Taoiseach 'unaware' of letter from Fortress about Nama sale

Losing bidder for NI loan portfolio sent letter complaining about business practices

Enda Kenny:  “I am advised that the loan sale was executed in a proper manner.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Enda Kenny: “I am advised that the loan sale was executed in a proper manner.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he is unaware of a letter being received in his office from an unsuccessful bidder for an 800-property loan portfolio in Northern Ireland, who complained about business practices in the sale.

Mr Kenny said he would have it checked immediately and would see if such a letter was received and replied to. He pledged to publish the correspondence if it was received.

The loan portfolio, held by the National Asset Management Agency and originally valued at €5.7 billion, was sold for €1.5 billion to Cerberus Capital Management in the biggest property sale in Irish history.

Mr Kenny said: “I am advised that the loan sale was executed in a proper manner. Despite all the confusion and the coverage in the media, the fact is that there are no claims of wrongdoing against Nama.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, quoting a report in Wednesday’s Irish News, said Fortress Investment Group, apparently one of three final potential buyers alongside US rivals Cerberus and Pimco, wrote to the Taoiseach’s office in February 2014.

 

Failed to respond

In the letter, Fortress complained “about business practices leading up to sale of Nama businesses”.

During Leaders’ Questions, Mr Martin asked the Taoiseach to confirm the contents of the letter. He said Mr Kenny’s office had been asked about the correspondence on Tuesday but had failed to respond.

The Fianna Fáil leader said that no attempt had been made to stop the sale, even though misgivings had previously been raised by Pimco.

Independent TD Mick Wallace raised the issue in the Dáil when he revealed the existence of a bank account containing £7 million, linked to the Nama transaction.

 

Earmarked to benefit

At the Stormont inquiry investigating the sale, a loyalist blogger yesterday claimed First Minister Peter Robinson was one of five people earmarked to benefit from the money in the account, an allegation the DUP leader rejected.

Mr Martin said Pimco had made Nama aware of fee arrangements with third parties, including a Northern Ireland Nama adviser, but the Minister for Finance did not suggest the sale be halted “in light of the stench that was emerging at that early stage”.

Mr Martin said the letter to the Taoiseach’s office “complained about business practices leading up to the sale of Nama’s loan book, dubbed Project Eagle”.

He suggested the State had a “light” response to the saga compared with that of UK and US authorities.

The Taoiseach said the loan portfolio was sold “to the highest bidder for what it was worth following an open process. Attempts to conflate Nama’s open market loan sale process with an internal issue on the other side of the sale are wrong.”