Michael Noonan under pressure to explain US fund meeting

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is under pressure to explain why he met with US vulture fund officials over Project Eagle, a €1.6bn state property sale which a report says was “seriously deficient”.

The release of a damning Public Accounts Committee dossier paves the way for a full commission of investigation into Nama’s northern property portfolio deal.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is standing by the finance minister and ruled out calling for his resignation despite the fact Mr Noonan is now involved in three different State inquiries.

The PAC concluded that Nama’s Project Eagle sale was “seriously deficient”, that the Northern property deal did not get value for money, and also involved failures of “corporate governance”.

It concluded the sale of Project Eagle to US fund Cerberus resulted in a recorded loss of £162m (€185.62m), part of €800m in losses from Nama’s Northern loans.

While Project Eagle is the subject of further probes here, in the North and the US, the critical PAC dossier paves the way for a full inquiry to go ahead, as promised by the Government.

Mr Noonan must explain why he met Cerberus chiefs 24 hours before the sale bid deadline. Furthermore, he failed to tell PAC hearings of this March 2014 contact, a meeting the PAC concludes was “not procedurally appropriate” and could be seen as beneficial treatment.

Mr Noonan denies this and instead said it was “entirely appropriate” he met the major US fund.

Speaking in Washington DC, Mr Kenny noted that the PAC report was “disputed” by Fine Gael committee members: “Michael Noonan has acted entirely appropriately in this matter.”

Mr Kenny backed Mr Noonan despite him also being implicated in the ‘Grace’ and IBRC inquiries.

Nama said the Project Eagle sale “provided a better financial outcome” than any other strategy. The Dáil will debate the report next week.


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