Nama bosses to tell committee about cut-price deal

Nama chiefs will be hauled before the Dáil’s public spending watchdog on Thursday to address growing concerns about a controversial cut-price deal — linked to a secret €9.8m off-shore account scandal — that saw properties sold for €4bn less than their initial value.

Nama bosses to tell committee about cut-price deal

The cross-party public accounts committee confirmed it will grill Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh and chairman Frank Daly about the sale after questions were raised under Dáil privilege last week.

Speaking during a recent debate on wider Nama issues, Independent TD Mick Wallace asked why the State property management agency sold its 850-property €5.7bn loan book of commercial offices in Belfast in 2014 to a US equity fund for €1.6bn.

The ‘Project Eagle’ sale to Cerberus Capital Management was the largest property loans deal executed on behalf of the state.

However, while Nama stands over the logic of the sale and the fact the €1.6bn figure was the highest it received after an open bidding process, concerns have been raised over the fact the properties’ values have subsequently surged by up to 20% — meaning the state had lost out on €300m.

The deal is also connected to a controversy over a secret €9.8m bank account set up in the Isle of Man by a lawyer who at the time was working for Tughans, the law firm which oversaw the purchase.

This individual was later named by Tughans as former managing partner Ian Coulter. Tughans, which reported the matter to the Northern Ireland Law Society, said the money had been retrieved and Mr Coulter no longer workedfor the company.

Speaking under privilege last week, Mr Wallace said the money was “reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician”, but declined to reveal his identity. While this separate matter is linked to the transaction, it does not involve Nama.

In light of the concerns, Public Accounts Committee chair John McGuinness (Fianna Fáil) wrote to Nama yesterday to request that Mr McDonagh and Mr Daly attend an unscheduled meeting on Thursday.

He said the decision had been made as the allegations had been “put into the public domain” and that “all of this feeds into the public concern around Nama and whether it is properly transparent and accountable”. A Nama spokesman confirmed the officials “will attend the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday” and “welcome the opportunity to put on the record the factual position in relation to the sale of the loan portfolio of Northern Ireland debtors”.

He said Mr McDonagh and Mr Daly will “address any issues, of which Nama has knowledge, which may be raised by the committee”.

It is understood that while the Department of Finance can instigate special once-off reports into certain transactions under section 227 of the Nama Act legislation, officials will wait until after this meeting to decide on what action if any to take.

The controversy surrounding the sale of 850 Laganside properties sparked widespread media interest in Northern Ireland, and is the subject of an imminent BBC Spotlight investigations programme next week. Since Mr Wallace’s Dáil claims it has also led to opposition party calls for a full inquiry.

More in this section