Project Eagle sale backed

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said yesterday that Nama has nothing to hide over the sale of the Project Eagle loans in the North.

Project Eagle sale backed

He said Nama had not proceeded in any unusual way in conducting the sale last year and that he was satisfied there was a sufficient number of bidders involved in the competitive tender.

Speaking to the media at Treasury Buildings yesterday, Mr Noonan said he had no role in the commercial operations of Nama. Nama was run on a commercial basis by its managers, executives and by the board of Nama.

He said Nama had offered the Project Eagle portfolio to the market through a public tender. A large number of bidders were involved in the sales process and their bids were acceptable. The minister said it was normal to move onto other potential bidders on any sales list when one bidder could no longer be considered.

He said Nama had followed proper procedures and he had “no quibble” with the sales process.

Asked if he would consider instructing Nama officials to appear before a Stormont committee investigating the Project Eagle sale, Mr Noonan said he had no powers to instruct State agencies to appear before any hearing outside of the jurisdiction.

He said that under law, Nama is accountable to the Oireachtas through the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), but he said Nama was “willing” to answer any relevant questions.

The €1.6bn sale of the loans portfolio, worth €5.7bn at face value, sparked into controversy this month for a number of reasons. Independent TD Mick Wallace alleged in the Dáil that monies in an Isle of Man bank account were earmarked for an unnamed Northern politician and “fixers”, who had helped out in the sales process.

The sale to Cerberus was also controversial, as rival bidder Pimco left the bidding at a late stage after revealing its legal firms planned to pay a former Nama adviser in the North for his work on the Project Eagle deal. A few weeks later, Cerberus won the auction after retaining the same legal firms as used by Pimco, though without the former Nama adviser.

The PAC heard evidence this month that certain fees were to be split three ways.

Nama officials have strongly defended the Project Eagle sales process. US legal firm Brown Rudnick, Cerberus, and Pimco have said they have no knowledge of any wrongdoing.

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