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Nama 'must be held accountable for handling of property portfolio sale'

Published 29/09/2016

The National Asset Management Agency Treasury Building in Dublin
The National Asset Management Agency Treasury Building in Dublin

Bad bank Nama must be held accountable for its handling of the controversial sale of a £1.2 billion Northern Ireland property portfolio, Ireland's spending watchdog has insisted.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) Seamus McCarthy said the toxic assets agency could have taken more action when it learned of alleged multimillion-pound "success fees" from bidders being split with one of its advisers.

"There are actions they could have taken to find out more about what happened and the circumstances around Mr (Frank) Cushnahan's alleged involvement and they didn't do those things," he told a parliamentary committee.

"I think it is a significant issue and it is an issue that Nama has to be accountable for."

Mr McCarthy also told the hearing:

:: International investment bank Lazard was paid £4.5 billion as an adviser for the sale.

:: There was much less advice sought from Lazard compared with other Nama sales.

:: Lazard advised on the best price from a small number of competing bidders but not on the potential best price from other sales options.

:: The portfolio was bought by Nama for £2.5 billion sterling and had a "par value" of £4.6 billion at the end of 2013.

:: Nama's own recommended discounts of 5.5% were not applied and the agency did not have the properties valued ahead of their sale.

Mr McCarthy also took issue with Nama's insistence that the Project Eagle portfolio was of poor quality properties that could not be compared with other assets in Dublin or London.

"They are not that poor quality, they do actually have value," he said, adding the properties took in rents totally about £100 million.

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