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Mick Wallace won't go to gardaí with Nama info... just yet

The Wexford TD is calling for an independent investigation into concerns surrounding Nama’s Northern Ireland property deal.

Updated 3.46pm

Justice for All Press Conferences Independent TD Mick Wallace Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

INDEPENDENT TD MICK Wallace has stepped up his calls for an investigation into the sale of the National Asset Management Agency’s (Nama) Northern Ireland loan book.

Earlier this week, the Wexford deputy told the Dáil how this portfolio, Project Eagle, was sold for €1.5 billion to a US private equity firm despite having been worth €4.5 billion.

Nama has said it is satisfied that “the process delivered the best possible return that could have been achieved for Irish taxpayers” following advice received from an investment bank.

Wallace added that a routine audit of a legal firm involved in the process, Tughans of Belfast, revealed that “£7 million sterling ended up in an Isle of Man bank account”.

“It was reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician,” Wallace said.

Tughans said in a statement to the media this money was retrieved and the partner responsible left the firm.

BBC News reports today at least £6 million of these diverted funds was “intended to facilitate payments to deal-makers involved in the sale” of the portfolio.

Source: wallacemick1/YouTube

Speaking this afternoon to RTÉ Radio 1′s This Week programme, Wallace said he has details of a politician involved in this, but needs to check the validity of the claims.

“Contrary to what people might think, I go to great lengths to avoid abusing Dáil privilege” he said.

The Independent TD called for the Minister for Finance to request an urgent report on the sale of Project Eagle.

‘Not good enough’

Gerry Adams joined the calls for action from Michael Noonan, writing to him to request a full statement to the Dáil on the issue.

The Sinn Féin Leader highlighted that was the largest sale by Nama.

“It is not good enough that the Government remains silent on this issue which has handed on a massive loss to citizens,” he said in a statement.

Mick Wallace accused Government ministers of being too quick to call for the information to be passed on to the relevant authorities.

What I would say back to the minister is, how about you initiate an independent inquiry into whether Nama has actually delivered the best results in the interest of the taxpayer?

“Given that they still have assets to sell, at least cut our losses now, and let’s stop things being done wrong if that’s the case. And if things are done right, well the investigation will show that up one way or the other.”

He said passing the information to gardaí, ‘who already have too much on their plate’, or a Northern Ireland commission wouldn’t solve the problem.

Wallace, along with Cerberus and Nama officials, has already been requested to attend a meeting of Stormont’s finance committee who want to examine the £7 million in question.

If the Government wants to put an end speculation around the workings of Nama, they’re going to have to initiate an independent inquiry.

In a new statement issued by Nama this afternoon, the agency addressed the £7 million diverted from the sale to the Isle of Man account by saying: “Attempts to conflate NAMA’s process with an internal Tughan’s issue are entirely wrong.”

A spokesperson for Nama explained this afternoon that the agency was approached by a third party for the Project Eagle portfolio, but this was rejected.

“Nama told one of the bidders it would have to withdraw because of a fee arrangement to parties that included a former member of Nama’s NIAC (he was not a member at the time of the sale and never had access to confidential information but the NAMA board determined that this arrangement could undermine the integrity of the sale).”

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File Photo NAMA to lay off 70 staff this year as part of wind down. The treasury building on Grand Canal Street which houses NAMA. Source: James Horan/Photocall Ireland

“The NIAC had no role in the sale process.”

The spokesperson added that the lone sale broker engaged with other interested parties, with Cerberus ultimately coming out on top by paying the highest price.

They notedthat Nama “paid no fee to nor had any engagement with Tughan’s law firm on this sale. NAMA’s legal advisor was Hogan Lovells.”

Cerberus gave NAMA written confirmation and have confirmed again that no fees were paid to any party that ever had a relationship with NAMA.

Speaking to the same programme, the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said Wallace should pass the information on to the relevant authorities. She noted that the Comptroller and Auditor General has access to Nama files and can investigate themselves if a concern arises.

Childrens Family Bills Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

She called for more of the facts to be made public before a decision is made on a cross-border inquiry is launched.

The Minister noted that this process would be legally complicated.

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin told The Week in Politics that he believes the sale of the portfolio is worthy of investigation, and the Public Accounts Committee will have the ability to carry it out.

Originally published 2.16pm

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Nicky Ryan

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