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Authorities arrest two men in Co Down in probe over £1.2bn Nama deal

By John Mulgrew

Published 01/06/2016

Nama probe: The PSNI is assisting the investigation by the UK's National Crime Agency
Nama probe: The PSNI is assisting the investigation by the UK's National Crime Agency

Two men have been arrested by officers investigating claims of fraud in Northern Ireland's biggest property deal.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) seized the pair in Co Down in relation to the £1.2bn sale of loans previously owned by Nama - dubbed the Republic's "bad bank" - to US investment fund Cerberus in 2014.

A number of properties were also searched yesterday as part of the operation.

A spokesman for the NCA said: "Officers have carried out two arrests and related searches in the Co Down area in connection with an investigation.

"The operation is being assisted by the PSNI. As the investigation is continuing, we are unable to comment further."

Sinn Fein MLA and former Finance Committee chairman Daithi McKay called the development positive and urged the reopening of a Stormont probe.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I think it should be welcomed that the NCA have made arrests. I was concerned that the investigation was taking too long and wasn't making any progress.

"I think it reinforces the need for the Finance Committee to continue its inquiry, and this demonstrates the committee was right to pursue this issue."

The newly appointed deputy chair of the Finance Committee, SDLP MLA Claire Hanna, said reopening the Nama investigation was "firmly on the agenda for the first committee meeting".

The investigation by the NCA was sparked by the discovery of a £7m offshore transfer to an Isle of Man bank.

The money emerged in relation to allegations of a fixer's fee, which were raised by independent TD Mick Wallace in the Irish parliament.

In March, a report by the Finance Committee said ministers and senior civil servants were out of their depth and had insufficient advice to deal with the sale of Northern Ireland's biggest loan portfolio.

All parties involved in the £1.2bn transaction have consistently denied any suggestions of wrongdoing.

US fund Cerberus won the auction by offering just £1.241bn for loans linked to the Northern Ireland properties when the reserve price was £1.24bn.

Project Eagle, as the then-potential deal was named, was valued by Nama at 27p in the pound, with some assets as low as 5p in the pound.

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