Nama rejects Project Eagle claims

Three senior Nama board members have rejected claims the State property group made any attempts to help a US investment firm stay in the Project Eagle bidding process after fixers’ fee concerns were raised.

Nama rejects Project Eagle claims

Nama credit committee chief Willie Soffe and board members Brian McEnery and Oliver Ellingham issued the denial during a six-hour meeting with the Dáil’s public accounts committee meeting which also heard claims other credible bidders were ignored.

Speaking during the meeting, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said she has seen documentation where US firm Pimco asked Nama to “acquiesce” and allow it to stay in the bidding process after alleged fixers’ fee payments to former Nama Northern Ireland advisor Frank Cushnahan emerged.

Under parliamentary privilege, Ms McDonald said the company’s own legal team became the “whistle-blower” by raising the issue initially with Nama.

However, she said “on discovery of these unethical fees” the firm also “attempted to get Nama to acquiesce” and allow it to remain in the bidding process.

She said the situation shows Pimco “sought to side-step” the issue and that former Nama official Ronnie Hanna later wrote to the company asking if “the deal could be shaped differently” to allow it continue bidding.

However, the Nama board members said they have no knowledge of any detailed discussions on the matter.

The allegation came as the PAC continued to investigate the Project Eagle deal due to comptroller and auditor general concerns over fixers’ fees, political pressure and claims the state lost out on €220m over the deal.

During the meeting, concerns were also raised over why Nama’s board did not examine in greater detail whether eventual Project Eagle winner Cerberus was a ‘proxy’ to Pimco as it was using the same legal firms and why Nama board minutes appear to show Cerberus was confirmed as the contract winner a full month before it was agreed.

However, responding to the specific claims, Mr Ellingham said the board was satisfied Cerberus was unconnected to Pimco and that the apparent meeting minute issue may have been “a typo”.

The Nama board members said that if they held onto the Project Eagle property until today it would be worth “less than €1bn” instead of its €1.3bn 2014 price.

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