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Nama probe being stymied, says Stormont inquiry chief

By Shane Phelan

Published 21/08/2015

Frustrated: Daithi McKay
Frustrated: Daithi McKay

Efforts are being made to hinder the investigation into the controversial sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan portfolio, the head of the Assembly's inquiry has claimed.

The probe, launched by Stormont's finance and personnel committee, has had difficulty making progress since it was opened last month.

Its chairman, Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay, said the latest stumbling block arose from a letter issued by the head of the Civil Service, Dr Malcolm McKibbin.

The letter is understood to have warned senior colleagues of the potential to prejudice a police investigation into the £1.3bn sale of the portfolio to US fund Cerberus.

At a meeting of the inquiry, Mr McKay said: "There are some efforts to stymie this inquiry."

One senior civil servant, the permanent secretary of the Department of Finance, David Sterling, has already been blocked from reappearing at the committee by his minister Arlene Foster on the grounds that the police probe could be impacted.

However, Mr McKay insisted that the National Crime Agency (NCA) had cleared the way for the committee's inquiry to proceed.

"We have already met with the NCA and they have raised no concerns about our inquiry and our terms of reference," he said.

The probe is seeking to quiz former Finance Ministers Sammy Wilson and Simon Hamilton about contacts with bidders.

The committee is also seeking information on the drafting of a memorandum of understanding between the Office of the First Minister and a failed bidder, the investment firm Pimco.

The agreement would have given Nama debtors favourable treatment in the event of Pimco successfully acquiring the loans portfolio.

Mr McKay expressed frustration that both former Finance Ministers had to fully commit to appearing before the committee.

The committee's probe was launched after Republic of Ireland TD Mick Wallace alleged that £7m in an Isle of Man account had been earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or party in connection with the deal.

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