection to any wrongdoing, while NAMA has said the allegations relate to the buy-side of the transaction.

In a written Dáil response to Deputy Wallace asking Minister Donohoe to consider suspending the work of NAMA immediately pending the final Cooke report, Minister Donohoe has stated: “It is important to note that in no way has the integrity of NAMA or the NAMA Board or the integrity of its decisions been brought into question in relation to the disposal of Project Eagle.

He stated: “I therefore have no intention of directing NAMA to halt its activities. To do so would irreparably damage NAMA's positive contribution to our recovery and damage our reputation as a credible, open and transparent market.”

Minister Donohoe stated that the Cooke Commission’s final report is scheduled to be published by the end June next.

He stated that neither the Commission’s Terms of Reference or its interim report call for a suspension of NAMA's activities.

Minister Donohoe said that any interference in the work of NAMA “would be detrimental to the interests of Irish taxpayers”.

The decision of the Oireachtas in 2009 to allow NAMA to carry out its functions in an independent manner has been vindicated by its strong performance since inception.

He pointed out that in October 2017 NAMA eliminated the Irish taxpayers' contingent liability of €30 billion which arose from the senior debt issued in order to acquire bank loan portfolios.

He added that “NAMA also expects to redeem its subordinated debt by March 2020 and to produce a surplus – currently estimated at €3.5 billion – by the time it completes its work subject to continued positive market performance”.

He said: “Halting NAMA’s activities would put these achievements at risk. It would entail the State taking direct control of NAMA and bring NAMA onto the State’s balance sheet.

He stated: “Such action also would raise serious competition concerns limiting the State’s flexibility in recovering value from NAMA’s remaining assets.

"Such action would also create significant challenges for NAMA in retaining staff and preserving a viable platform to maximise the return from its remaining assets.”

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