Harcourt Street Garda HQ in Dublin and Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace speaking in the Dáil this afternoon
During Leaders’ Questions, Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace raised questions about Nama selling the Harcourt Street Garda Station, Dublin 2.
Mick Wallace: “What does the Taoiseach think of the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, complaining to the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO, in March 2016 about Frank Cushnahan, given that it knew in March 2014 that this gentleman was in line for a backhander of £5 million?”
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “Deputy, please, do not make allegations against somebody outside the House. It is not in order.”
Wallace: “Given that Ronnie Hanna was arrested in May 2016, can we expect NAMA to complain about him in May 2018? Aside from Frank Cushnahan, the arrest of Ronnie Hanna has brought Project Eagle back home to Dublin, yet the Government wants to bury its head in the sand.”
“It is more than a year since I first gave the Garda the name of an individual who paid €15,000 in a bag in order to get favourable treatment from NAMA as well as the name of the NAMA employee who was taking the money. There was denial all around as usual. However, the man receiving the money has since been arrested on a different charge. Meanwhile, the guy who paid the bribe is doing well for himself; there is not a bother on him. Such is business in Ireland.”
“The investment fund, Hibernia REIT, is taking a court action to have An Garda Síochána removed from Harcourt Street station. These buildings were in NAMA and they are probably the most important buildings in the country for the Garda. The command and control centre for the whole of Ireland is based there. Moving and scattering this technical centre to the four winds will undermine the workings of the Garda.”
“Will the Taoiseach explain why NAMA was allowed to sell this site to a vulture fund rather than keep it in State ownership? Hibernia REIT, which now owns the site, was set up by a guy who was a big player in NAMA where he was a portfolio manager for three years.”
“When he joined the agency, he moved his 30% shareholding in his father’s company to an offshore trust. Did he declare that to NAMA? The same company then benefitted from some lucrative work from the agency. He left NAMA in December 2012 and used his insider knowledge regarding the agency’s assets to line up investment funds that would provide the finance for the new company, Hibernia REIT, which he manages.”
“It would not require forensic examination to discover that Hibernia REIT did remarkably well in purchasing former NAMA assets, many of which this gentleman was involved with, but then that is how we do business in Ireland.”
“Does the Taoiseach not think that the public interest would be best served if we examined the complete workings of NAMA? At this stage the majority of people in Ireland believe NAMA is rotten to the core.”
Enda Kenny: “It is not the first time Deputy Wallace has raised a matter in respect of NAMA, which is a matter of public interest. As I said before on quite a number of occasions, the advice given to me by the authorities is that this loan portfolio was sold following an open process to the highest bidder.”
“On the questions of allegations against certain individuals in Northern Ireland, NAMA paid no moneys to any party on this loan sale against whom allegations of wrongdoing are now being made and, as I said before, if somebody has evidence, they should bring that to the authorities.”
“I am also aware that two individuals that the Deputy mentioned were held for questioning in respect of the UK National Crime Agency, NCA, investigation into the Northern Ireland assets owned by NAMA and I am advised that the NCA has confirmed to NAMA that no aspect of the agency’s activities are under investigation.”
“I welcomed this previously, as did the Minister for Finance. These allegations are serious and, clearly, they have to be, and are being, investigated in that jurisdiction. Taking into account the investigations that are under way, the Minister for Finance has a view that no specific line of inquiry here can stand up and be usefully pursued by a commission of investigation. Many allegations have been made.”
“The appropriate investigations are already taking place in the appropriate jurisdictions and it would be unwise to launch a very costly commission of investigation on claims that are currently under investigation by the authorities.”
“The Deputy mentioned before the issue that he raised. These are specific allegations of wrongdoing. If there are ones that are not being investigated, obviously they should be brought to the attention of the Garda and the authorities. If this is an issue that is appropriate to a commission of investigation, we need more details on what the Deputy has there and in the absence of such specific allegations, it is right and proper that the appropriate authorities should have the time and space required to compete their investigations.”
“The Deputy has raised the issue of the Garda station in Harcourt Street. I am aware of the situation there in so far as their being asked to move out is concerned. I think there is an objection lodged to that. Obviously, investigations, as I said, are going on in the Northern Ireland jurisdiction as well.”
“The Comptroller and Auditor General is required, under section 226 of the NAMA Act, to produce a report every three years – that office is a completely independent body – assessing the extent to which NAMA has made progress towards achieving its overall objective.”
