Arrests over Nama sale show change of pace

Assembly supports inquiry as National Crime Agency arrests two

The move by the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) to make its first two arrests in the North in connection with its 10-month inquiry into the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland assets signals "a significant change of pace" in the case, say senior legal professionals.

The NCA can hold the two people it arrested in Co Down for up to 24 hours before they have to be charged or released. They were arrested in relation to its inquiry into the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio to Cerberus Capital Management for £1.24 billion in April 2014 .

The agency can also apply to hold the two for up to an additional 36 hours.

The NCA, which has conducted its inquiry in the North with the assistance of the PSNI, has interviewed a wide range of people from a number of professions and political parties with both direct and indirect knowledge of the Nama deal.


Many of these people voluntarily contacted the NCA to provide information.


The arrest of the two people in Co Down yesterday is the first time since its inquiry began last July that the agency has released any details of its progress in the North.

Its decision to proceed with its first formal arrests comes as the Northern Ireland Assembly’s new committee for finance meets for the first time today at Stormont.

The previous committee, whose chairman Daithí McKay met the NCA, conducted its own eight-month inquiry into the sale of Nama’s loan portfolio during which it released more than 2,000 pages of documentation from a range of sources including the North’s Department of Finance, the Department of Finance in the Republic, Nama, Pimco and the American firm that bought Nama’s Northern loan portfolio, Cerberus, relating to the transaction.

It also heard from a number of witnesses including the North's first and deputy first ministers at the time, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, and former finance minister Sammy Wilson.

This committee published its findings in March. The decision by Nama not to "suspend the sales process" of its Northern Ireland portfolio when it was informed in 2014 about related "proposed fee arrangements" with Brown Rudnick, an international law firm – which also included the payment of fees to Tughans, a Belfast law firm and to a former external member of Nama's Northern Ireland advisory committee – lay at the heart of the committee's concerns about the £1.24 billion transaction.

Facts ‘remain unclear’

The Assembly’s new committee for finance will have to decide if it intends to continue with the inquiry into the sale of Nama’s Northern Ireland loan portfolio. But Claire Hanna, deputy chairwoman of the new committee, said she is determined to ensure the investigation continues.

“Despite months of investigation, the full facts around various property deals undertaken by Nama and the involvement of certain individuals has not become clear. I will be ensuring that the finance committee reopens its investigation into the Project Eagle deal,” she said.

“I am also urging the new finance minister to make public all relevant files relating to both the Department for Finance’s dealings with Nama and dealings of all previous finance ministers.”

The previous Committee for Finance concluded “the full facts surrounding the Project Eagle sale remain unclear”.

It listed 18 witnesses whose evidence it said must be heard if the Stormont inquiry was to fully “realise” its objectives.

These include former minister for finance Simon Hamilton, Frank Cushnahan, former Nama Northern Ireland adviser and Ronnie Hanna, former head of asset recovery at Nama and Cerberus.