Ex-Nama executive Ronnie Hanna remains under police caution

Cites arrest in June as reason for inability to appear at Dáil PAC hearing into Project Eagle

Ronnie Hanna: The UK’s National Crime Agency arrested him in Northern Ireland in Junephotograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Ronnie Hanna: The UK’s National Crime Agency arrested him in Northern Ireland in Junephotograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Former Nama executive Ronnie Hanna has told TDs that he remains under caution following his arrest earlier this year by police investigating the fallout from the sale of the agency’s Northern Ireland loans.

Mr Hanna wrote to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is investigating the sale of the loans – dubbed Project Eagle – to US company Cerberus in April 2014 for €1.6 billion, citing his arrest for bribery, misconduct in public office and conspiracy to defraud as a reason for not appearing before it.

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) arrested Mr Hanna in Northern Ireland in June. He was interviewed under caution under the Police and Evidence Order. The former Nama head of asset recovery’s letter to the committee said he vehemently denied the charges.

His letter, which PAC chairman Seán Fleming read into the record, stated he was released under police bail. “That has now been removed, although I have not yet received any indication from the NCA, the Police Service of Northern Ireland or the Public Prosecution Service that I am no longer a suspect.

“Until such time as I have been informed that I am no longer a suspect, and therefore remain under caution, I cannot make any statement about the issues under consideration without the protection afforded by the above legislation,” the letter said.

Nama chairman Frank Daly stressed that no charges had been brought against Mr Hanna. “I will say unequivocally that Nama is not aware of any issues surrounding Ronnie Hanna in relation to Project Eagle,” he said.

Mr Hanna resigned from Nama in October 2014.

BBC’s Spotlight programme broadcast former agency adviser, Frank Cushnahan, hinting that the executive had aided some Northern Ireland developers who were Nama debtors.

Mr Hanna played a central role in the exchanges that led to US company, Pimco, leaving the auction in March 2014, after it told Nama that Mr Cushnahan, Ian Coulter (ex-head of Belfast solicitors, Tughans) and US lawyers Brown Rudnic had sought a £15 million (€17.7 million) fee from the firm.

Mr Daly said Pimco failed to disclose a number of facts to Nama when it told of the fee negotiations. They included the fact that Brown Rudnick first approached the company and introduced it to Mr Cushnahan in April 2013 and that the law firm initially sought a fee in June 2013.

Pimco did not tell Nama that Mr Cushnahan helped organise a meeting between the company and then Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson and his finance colleague Sammy Wilson.

Mr Daly said Nama would have removed Mr Cushnahan from its committee had it known of his involvement with Pimco in 2013.

PAC member and Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald challenged Nama solicitor Alan Stewart over when exactly the agency became aware of the proposed payment to Mr Cushnahan.

She pointed out that the minutes of a Nama board meeting from March 2014 noted that Pimco had said that the negotiations had started in April 2013 and that Mr Cushnahan had not resigned until November, 2013.

Ms McDonald argued this showed that Nama discovered that Mr Cushnahan was one of the architects of Project Eagle and was to be paid for this.