“NAMA and the Comptroller and Auditor General appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts on 9 July last year. At that appearance the Comptroller and Auditor General indicated that his next section 226 report would look in detail at a sample of NAMA disposals and a sample of properties held by it for investment and, furthermore, that a specific review of Project Eagle, under section 9 of the Comptroller and Auditor General Act, would be undertaken. That is under way. I do not know when it will be published but I understand quite a good deal of work has been done on it.”
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl : “Thank you, Taoiseach.”
Kenny: “The Comptroller and Auditor General has indicated that he intends to issue a report, under section 11 of the Comptroller and Auditor General Act, following this review of Project Eagle, and that is consistent with his powers to investigate, scrutinise and report independently on any aspect of NAMA’s work which may arise through its annual audits or special reports about any aspect of NAMA’s work.”
“I assume if Deputy Wallace is raising a new issue on the basis of a new allegation, I am sure he will transmit that to the Garda or the authorities as well.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Before I bring in Deputy Wallace, I wish to say that he has raised, as the Taoiseach acknowledged, a matter of major public importance, but having regard to the Standing Orders of the House, I ask him please, notwithstanding the fact he has named individuals today and in the past, not to name individuals so as to be in compliance with Standing Orders, and not to refer to an individual in such a way as to make him or her identifiable“.
Wallace: “That is probably the worst answer the Taoiseach has ever given me in the House in relation to NAMA. He did not answer any of the questions I asked him. I never mentioned the words “Project Eagle”. I am tired talking about that in here. ”
“On that, the Taoiseach has made the point that there is no investigation into the workings of NAMA, even around that or anything else. It is blatantly obvious that the one jurisdiction where some investigation of a serious nature should be going on is the one that does not have one, and that is us. We do not want to know, or the Taoiseach does not want to know. I can understand why he does not want to know. As a matter of interest, how come no one can ever answer the question as to why NAMA never reported the fact this individual was in line for a €5 million backhander? Why, under section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act, did it not report it? Why did the Minister for Finance not report it?”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Thank you, Deputy.”
Wallace: “Will the Taoiseach answer my question? Why did NAMA sell Harcourt Street station to a vulture fund rather than keep it in State ownership? Has it anything to do with the fact that people, who were insiders, were going to benefit from it?”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Thank you, Deputy.”
Wallace: “It is just ridiculous. It is outrageous to say that no allegations have been made against NAMA in Dublin. There are bucketfuls of them. Somebody is eventually going to have to deal with it. Why will the Taoiseach not deal with it before he is gone? Otherwise it will be on his legacy that he did not want…”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Thank you, Deputy. Your time is up.”
Wallace: “…accountability or transparency around this State body.”
Kenny: “I do not accept Deputy Wallace’s assertion at all that there are people in government who do not want to know. He made a allegation. He asked me why Harcourt Street station was sold to a vulture fund. I will find out the answer for him. He made other allegations that are of a serious nature. I am quite sure he will bring them to the authorities.”
Wallace: “The Garda knows about them.”
Kenny: “I am sure that the Deputy also accepts that the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office is completely independent and it is looking at Project Eagle…”
Talk over each other
Kenny: “…and if there is any issue in respect of an allegation being made about an individual or an entity, the Comptroller and Auditor General is perfectly entitled to…”
Kenny: “Yes, he is. He is perfectly entitled to investigate that completely independently. There are a lot of rumours going around and a lot of speculation and allegations. If the Deputy has evidence, I would be the first to say to him that this will be treated seriously, as it has been in a number of other areas where commissions have been involved.”
“Claims made by Deputy Wallace about Hibernia REIT are ill-informed, inaccurate and without foundation.
Hibernia REIT did not purchase Harcourt Square from NAMA, as asserted by Deputy Wallace. Harcourt Square was sold by NAMA to Starwood Capital in 2013, as part of a large portfolio of assets called Project Aspen. Hibernia acquired the property from Starwood Capital in February 2015.
Hibernia REIT is an Irish listed and regulated public company that is investing in Ireland for the long term.
It is disappointing that Deputy Wallace has used the protection of Dail privilege to make a range of untrue allegations.”
A letter sent from the Standards in Public Office Commission to Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace last Thursday.
It details how, on March 2, Nama chairman Frank Daly made a complaint to SIPO about Frank Cushnahan, a former member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee.
