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Government must stop NAMA selling Project Arrow to Cerberus - A bad deal for the Irish People... 

Dáil Diary no 58 - 22nd October 2015

Once again this week, I raised the workings of NAMA at Leader’s Questions with the Taoiseach. On this occasion, I asked six questions, and got zero answers. – Now there’s a surprise. Later on the same night, I spoke for a few minutes on the same issue, as part of Fianna Fail’s motion, which called for an Independent Commission of Investigation into NAMA’s sale of Project Eagle. I have now raised the NAMA issues at Leader’s Questions, seven times in a row – which happens to be way too much for the media’s attention span – As the Government continue to bury their head in the sand, wishing for the problems to go away. – It isn’t going to go away until we do eventually have the necessary Independent Commission of Investigation. Here’s my two Dáil contributions.- 

 

“The majority of Irish people no longer have confidence in NAMA. Yesterday, I asked An Garda Síochána to investigate, under section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act, why NAMA did not report the discovery that US investment fund PIMCO had been requested to pay £5 million to a former member of the NAMA Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, Mr. Frank Cushnahan. Despite this, NAMA told the Committee of Public Accounts on 9 July that if PIMCO did not withdraw, NAMA could not permit it to remain in the sales process, yet it refused to report the matter to the relevant authorities.

For the life of me, I do not understand how the Government can still be comfortable with the idea of NAMA selling Project Arrow to Cerberus. Cerberus is under criminal investigation in the United Kingdom and United States. When I queried NAMA on this issue last week, Mr. Frank Daly replied to me, "I am not aware that Cerberus is under criminal investigation in any jurisdiction". The same Mr. Daly admitted to the Committee of Public Accounts in July that the purchase of Project Eagle was being investigated but now he is not aware that the actual purchaser, Cerberus, is being investigated. Is it not little wonder that the people have serious questions about NAMA? They would like the Taoiseach to initiate a commission of inquiry.

Aside from the investigation by the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom, in the United States the Department of Justice is investigating the role of American companies in the Project Eagle transactions. The investigation involves the Attorney General's office in New York, the New York office of the FBI and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, yet NAMA believes Cerberus is not being investigated.

Can the Taoiseach explain that to me? He might remind his friend Mr. Daly that these boys in America are not in the wedding planning business.

Will the Taoiseach do this country a service and suspend the sale of Project Arrow, now rather than later? A serious amount of assets, over half of which are residential, are in the Republic. God knows, we could do with them to address the housing crisis. They will be sold for a fraction of what it will cost NAMA to build units. The agency is saying it will cost €225,000 to build each of the 20,000 units. The assets in Project Arrow will be sold for a pittance. The Taoiseach should freeze the sale now. Under no circumstances is it a legal process given that Cerberus is under criminal investigation.

The Taoiseach:  I have reminded Deputy Wallace before that there are a number of investigations ongoing in regard to this matter. NAMA has appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts on several occasions. The matter has been discussed on at least three occasions. The Deputy himself was invited to appear before the Committee of Public Accounts and, for his own reasons, has refused to do so. I have said to him before that I acknowledge he is properly elected to the Dáil and has the rights and privileges that go with that but he should go before the Committee of Public Accounts. He was invited to do so by the Chairman, Deputy John McGuinness. If Deputy Wallace has further information, or other information, the committee is the place for him to give it. It is through the Committee of Public Accounts that NAMA is responsible to the Oireachtas.

The question of the American company that withdrew was made clear. The Deputy said on the last occasion that I was involved in a cover-up myself over this. He now tells me that I am a friend of Mr. Daly. He makes these allegations without any foundation or backup. If he has something to say, I advise him to say it to the Committee of Public Accounts, which is the duly elected and appointed body in which to do such business in here.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  The Taoiseach is giving out about me not going before the Committee of Public Accounts, but he does not seem to have any problem with Mr. Daly misleading the same committee. I have gone to the Garda, I have been interviewed by the National Crime Agency and I have offered to go to New York. I do not actually believe the Taoiseach could possibly try to make out that the Committee of Public Accounts has more teeth than those three organisations. 

