NAMA directors claim loss calculated on Project Eagle sale is "wrong"

Willie Soffe, Oliver Ellingham and Brian McEnery are appearing before the PAC

NAMA directors claim loss calculated on Project Eagle sale is "wrong"

Image: Oireachtas screenshot

 

Three NAMA directors have insisted it is "wrong" to say the National Asset Management Agency lost out on over €230m through the sale of its Northern Ireland loans.

But they have been heavily criticised over their appearance at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The PAC was told last week that the controversial sale of Project Eagle was not overseen by its Northern Irish advisory committee - but instead by NAMA's main board, based in Dublin.

Today three members of that board are being questioned on why the sale of the loans was not called off, after concerns were raised about alleged fixers' fees.

There are also being questioned as to why the loans were all sold off in one piece when it meant only a handful of worldwide groups would be able to afford them.

That decision was singled out for scrutiny by the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) in a hard-hitting last month.

When the loans were sold two years ago, they raised just over stg£1.3bn - but the C&AG says they could have been worth nearly stg£1.5bn if they were not sold so suddenly, and the taxpayer was left nursing the loss.

NAMA director Willie Soffe has claimed that the State spending watchdog has no expert backing to its claim that NAMA missed out on millions over how the loans were sold.

Mr Soffe - along with other NAMA directors Oliver Ellingham and Brian McEnery - have been giving evidence this morning.

He has told TDs that Frank Cushnahan - who was in line for a possible fixers' fee when the loans were sold - had no influence on the sale.

"If anyone believes that Mr Cushnahan's conflict of interest in someway harmed the Irish taxpayer, I would respond that his alleged actions had no bearing whatsoever on the price paid by the winning bidder, or on NAMA's decision to sell".

Committee chairman Sean Fleming said he would have given NAMA directors "the red card" for their comments.

Labour TD Alan Kelly went one step further, saying: "Look I know you've a job to do and I thank you for coming in here - but individually for the three of you this has been a PR disaster.

"Let me just say that.

"To sign off collectively, the three of you, on a statement like this with the inferences that are in there: it's a PR disaster for yourselves."

The hearing can be watched live here.