During Leaders’ Questions, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams raised Project Eagle and the Government’s refusal to launch a Commission of Investigation into the sale of Nama’s northern Ireland loan book, known as Project Eagle.
Mr Adams came after the British National Crime Agency arrested two men as part of its investigation into the sale.
The two men were arrested in Co Down on suspicion of fraud offences and have since been released on bail pending further inquiries.
From yesterday’s debate…
Gerry Adams: “I understand the British National Crime Agency has arrested two people today as part of its investigation into NAMA’s Northern loan book, known as Project Eagle. For years now Sinn Féin and others have raised concerns about the sale of NAMA’s loan books, including the sale and purchase process for its Northern loan book. The Taoiseach and the former Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton, have accused the Opposition of conflating the matter. Deputy Joan Burton described it as just a “Northern tale”. I put it to the Taoiseach that it is actually a national scandal and a disgrace.”
“The sale and purchase process for NAMA’s Northern loan book has been the subject of serious allegations. It has been alleged that, as part of a cosy cartel that was in operation, insider trading took place, that payments were made to a golden circle and that illegal fixer fees were paid. This was brought to the attention of NAMA by a potential US bidder, Pimco. NAMA previously claimed that its Northern advisory committee was not privy to confidential information on the sale, but it has since been disclosed that the committee discussed potential purchasers on at least two occasions before the loan book was sold at a huge loss to Irish taxpayers.”
“There are investigations in the North by the National Crime Agency, NCA, the law society and revenue. There was an Assembly inquiry which found the Government’s approach very unhelpful. There are also investigations in the USA by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI and other authorities. However, there is no investigation here. In this State, the Minister for Finance, the Government and NAMA have closed ranks.”
“The chairman of NAMA, Mr. Frank Daly, said he briefed the Minister in full, including on the scandal of a fixer fee of £15 million sterling, which is totally irregular and illegal. Despite this, the Minister failed to suspend the Project Eagle sale process or to inform the office of the First Minister or Deputy First Minister. The Assembly inquiry noted this failure with regret. This is a public interest matter, which must be fully investigated.”
Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “Get to the question please, Deputy.”
Adams: “Tá mé beagnach críochnaithe anois, a Cheann Comhairle. It must be fully investigated to get to the bottom of allegations of wrongdoing and cosy cartels which have cost the citizens of this State millions of euro. Does the Taoiseach not believe it is time for the Minister for Finance to make a full statement on all of these matters to the Dáil?”
Enda Kenny: “The Minister has made a full statement already and there has been quite a deal of discussion at the various Oireachtas committees on the question on NAMA. NAMA personnel at the highest level have responded and given much time on different occasions to discuss these matters.”
“If two people have been arrested, they have been arrested on suspicion of particular charges and I expect that the court system in the jurisdiction in which they were arrested will follow through on arresting them in the first instance. Obviously, it is not for me to comment on the court system of a different jurisdiction. If they have been arrested, I assume that it is for good reason in respect of activities that would be outside the law. I trust that this will see itself through that process and be judged before the courts.”
Peadar Tóibín: “Assumptions.”
Adams: “The Minister for Finance has not made a full statement to the Dáil. It is not just Sinn Féin which has these issues. Others have raised these issues consistently and in a very detailed way. It is impossible to get information from any of the Ministers on issues as serious as this one. The Taoiseach refused to establish a commission of investigation. NAMA is an arm of the State. It is dealing with the people’s money. NAMA is not accountable but it should be. It should command public trust and confidence in the business of securing the best possible value for Irish taxpayers and I, for one, have no confidence that it has done this.”
“I have seen this happen to the Taoiseach in that every so often an issue comes up but for all of his cleverness and skills as a politician, he is like a rabbit caught in headlights. This is a huge issue. There needs to be transparency, confidence and accountability. Why not depoliticise it? Why not simply open it up to those of us in the Oireachtas?”
“The people have suffered grievously because of the kinds of activities involved in selling off what were the people’s assets. Given the mounting public concern across the island, will the Taoiseach now commit to establishing a commission of investigation into the sale of Project Eagle?”
Kenny: “No, I will not. There has not been any allegation of wrongdoing against NAMA.”
Kenny: “The Deputy informs me that two people have been arrested. I assume they have been arrested for good reason. Representatives of NAMA have appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts and have given very lengthy statements. They have been crystal clear and that from their perspective, there is no allegation of wrongdoing against NAMA. NAMA has done nothing wrong. It has been completely in compliance with the law and the conditions it was set up under. Coming in and asking for another commission of investigation about this is not the way forward. There is no allegation of wrongdoing against NAMA and at the highest level—–”
Tóibín: “There is an allegation of incompetence.”
Adams: “There was a fixer fee of £15 million.”
Simon Harris: “Not by NAMA.”
Kenny: “Representatives of NAMA have appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts and have given their statements and answered questions at length on all of these issues, and more than once.”
Transcript via Kildarestreet.com
@markdevenport That would be the chair who used to be the handpicked special advisor of the person whose actions are being investigated?
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) June 1, 2016
Previously: Spotlight Falls On Noonan