Nama chairman Frank Daly has denied that the Irish taxpayer was “robbed” or that the agency’s €1.6bn Northern portfolio sale — called Project Eagle — was a “corrupt” process.
Recent claims that winning bidders Cerberus sold back assets to debtors at inflated prices or that huge ‘fixer’ fees were paid out relating to the deal were also flatly rejected.
The Nama chairman and the agency face mounting pressure to co-operate with a Stormont inquiry in the North into the 2014 Project Eagle sale.
Mr Daly defended the deal — now the subject of inquiries by authorities in both the North and the United States — at the Public Accounts Committee yesterday.
Independent TD Mick Wallace has claimed ‘fixer’ fees, up to €45m, were paid out over the deal.
There are also claims former Nama adviser, Frank Cushnahan, acted as a middleman and stood at one stage to get £5m in fees from US firm Pimco, an underbidder for the 800-property portfolio.
Mr Daly was emphatic that all bidders for the huge asset deal had received the same information. In his view, Mr Cushnahan would “never have had access to” confidential or sensitive information about Project Eagle that would have been useful to a bidder.
Addressing claims that the Irish taxpayer was “robbed” over losses to the State from Project Eagle, he insisted Nama had achieved the best price for the deal. The loans, originally valued at €5.6bn, were ultimately sold for €1.6bn.
Mr Wallace has claimed that individual debts in the portfolio were sold on for almost double what Cerberus paid, at a huge loss to Irish taxpayers. But Mr Daly denied this. He told Pac the US firm would only have achieved an 8% profit after costs associated with the deal.
He said the blended average or return across the portfolio was 27% and not 50%, as claimed by Mr Wallace.
Mr Daly also said property prices in the North most likely had only now increased by 2%-3% since the deal. Retrieving the full value of the entire portfolio could have taken Nama “decades”, TDs were told.
But Mr Daly did admit it was normal practice for “arrangement fees” to be paid by debtors to new lenders when buying back loans, but that they were as low as 1%. He said this would have amounted to £13m and not €45m for Project Eagle, as claimed by Mr Wallace.
But Mr Daly said it was difficult to check the controversial claims, with Mr Wallace refusing to give information to Pac or Nama.
He said many allegations Mr Wallace was making were after Nama sold the portfolio to Cerberus, where the agency had no role.
Mr Daly denied a claim by Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald that Project Eagle’s sale process was “corrupt” and that it should not have gone ahead.
Nama refuses to appear at the North’s finance committee, which is investigating the deal. Committee chairman Daithí McKay told Pac this was “regrettable”.
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