Belfast Telegraph

Nama boss denies claims of corruption as a second police probe is revealed

By Shane Phelan

Nama has rejected allegations the sale of its Northern Ireland loan portfolio was "corrupt" - as it emerged a second police investigation is ongoing into claims of crooked payments.

The agency's chief executive revealed gardai have launched an inquiry into allegations that a construction company paid bribes totalling €30,000 to an official in a bid to exit Nama.

Brendan McDonagh said he had met gardai about the allegations, made in the Dail by Independent TD Mick Wallace in July.

Mr Wallace claimed two €15,000 bribes were paid "in a bag" to a Nama manager.

But Mr McDonagh told the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC): "The alleged company which is supposed to have paid the money is still in Nama, its debts are in Nama and it has had no debt write-off from Nama.

"Whether a payment was made is being investigated by the gardai."

No official has been suspended as a result of the bribery allegations.

At the hearing, Nama chairman Frank Daly also revealed he and Mr McDonagh had met officers from the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA), which is probing allegations that corrupt payments were planned in connection with the sale of the bad bank's Project Eagle Northern Ireland loan portfolio. The NCA investigation was also sparked by claims in the Dail by Mr Wallace (right), this time that more than £7m found in an Isle of Man bank account was destined for a Northern Ireland politician or party.

The cash was linked by Mr Wallace to the deal which saw US vulture fund Cerberus buy the Project Eagle portfolio last year for £1.2bn. Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson subsequently alleged at a Stormont inquiry that First Minister Peter Robinson was one of those who had been set to benefit, a claim strongly denied by Mr Robinson.

In robust exchanges with TDs yesterday, Mr Daly insisted the deal was not corrupt and said he stood over the integrity of the sale process.

Independent TD Shane Ross, one of the most vociferous critics of the agency, said: "Your integrity is not in question, but on this deal you have done the taxpayer no service at all."

Mr Ross claimed Nama "may have been incompetent and got a bad deal as a result of swimming with sharks".

Mr Daly responded: "We refute there has been any wrongdoing or incompetence by Nama."

He told the PAC that the NCA investigation was "not in any way concerned with the Nama side of the transaction".

He said: "Their focus appears to be very much on the purchase side and what may or may not have taken place in Northern Ireland."

Mr Daly insisted the sale of the portfolio - comprised of loans issued to Northern Ireland-based business people in relation to 900 properties - was "conducted in line with best international practice".

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