It also states that SIPO will contact Mr Wallace soon to meet with the TD and possibly obtain a statement from him. SIPO also requests that Mr Wallace furnish SIPO with any documents that may help SIPO’s inquiry into the complaint against Mr Cushnahan.
In yesterday’s Sunday Independent, Gene Kerrigan wrote:
Fianna Fail has for ages been demanding an inquiry into Nama’s property deals. Last week, when Mick Wallace put down a motion to that effect, they voted against it.
No, no, they explained, we can’t have an inquiry – sure, isn’t the Comptroller and Auditor General looking into this?
Yes, the C&AG is looking at one aspect of it. Just as he was last time Fianna Fail demanded a full inquiry.
The thoroughness with which Fianna Fail has betrayed its own members and voters, and the interests of all of us, is impressive.
It’s doing a creditable job of helping Fine Gael keep the lid on the Nama scandal, while simultaneously posing as the main opposition party.
As long as the political correspondents facilitate this deception, so long will duplicity prosper.
…Fine Gael and Fianna Fail voted down an inquiry on the basis that any State scrutiny will somehow interfere with due process.
With exquisite comic reasoning, the very fact the PSNI, the NCA and the FBI are disturbed by the smell from Nama has become reason for the Irish establishment to ignore the smell. Question: what don’t they want us to know? What is it makes them pretend they don’t get a hint of a smell from the festering Cerberus deal?
…Meanwhile, Standards in Public Office has published details of the state money politicians receive. I’d explain why the State gives politicians this money, but I don’t know.
Fine Gael spent €200,000 of our money on secret polls before the election, all the better to manipulate the voters.
…Now, this polling, paid for with our money, gives politicians an advantage over candidates who don’t get a state subsidy. That sounds unconstitutional to me – perhaps under the ruling that prohibits one side in a referendum from using state funds to influence opinion.
Fianna Fáil’s counter motion – calling for any Commission of Investigation into the sale of Nama’s Northern Ireland portfolio, Project Eagle, to be postponed until after a criminal investigation into the sale is complete – passed 105 votes to 38.
Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath speaking in the Dáil this afternoon
“Fianna Fáil has been consistent in asking that all aspects of the Project Eagle sale be thoroughly examined and investigated. Last October, I moved a motion, on behalf of Fianna Fáil, calling for a Commission of Investigation under the terms of the 2004 Act. We called for this on the basis that the allegations were of such a serious nature, the public would demand nothing less than a comprehensive inquiry which would get to the truth and be able to make clear findings in relation to any wrongdoing on the part of individuals…”
“…In its evidence before the committee of public accounts, and in its public commentary on Project Eagle, Nama has argued consistently that no issue has arisen regarding the sale side of this transaction but, as I said last October, that is not an adequate answer. Ultimately, the decision to proceed with the sale of Project Eagle was made by Nama in Dublin and Nama must account for the entirety of that transaction.”
“Based on information and allegations currently in the public domain, surrounding Project Eagle, a Commission of Investigation is warranted. That remains the Fianna Fáil view. The question is whether a Commission would stand any chance of success, running in parallel with a criminal investigation that is clearly gathering pace.”
“Our honest assessment is that a Commission of Investigation, established in the Republic now, in the heat of an accelerating criminal investigation in the North would most likely run into the sand very quickly. This would serve no purpose. Do we really think that key people involved in this transaction, living in Northern Ireland, would voluntarily cooperate with a Commission of Investigation in the Republic while arrests are being made in the North?”
“Almost a year ago the UK’s National Crime Agency commenced an investigation into Project Eagle. For a long time there were no updates on this investigation. Then, just last month, two arrests were made in Northern Ireland and the persons concerned have already been named in this house and have been again today – as Frank Cushnahan, former member of the Nama northern Ireland advisory committee and Ronnie Hanna, who was head of asset recovery at Nama during the Project Eagle sale.”
“Reports indicate that this presents a significant change in pace in the investigation. Both men are of course entitled to the presumption of innocence. It is not known if further arrests are planned but let there be no doubt about it. Those arrests represented a very significant development and followed searches in Co Down and the men concerned have been released on bail and it is part of a fraud investigation. Those are the facts that we know.”
There you go now.
Readers may wish to recall how the Irish News named Frank Cushnhan and Ronnie Hanna as the two men arrested on June 2 while Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin called for a Commission of Investigation as recently as June 15.
Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace in the Dáil this evening
“If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to get to the truth of this and I’m going to expose what’s going on. We’re setting up an organisation called Namaleaks.ie. We’ve got help from the people who fixed up Snowden, The Intercept and we’re going to invite members of the public to come forward with information where they feel they’ve been badly treated by Nama, banks or investment funds.”
“We’re inviting insiders with information, we’ll have 100% confidentiality, to come send us documents that are truthful, in order to address this rotten, rottenness that exists in how we do business in this country. How they do business in northern Ireland.”
“You know what? They’re no worse up there than we are down here. There’s a pair of us in it. And our credibility and international level is going to suffer unless youse actually have the gumption and the balls to actually go after the truth. Cause you’re not showing any of it at the moment. And I’m really gutted that Fianna Fáil are not showing it either.“
Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace speaking in the Dáil this afternoon.
A former employee of NAMA has been before Dublin District Court, charged with disclosing confidential information.
Paul Pugh, 56, from Clontarf Road in Dublin is charged with intentionally disclosing confidential information about McCabe Builders UK, by email to Gehane Tewfik, in a London-based investment company Connaught and Whitehall Capital UK, on 6 June 2012.
He is charged under the 2009 NAMA Act with disclosing the information when not authorised or obliged to do so.
From top: Ronnie Hanna, Frank Cushnahan and Enda Kenny
You may recall how Taoiseach Enda Kenny has repeatedly rebuffed calls from various TDs for a Commission of Investigation into Nama’s sale of its northern Ireland portfolio, Project Eagle.
The calls came after two men were arrested in Co. Down on May 31 in relation to the sale and later released pending further inquiries.
Earlier this month, in the Dáil, Mr Kenny said, “Nobody has presented me with evidence of wrongdoing by Nama in this jurisdiction” and, on another occasion, Mr Kenny said: “Nama has done nothing wrong”.
Just last week, Mr Kenny stated: “I am informed that this loan sell was executed in a proper manner. Despite all the comments and allegations, there are no claims of wrongdoing against NAMA.”
Further to this…
Frank Connolly, in Village magazine, reports:
The arrest of two men in connection with the criminal investigation into the sale of Project Eagle, the single largest disposal of Irish state assets, has discharged a seismic shock through the establishment, north and south.
…Ronnie Hanna, a former head of asset management at NAMA in Dublin and Frank Cushnahan, a former member of the agency’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee were arrested by police who also seized documents and computers during raids on a number of properties in Belfast.
Village has learned that the arrests came just days before the BBC ‘Spotlight’ programme was due to reveal fresh information concerning the role of both men in the Project Eagle saga.
The arrests of the two men by the NCA forced the cancellation of the programme, for legal reasons.
On Thursday, 2nd June, the Irish News reported that Hanna and Cushnahan had been arrested two days earlier by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and were being released on bail “pending further enquiries”.
It was the only news organisation to identify those arrested although, in its report, the Irish Times mentioned the pair as having been previously named in the Dáil by Mick Wallace in connection with the Project Eagle controversy.
… It is utterly wrong to say there is no allegation of wrongdoing against NAMA, when a central figure to its Dublin operation has been arrested, in the North.
The figleaf the Taoiseach and Michael Noonan sought, that there was no taint on the southern operation, has now been blown out of the water.
During Leaders’ Questions, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin again raised the controversial sale of Project Eagle by Nama in Northern Ireland.
It followed Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams calling for a Commission of Investigation into the sale twice in the past two weeks.
Mr Martin said there are rumours that further arrests are on the way in relation to the sale – following the arrest in May of two men in Co. Down on suspicion of fraud offences, by the British National Crime Agency.
They’ve since been released on bail.
In response, Taoiseach Enda Kenny maintained that the sale was “was executed in a proper manner” – echoing his previous responses to Mr Adams.
From their exchange:
Micheál Martin: “The UK’s National Crime Agency is investigating this. There have been two arrests and there are rumours of more arrests on the way. It is being investigated in the United States. The Northern Ireland finance committee has had an inquiry. At the very least, NAMA should have attended that inquiry. It is the biggest sale since the agency was established and there are huge concerns about it. Yet we, in the Republic, seem to have adopted an attitude that there is nothing to see here, that everything is fine on this side of the equation.”
