DIY Cerberus cosplay of varying quality.
MEP candidates for Ireland South, RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan and Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace on Prime Time debate last night
RTÉ One’s Prime Time broadcast the first of its three European election debates.
Last night’s concerned the Ireland South constituency with nine of the 23 candidates taking part – including Wexford Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace.
During the debate, journalist Miriam O’Callaghan had the following exchange with Mr Wallace about his financial affairs.
Miriam O’Callaghan: “Mick Wallace, you portray yourself always as very much a man of the people.
“But, in fact, you’ve had tens of millions of euro debts wiped out. You’ve been fined for not paying your construction workers pension contributions on time.
“You knowingly made false declarations on VAT. I mean, are you the sort of person that the voters of Ireland South should send to Europe to represent them?”
Mick Wallace: “Well first of all. Your presentation of the pension thing is a bit inaccurate.”
Wallace: “Well. There was a dispute with the pension board at the time. We paid all our pensions, every bit of it. And we actually paid more…”
O’Callaghan: “You were fined, I think, €7,000…”
Wallace: “We were fined because we had a row with the pension board because they made us pay for six workers that went back to Eastern Europe six months earlier and they thought we should pay for them after we had released them from their work.
“And that was the only reason that we were in the court despite the fact that the media presented it very differently.”
O’Callaghan: “OK, but the general point, I’m making in terms, I suppose, about tens of millions of euro being wiped out and the VAT issue.”
Wallace: “Well, first of all, with regard to the VAT issue, which has happened over ten years ago, and I’d say it’s probably the most discussed VAT issue in the history of the planet but we owed €1.4million in VAT, we didn’t get it because the money for the sale of the apartments went to the solicitor, who was obliged to give it to the bank.
“And normally the bank will give it to you to give to the Revenue. They wouldn’t give it to us because all the apartments weren’t sold.
“We actually never got it into our hands to give it to the Revenue.
“On the other issue, you’re talking about tens of millions being wiped out, right?”
O’Callaghan: “But did you knowingly make a false declaration on VAT?”
Wallace: “Yes, we did, yeah. And listen, and my biggest crime at the time was being straight about it, right, because we wanted to try, we were employing, at one stage, over 200 people.
“We wanted to keep the business going. And the idea that one would not pay their full VAT, on a particular date and pay it later, is not unusual in business.”
O’Callaghan: “OK, what about Cerberus? I mean you spent a lot of time giving out about it in the Dáil. But you rarely have ever said, and in fact you owe them millions.”
Wallace: “Who? Cerberus?”
Wallace: “I don’t owe Cerberus anything.”
O’Callaghan: “Didn’t…I thought they made you bankrupt?”
Wallace: “They did yeah but I don’t owe them anything. I don’t owe Cerberus anything. Cerberus, listen, let me be clear. Let me clarify it right.
“I was dealing with four banks – three of which were foreign, right? So I didn’t go into Nama. And when you talk about tens of millions of debt right…”
O’Callaghan: “But Mick you know, they made you bankrupt on the basis that you owed them two million.”
Wallace: “Two million? I didn’t even owe it to them. Right. There was a security of €2million put on a building in Inchicore which had absolutely nothing to do with them. They actually went into court and told three lies on an affidavit and unfortunately the judge was obliged to believe them.”
O’Callaghan: “OK but I suppose Mick we can’t be saying that people told lies. They’re not here…”
Wallace: “I can say, I can say it very clearly. And the only reason that Cerberus bankrupted me was because of the fact that I exposed the fact that they paid a €15million bribe to get Project Eagle.”
O’Callaghan: “But I suppose it was [former Fine Gael Finance Minister] Michael Noonan’s point that maybe you had a feud with them but that you didn’t enough come clean on admitting your relationship with them. It’s about transparency.”
Wallace: “I had no relations with Cerberus. And when Cerberus, when I raised the issue about Cerberus, right? Cerberus had nothing to do with my business. They bought one property from Ulster Bank which happened, I had, believe it or not, I had 39 properties with Ulster Bank and Ulster Bank asked me to work with them to sell them and one fell through the net and they didn’t sell it.
“And they threw it into Promontoria Ireland which Cerberus bought. That has nothing, that was after…”
O’Callaghan: “I suppose it was a simple point Michael Noonan, former minister for finance made, which was that maybe you should have declared your interest in relation to Cerberus…”
Wallace: “I didn’t have an interest with them then. Cerberus didn’t come on the scene until later.”
