Nama chair rejects ‘unfounded’ claims about €1.6bn sale

Frank Daly responds to Stormont report on Project Eagle portfolio

Nama chairman Frank Daly has accused a Northern Assembly committee of making ‘unsubstantiated and unfounded’ claims in a report on the State body’s controversial Project Eagle sale. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Nama chairman Frank Daly has accused a Northern Assembly committee of making ‘unsubstantiated and unfounded’ claims in a report on the State body’s controversial Project Eagle sale. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Nama chairman Frank Daly has accused a Northern Assembly committee of making “unsubstantiated and unfounded” claims in a report on the State body’s controversial Project Eagle sale.

Stormont’s Finance and Personnel Committee is investigating Nama’s sale of its Northern Ireland property loans – dubbed Project Eagle – to US company Cerberus for €1.6 billion.

In a letter to the committee’s chairman, Daithí McKay, Mr Daly called on the committee to correct “unsubstantiated and unfounded suggestions” in a report published this week that the agency was not helpful to the investigation.

Mr McKay argued that Nama had the opportunity to clear up the concerns raised in Mr Daly’s letter by appearing at an oral hearing.

“But the fact is that Nama did not come to the committee,” he said.

He added that Nama avoided attending because the organisation knew that an oral hearing was likely to uncover more detail than the written answers supplied by the agency.

The committee report said it found Nama’s refusal to answer questions at an oral hearing unhelpful given Project Eagle’s importance to the Northern economy.

Mr Daly said that while Nama was only accountable to the Oireachtas, the agency provided detailed written responses to the 105 questions that the Assembly committee put to it and invited it to submit any further queries it had.

“You did not do so and therefore we are surprised at suggestions in the report that Nama was ‘unhelpful’ and we do not accept that this was the case,” he said.

Controversy

Public Accounts CommitteeStormont

Project Eagle is mired in controversy sparked by claims that business people and politicians were to benefit from the deal.

The Stormont committee and the UK’s National Crime Agency are investigating the transaction.

Following the deal, Belfast law firm Tughans, which worked on the Cerberus bid, discovered that its managing partner, Ian Coulter, had moved £6 million sterling (€6.4 million) in fees from the transaction deal to an Isle of Man account.

He resigned when an audit unearthed the transfer.

A former member of Nama’s advisory committee, Frank Cushnahan, was recently recorded claiming the money was meant to pay him for work he had done on the Cerberus bid.

However, the US company had assured Nama that no one connected with the agency was involved in its bid.

It maintained that it acted according to the highest standards.

Another US company, Pimco, dropped its bid for Project Eagle after telling Nama that it had agreed to pay £5 million each to Mr Cushnahan, Tughans and US lawyers Brown Rudnick.

Mr Cushnahan resigned from the Nama committee in November 2013. After Pimco dropped out, Tughans and Brown Rudnick switched to work on the Cerberus bid.