Belfast Telegraph

Nama has nothing to hide, insists Taoiseach who'd allow the fraud squad to examine books

By Ed Carty

The Republic's finance chiefs are willing to open their books to the UK fraud squad over allegations of multimillion-pound fixer fees for a record property deal in Northern Ireland.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave the commitment amid renewed demands for a judge-led probe into the £1.2bn sale of a loan portfolio by Nama, Ireland's bad bank, in 2014.

The deal has been dogged by controversy since £7m was discovered in an Isle of Man bank account. The National Crime Agency is probing allegations that the money was for fixers of the supposed secret auction of the Project Eagle portfolio.

Mr Kenny denied any wrongdoing at Nama's end and said: "Nama continues to cooperate in relation to investigations."

Two men were arrested in Co Down last week as part of the fraud squad inquiry and subsequently released on bail.

The £7m was paid into an account controlled by a former managing partner of Belfast-based law firm Tughans, who resigned after the money was unearthed. The company insisted it was not aware of the transfer.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said some of the allegations around the deal were shocking and demanded a judicial inquiry.

"It is still unclear why the Minister (for Finance Michael Noonan) did not to exercise his general powers of direction over Nama to suspend the sales process until these matters were fully investigated," he added.

Mr Adams told the Dail a member of Nama's Northern Ireland advisory board offered to disclose details on the value of the Project Eagle loans to bidder and US investment house Pimco, but demanded a £15m fee.

He also claimed the adviser was charging for advice about Nama and that he had an unethical working relationship with a Nama officer to get information.

Mr Kenny said no allegations had been made against the agency, but Mr Adams replied: "Nama should be accountable. The Government should be transparent, open and accountable as well."

Other investigations are ongoing into Project Eagle, including one by the US Department of Justice's Securities and Exchange Commission.

Parliamentary inquiries have also been conducted in Stormont and Dublin.

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

Belfast Telegraph


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