Top NAMA officials to appear before the PAC over Project Eagle sale

Three NAMA directors were also quizzed last week

Top NAMA officials to appear before the PAC over Project Eagle sale

Photocall file photo

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will today hear from top officials at the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) who dealt with the controversial Project Eagle sale.

Those giving evidence will include the body's former Chief Financial Officer, Donal Rooney.

The sale of NAMA's Northern Ireland loan book has been mired in a string of controversies, and is the subject of a police investigation in the north.

PAC chair Sean Fleming hopes today's witnesses will shed more light on the sale.

"These are the people who dealt with and have first-hand knowledge of their dealings with Pimco, Cerberus, Lazards the selling agents - and these are the people at the coal face who, if you like, have the most direct knowledge of what actually happened during the Project Eagle sale", he said.

"They're the people who would have prepared all the information for the board members who ultimately made the final decision".

Last week, three NAMA directors insisted it was "wrong" to say the agency lost out on over €230m through the sale of its Northern Ireland loans.

NAMA directors Willie Soffe Oliver Ellingham and Brian McEnery were also questioned on why the sale of the loans was not called off, after concerns were raised about alleged fixers' fees.

There were also asked 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.

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

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", Mr Soffe said.