“I put it to the Taoiseach that at the time that PIMCO revealed that people were seeking fees, surely that was the time for the entire deal to be called off, for both NAMA and the Minister for Finance, who was alerted to it, to call a halt to that deal and say there were too many questions about it. It was something from which they should have pulled back. The Irish taxpayer lost out to an extraordinary degree but worst than that, the deal is tainted, of that there can be no question.”
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “Has the Deputy a question?”
Martin: “All of this could have been avoided if the Government had not decided to sell such large blocks of assets under NAMA and to force the pace in terms of accelerating the disposal of assets at steeper discounts than were necessary.”
Enda Kenny: “On Deputy Martin’s point in respect of NAMA and Project Eagle, I want him to understand that, as I have said here on many occasions, I am informed that this loan sell was executed in a proper manner. Despite all the comments and allegations, there are no claims of wrongdoing against NAMA. That loan portfolio was sold following an open process to the highest bidder for what it was worth. NAMA paid no moneys to any party on this loan sale against whom allegations of wrongdoing are now being made. Anyone with evidence of wrongdoing needs to report it immediately to the proper authorities, as I am sure Deputy Martin will do if he has information in that regard.”
“The Government and NAMA take very seriously, and why should they not, any accusations of NAMA employees or former employees breaching the NAMA Act.”
Martin: “A consistent thread in the Taoiseach’s replies to various people on this question during the last Dáil and this one is that there has been no wrongdoing on NAMA’s behalf.
Kenny: I said “No allegations of wrongdoing against NAMA”.
Martin: “The allegations are about the deal. That is the point but the Taoiseach keeps almost deliberately ignoring it. The allegations are about the entirety of the deal, its ethics and its rightness or wrongness. Surely, when people heard that there was up to €7 million in an offshore account, it raised eyebrows. Surely, the deal should have been called off when PIMCO alerted NAMA to elements of what was going on and when the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, was himself alerted to what was going on at that stage. There is no point in saying that everything on our side was fine and we have covered our backs, that all our paperwork is clear and clean in the Republic and in NAMA headquarters and the fact that others may have got up to all kinds of activity is of no concern to us.
Ó Fearghaíl: “I thank the Deputy.”
Martin: “That is what has come back to us in regard to this. It is the sense that has come from Ministers, the Taoiseach and NAMA in a very defensive mode. Instead of saying that if something is rotten in the state of Denmark in regard to this deal, it is in our interests to tackle and deal with it.
Ó Fearghaíl: “Thank you, Deputy.”
Martin: “Did it ever occur to the Taoiseach that we should have set up a commission of investigation when the National Crime Agency, the US Securities and Exchange Commission and others were pursuing this? The Taoiseach mentioned the Northern Assembly. There seems to be a sense of a connection and a nexus between politics and all of this in the North as well. That may emerge in the coming weeks.
Ó Fearghaíl: “Deputy, the time has elapsed. Thank you.”
Martin: “I put to the Taoiseach the question of whether he ever asked the Minister of Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, the question as to why the shutters were not pulled down on this deal when PIMCO gave its information to NAMA in regard to third parties.”
Kenny: “If Deputy Martin makes the case, the Government is in no way defensive about this issue. If there is something rotten, as the Deputy says, in the state of Denmark relative to this case, what he is saying is that the process by which this sale was completed was wrong, was not up to standard and was not in accordance with proper procedure. I am informed that the sale was conducted under proper conditions, that it was sold following an open process to the highest bidder for what it was worth.”
Martin: “Someone pocketed €7 million.”
Kenny: “Is that right or is it not right? That is what I am informed. If I am being misinformed here, if somebody has got evidence to that effect, I would certainly like to hear it. The Deputy makes the point that the sale should have been stopped. Where is the evidence that the process that was followed was not open—–”
Gerry Adams: “The €7 million.”
Kenny: “—–was not above board—–”
Martin: “The offshore account.”
Kenny: “—–and was not fair?”
Adams: “There are seven million reasons.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “One speaker, please.”
Martin: “The offshore account and the money paid in fixers’ fees.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “The Taoiseach to conclude.”
Kenny: “In the sale being concluded, the information that I am given, standing here in the position that I hold, is that this was conducted in a proper and open process, and was sold to the highest bidder for what it was worth….”
Meanwhile, last week…
Time for politicians to put up or shut up-SF, FF, Soc Dems & some Indies want NAMA Inquiry. They have the numbers… https://t.co/EcbpYhPCRb