Wallace: “That’s totally disingenuous.”
O’Callaghan: “Well then the minister is wrong?”
Wallace: “A hundred per cent. And that wasn’t the only thing he was wrong on.”
Watch back in full here
The criteria for entry into tonight’s Ireland South debate on Prime Time were:
If you’ve won a seat or got at least 5% of the vote in your constituency in the most recent euro/local/general or presidential election…
— RTÉ Prime Time (@RTE_PrimeTime) May 19, 2019
If your party got 5% of the national vote in any of those elections or won 1 Euro seat, 3 Dail seats or 5 council seats
A party can’t have more than one candidate in any debate…
— RTÉ Prime Time (@RTE_PrimeTime) May 19, 2019
Nine of the 23 candidates met the above criteria. The other 14 were all offered a one minute video appearance tonight.
11 accepted, one refused, one was uncontactable and one video was deemed not to be in compliance with RTE/BAI editorial standards.
— RTÉ Prime Time (@RTE_PrimeTime) May 19, 2019
The Department of Housing confirmed to The Sunday Business Post that a number of homes which were sold by Nama to Cerberus in recent years are part of a portfolio of properties under offer by the Housing Agency.
The homes are contained in a portfolio of almost 200 homes currently under negotiation between the Housing Agency and Cerberus, code-named Project CB by the state authority.
The Department of Housing confirmed that 26 of the homes in the portfolio were previously controlled by Nama.
“The vast majority of properties being progressed in the current transaction are not related to state institutions or state-financed institutions. A small number of properties have loan charges that were acquired from Nama by Cerberus,” a spokesman for the agency said.
Robin Hill apartment complex in Sandyford, Dublin; Leaders’ Questions on Tuesday
You’ll recall the Tyrrelstown amendment.
It was added to the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 before Christmas.
It had originally proposed that where a landlord proposes to sell 20 or more units in a development – within six months – the sales would be conditional on existing tenants being able to remain in the property unless there were exceptional circumstances.
During a Seanad debate on this amendment, the number was changed from 20 to five.
But on foot of advice from the Attorney General, the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney increased this figure, from five to 10.
Readers may also wish to note how director of advocacy Focus Ireland Mike Allen in January stated that “a third of families who are becoming homeless in Dublin are becoming homeless because their landlord has been forced to sell up“.
Further to this.
Richard Boyd Barrett spoke about the Tyrrelstown amendment in an interview with Seán O’Rourke on RTE Radio One this morning, in regards to an apartment development, called Robin Hill, in Sandyford, Dublin 4, which went into Nama and was then subsequently sold to Cerberus.
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council requested to buy 15 of the apartments in May of last year but was told it would have to buy the entire complex.
This morning, Jack Fagan, in The Irish Times reports that the complex is on sale, in one lot, from today with a guiding price of €14million.
According to Mr Boyd-Barrett, some of Robin Hill’s tenants are now facing eviction.
During the Seán O’Rourke show:
Seán O’Rourke: “I quote the minister [for housing Simon Coveney] from what he said yesterday. He said, and this is regard to protecting people who are there in an apartment block being sold. He said, if 10 or more properties are being sold in one sale, then people who have tenancies in the apartments affected get protected through that sale and I said I’ve asked Richard, in other words you, to send me the details of any cases or any individual issues he has. Now surely that reflects an openness on the minister’s part?”
Richard Boyd-Barrett: “No, first of all, when I raised this issue on Tuesday, the minister did not contact me and ask me, he didn’t in the Dáil, or afterwards, ask me for the details of Robin Hill. That’s simply not true.”
“Secondly, what the legislation refers to, actually means is, that the vulture fund or landlord can evict nine people and then six months later, by the way, the legislation will allow them to evict another nine people. And six months after that, another nine people.
“So, this figure of 10 – which was never explained why we had to include it. We, at the time of the legislation sought to bring that down to zero. In other words that, if you were selling a multi-unit development, you would have to sell it with the tenants in situ and guarantee the security of tenure and the Government resisted that, for reasons I don’t understand but it now seems for reasons that benefitted vulture funds who are trying to profiteer at the expense of tenants they want to evict or massively increase rents.”
