Finance Minister Michael Noonan and senior Nama officials have been accused of failing the public by allowing the Project Eagle sale to continue, despite knowing Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan was set to benefit substantially from the deal.
Opposition parties made the claim as they called on all ongoing Nama transactions to be frozen immediately while an investigation into the State property group’s deals takes place.
Responding to the report into the multi-billion euro Project Eagle controversy, Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said there are “very serious” questions over why the deal was not axed when Mr Cushnahan’s “inappropriate” involvement became apparent.
Mr McGrath warned answers are needed on why no action was taken by either Mr Noonan or senior Nama officials when it became apparent Mr Cushnahan would benefit from the transaction.
“The shadow of Frank Cushnahan looms large in the report. One cannot but reach the conclusion that in March 2014 when Nama and indeed the minister [Michael Noonan] was informed of the inappropriate, unorthodox fee arrangement in place between Pimco, Tughans, Brown Rudnick, and Mr Cushnahan, the entire process should have been stopped,” he said.
Mr McGrath said it is “clear” from the Comptroller and Auditor General report that Nama was “not considering the sale of Project Eagle in one transaction until they had the approach from Pimco”.
Claiming “the normal procedures were departed from by Nama” during the deal, he insisted Mr Cushnahan’s involvement should have raised more alarms and that a full state investigation is now needed.
He said allegations raised in a BBC Spotlight programme which appeared to show Mr Cushnahan being given money by a developer needed to be addressed.
Both Mr Cushnahan and the developer have denied any wrong- doing.
“Ultimately the final decisions were made in Dublin, so we believe questions need to be answered,” said Mr McGrath.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the report shows all current Nama deals must be frozen while a State investigation takes place and called on other deals to be examined to ensure the Project Eagle controversy was just an “outlier”.
“This report is damning in its conclusions, damning of Nama, damning of the decision to sell the portfolio, damning of the decision to bundle the loans, damning in its valuation, damning in the process by which bids were decided.
“It leaves no doubt the sale of Project Eagle cost the taxpayer up to €250m. Given all of this, we believe all [Nama sales] should now be suspended. When there has been such a blow to processes in Nama, how could you credibly proceed and carry on as if nothing had happened?”
- Juno McEnroe
Mr Noonan contributed to the Cabinet meeting about the Nama report from his hospital bed after he became ill from a skin disease.
Mr Noonan is on a heavy dose of antibiotics after he contracted cellulitis, and expects to return to work on Monday, a spokesman said.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke with Mr Noonan
during yesterday’s Cabinet meeting so a draft statement could be agreed on the Government’s reaction to the comptroller and auditor general report into Nama’s
Project Eagle loan book sale.
It is expected the Public Accounts Committee will ask Mr Noonan to come
before TDs and answer questions about his actions on Project Eagle and the Nama sales’ process.
A government spokesman yesterday confirmed Mr Noonan was in hospital: “Minister Noonan participated in the meeting by phone. He is on an extensive course of antibiotics for cellulitis and due to return to work by Monday.”
Government sources said his sickness had nothing to do with previous treatment for a cancer threat.
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