Northern Ireland

Nama: Officials defend controversial sale of Project Eagle loans portfolio

Frank Daly
Image caption Nama chairman Frank Daly said he did not believe the sale was compromised by Frank Cushnahan

Senior officials from Nama have defended how they handled the controversial sale of their Northern Ireland property portfolio.

The portfolio was sold to the Cerberus investment fund in 2014 for £1.3bn. It was once valued at about £4.5bn.

Nama is the Irish government agency set up to manage loans acquired from Irish banks after the property crash.

Its chairman Frank Daly gave evidence to the Irish parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday.

The Republic's auditor general found earlier this year that Nama could have got £190m more for the sale of the portfolio than it did.

The auditor general also found that Nama was slow to act once it became aware that Frank Cushnahan, the agency's former Northern Ireland adviser, was due to receive a payment from the sale.

The sale of the portfolio, known as Project Eagle, is being investigated by the UK's National Crime Agency and the authorities in the United States.

Pimco account 'inaccurate'

Nama has vigorously contested the auditor general's findings and described them as "unsound and unstable".

Mr Daly told the committee that he does not believe the sale was compromised by Mr Cushnahan because he had no influence over either the sale price of the portfolio or the board's decision to accept the sale.

He also said that an account of the sale by a company that dropped out of the auction, Pimco, was "materially inaccurate".

Pimco said it left the auction voluntarily in March 2014 after it told Nama that Mr Cushnahan was one of those to benefit from a £15m fee sought from the company.

Mr Daly told the committee that Pimco failed to disclose a number of important facts about Nama.

These, he said, included the fact that US lawyers, Brown Rudnick, first approached the company and introduced it to Mr Cushnahan in April 2013, when he was still a member of Nama's Northern Ireland advisory committee.

The Irish government committee has previously heard evidence from Cerberus that it paid a £15m "success fee" to Brown Rudnick after completing the purchase of the portfolio.

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