In the Dáil.
Readers may wish to recall the exchange Mr Boyd Barrett had with Taoiseach Enda Kenny during Leaders’ Questions, in respect of Robin Hill.
Richard Boyd Barrett: “I will cite a very concrete example of how decisions the Government made in the past six months have contributed directly to this shambles and the hardship that follows. Robin Hill, a development of apartments in Balally in Sandyford, was originally built by the McEvaddy brothers in 2008. The development, which consists of 52 apartments, went into NAMA at some point.
For most of the time it has been in NAMA, at least 15 and possibly as many as half of the apartments have been empty while the housing crisis spirals out of control. In May 2016, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council asked whether it would purchase 15 of the vacant units. It was told that it could only buy the entire block.
Shortly after the Project Eagle scandal broke in September, NAMA agreed the sale of Project Gem, which included these apartments, to the vulture fund Cerberus. The sale, which was one of the biggest sales of property in the history of the State, went through.
Since then, Cerberus has moved to start evicting the tenants in a block that is still half empty. Of the 21 remaining tenants I have met, five are to be evicted in June.
Others whom Cerberus feels it cannot evict straight away have been told they must pay an extra €250 per month in heating and hot water charges that were previously included in the rent. They were never charged for that previously. In other words, this is a back-door rent increase of about 20%.
These empty units are sitting there while we have record numbers in homeless accommodation with evictions to follow. This would have been avoidable if NAMA had not sold this development to a vulture fund but had given it to the local authority as it requested and if the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government had ensured his Bill before Christmas included a provision to prevent new owners from evicting tenants when apartments are sold, as we warned would happen, or finding back-door ways to ratchet up rents. Is it not the truth that the crisis is avoidable and has resulted from the Government’s policy failures?”
Enda Kenny: “No, it is not the truth. The problem here is the supply of houses throughout the country. Anyone can understand that there is real pressure in certain segments of the housing sector. The Deputy can nod his head if he likes. I read a report this morning that said that 49 houses priced between €400,000 and €700,000 were snapped up inside a day by those who could afford them. There are no difficulties in certain areas.
It is true to say that there is a serious issue here. A total of 40,000 vacant units have been bought by the State in the past five years.
Boyd-Barrett: “A fantasy figure has just appeared, namely, that the State has apparently purchased 40,000 houses. The more accurate truth is that NAMA has flogged off thousands of homes or, worse, as the Balally example indicates, has sat on empty properties in public ownership and when local authorities sought to purchase them, it refused and chose to sell them to a vulture fund instead.”
“The vulture fund is now moving to evict people, bypass the Minister’s totally inadequate legislation and ratchet up the rent on tenants it cannot immediately evict. I suspect, and the tenants fear, that they will be evicted in phases because under the Tyrrelstown amendment, no more than ten tenants may be evicted at one time, which is leading to landlords evicting tenants en bloc. That is almost certainly the case and the Taoiseach allowed it to happen by selling apartment blocks.”
“How many more Balallys are there? How many more in Project Gem? How many more people will get eviction notices from vulture funds to which NAMA sold properties at a massive discount rather than give them to the local authorities. There are 50,000 empty properties in Dublin. The Balally situation indicates why there is a supply problem in spite of that. That is the real issue. It is not an absolute supply problem, it is a man-made one resulting from the behaviour of NAMA and the vulture funds, which are sitting on empty properties, evicting people in order to inflate property prices and rents and make more profit from the misery of those they evict or who cannot afford to rent such properties.
Kenny: “Let me clarify what I meant when I said that 40,000 properties have come back into use.”
Bríd Smith: “That is not what the Taoiseach said.”
Pearse Doherty: “That is not what was said.”
Kenny: “I take the Deputy’s point. One thousand properties were purchased by the State at a cost of €203 million.
Doherty: “One thousand.”
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: “That is 39,000 fewer than the original figure the Taoiseach gave.”
Transcript via Oireachtas.ie
Listen back to this morning’s Today With Seán O’Rourke here
Listen back to yesterday’s interview with Minister for Housing Simon Coveney here
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan
In the Sunday Business Post.
Further to the newspaper’s report last week that the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, the Department of Finance and Nama have been heavily criticised in a draft report by the Public Accounts Committee – in relation to Nama’s sale of its Northern Ireland loan book, known as Project Eagle…
And that, specifically, it was “not appropriate” for Noonan or Nama to meet with Cerberus the day before the Project Eagle bid closing date…
Jack Horgan-Jones and Hugh O’Connell reported:
Noonan has rebutted the finding, contained in the committee’s draft working paper and published by this newspaper last week, that it was “not appropriate” for him to meet with the US fund prior to its €1.6 billion purchase of Nama’s Northern portfolio. The draft said this could be perceived as “special treatment”.
…In a letter to the committee last week, Noonan expressed “great concern” over the draft findings, saying they were “extremely damaging” to him. He maintains that the meetings were not inappropriate and that he was never given a right of reply.
But committee members are doubling down this weekend. “Everybody agrees the fact that he met them is a problem. Everybody understands. Nobody can say it was a good idea to meet Cerberus on the day of the bids,” a PAC source said.
“The point of that whole meeting, the potential impression that meeting gave, will remain in [the report] . . . The essence of that meeting happening at that time and the impression of that meeting and having such access at that critical time will be in the final report.”
Another committee source said that while the language around the finding may change, it is extremely unlikely to be removed altogether.
Fine Gael TDs on the committee have indicated they will attempt to block any report which states that Noonan did not act appropriately.
Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace outside the High Court this morning
In November 2015, Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace made allegations in the Dáil about the sale of Nama’s northern loans, known as Project Eagle, to Cerberus.
Mr Wallace told the Dáil:
“…only recently, I was summoned to a meeting by a public figure and a message was passed on to me from a leading member of Cerberus Ireland that I was going to get sorted.”
Fast forward, if you will, to this morning.
At the High Court.
The Irish Times reports:
Ms Justice Caroline Costello today granted the bankruptcy petition by Promontoria (Aran) Ltd fund arising from a €2m judgment obtained after the fund took over the TD’s debt to Ulster Bank.
Promontoria is owned by US fund giant Cerberus, the fund at the centre of allegations made in the Dáil by Mr Wallace concerning the acquisition of Nama’s €5.7 billion Northern Ireland portfolio. The substance of those allegations is now subject to investigations in the UK and US.
Coincidence or bloody pink revenge?
Only YOU can decide.
Previously: ‘Cerberus Told Me I Was Going To Get Sorted’
You may recall the sale of Nama’s Northern Ireland’s property portfolio, Project Eagle, to US private equity firm, Cerberus Capital.
And how the sale is now the subject of investigation by the National Crime Agency in the UK and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US, among others.
Further to this…
Cerberus Capital Management LP and CarVal Investors LLC are among funds circling two portfolios with a combined par value of €4.7 billion euros being sold by Ireland’s so-called bad bank, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
Lone Star Funds is also interested in the loans held by the National Asset Management Agency, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is ongoing.
The portfolios, known as Project Ruby and Emerald, will probably be sold at a discount to their original value by the agency, known as NAMA. First-round bids are due [tomorrow].
Readers may wish to note that the Sunday Times, under the Freedom of Information Act, obtained the diary of Ronnie Hanna – Nama’s head of asset recovery at the time of the sale of Project Eagle.
It shows Mr Hanna met with Cerberus chairman John Snow for an hour on March 31, 2014 – the day before the US fund was due to bid to buy Project Eagle.
This is what Nama told Mick Wallace when he asked about Mr Hanna…
Previously: Spotlight Falls On Noonan
Joe Brennan, of Bloomberg, reports:
“A Goldman Sachs Inc and CarVal Investors LLC joint approach made the shortlist of bidders for the largest loan portfolio ever put up for sale by Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.”
“Cerberus Capital Management LP also made a shortlist of three for the 7.6 billion-euro ($8.8 billion) of par value loans, known as Project Arrow, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the process is ongoing. The portfolio of mainly non-performing loans is being sold at a fraction of its original value by the agency, known as NAMA, said another person.”
“…Cerberus won out in NAMA’s previous largest asset sale, acquiring the agency’s 4.5 billion pounds Northern Irish loan book last year. Police in Northern Ireland opened a criminal probe in July into claims surrounding the transaction, including that some legal fees tied to the deal ended up in the private bank account of a Belfast-based lawyer. Cerberus has said it acted completely “professionally and properly at all times” on the transaction.”
Previously: What Did They Get The €5million For?