Last week, I asked NAMA how it could have allowed the Project Eagle transaction to proceed knowing that Brown Rudnick and Tughans were involved, given that the same players were involved in the PIMCO deal in which the fixtures fee of £5 million had been sought for Mr. Frank Cushnahan. When I asked NAMA about this, Mr. Frank Daly replied, "Our advice is that such fee payments are not illegal". Could the Taoiseach confirm for me who NAMA received the advice from? Did that advice cover the laws of the United States and the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland? If NAMA was so sure this was not illegal, why did its board decide that if PIMCO, one of the largest investment funds in the world, did not withdraw from the process, NAMA would force it out? How could it possibly have decided this if everything was rosy in the garden? Can the Taoiseach explain that to me?

Deputy Finian McGrath:     The Taoiseach should answer the questions.

The Taoiseach:     As I said, the Deputy has already made allegations here that I was involved in a cover-up about this.

Deputy Finian McGrath:     The Taoiseach did not answer the question.

Deputy Clare Daly:     The Taoiseach does not care-----

The Taoiseach:     I would like him to address that.

Deputy Micheál Martin:     This is Leaders' Questions, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle:     Hold on a second.

The Taoiseach:     The Deputy did not refer to the very detailed, strong and clear response Mr. Daly gave to his allegations in this matter. He chose not to refer to that at all.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     The Taoiseach has not answered the question.

The Taoiseach:     I repeat for Deputy Wallace that every time he comes in here, he comes with very specific allegations.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     And every time the Taoiseach refuses to answer any questions.

The Taoiseach:     I am saying to Deputy Wallace that the appropriate place for him-----

Deputy Micheál Martin:     There is no argument about the fees.

The Taoiseach:     -----to make his allegations and to have NAMA respond to the Committee of Public Accounts is at the Committee of Public Accounts.

Deputy Micheál Martin:     There is money in an offshore account.

The Taoiseach:     For everybody's sake, in respect of all those people who are giving him pieces of information-----

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach:     -----which they are entitled to do, will he bring his allegations before the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts and its members? NAMA is duty bound to respond-----

Deputy Clare Daly:     It has not responded so far.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     It does not want to answer questions.

The Taoiseach:  to that body in reference to the Oireachtas. I ask the Deputy please to take up the invitation to him.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  The Taoiseach does not want the truth.

The Taoiseach:  He has refused three times to go before that committee.

Deputy Micheál Martin:  The Taoiseach is stonewalling.

 _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Speech during Motion re Project Eagle

“I will address some of the points which have been raised tonight. Government speakers have stated that just because something had a par value of £4.5 billion and it ended up being sold for £1.241 billion, it does not mean it was sold for more than £3 billion too little, but the fact is that when NAMA was set up the argument was made at the time, that the reason for doing so was so we would not firesale assets, but wait for the market to recover, and get value. Sadly, this rule was not kept. Property does have a value. It is worth what it cost to build, even if the land does not cost anything. If property is sold for less than it cost to build, in my opinion, it is being sold for less than its value.

 

The point has been made that the parcels of land were so big that only a handful of companies on the planet could have bought these big portfolios. It was impossible for Irish business people to buy into this property area. When NAMA was set up, it was one of the biggest property companies on the planet. What has happened is that we have actually sold this property mostly to US vulture funds. We have sold a huge chunk of Ireland away to people who only care about the bottom line, which is profit. The Government seems to be content with the idea of the Kennedy Wilson’s controlling the rental market in Dublin. I do not think this is such a good idea. If what we had before lacked regulation, this was something which should have been addressed, but we had landlords who owned two, five or ten houses and they will be wiped because of how things have gone. An apartment in Dominic Street has gone from €900 a month to €1,500 a month in the space of three years because a small group of players such as Kennedy Wilson have a major stranglehold on the rental market.

 

A number of Deputies have said that no allegations have been made against NAMA itself. I am sorry, but I beg to differ. At present, 15 different investigations are being carried out by An Garda Síochána into the workings of NAMA, and this is just the reported stuff. Trust me, there is more coming down the tracks in terms of complaints about how NAMA has done its business. People have said enough investigations are going on, but it just so happens the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States are only interested in US companies. This is their remit under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. They can only look at the four US companies involved, namely, Brown Rudnick, Cerberus, PIMCO and Fortress. The National Crime Agency in Britain is looking at the Northern Ireland angle. In actual fact, we are still not getting any proper independent investigation into the workings of NAMA. If we go back through the answers the Committee of Public Accounts was given by NAMA, when Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked about the conflict of interest of Frank Cushnahan and the Project Eagle sale, she was told it was commercially sensitive, and that another issue was personally sensitive. This is understandable and NAMA is within its rights to do this, but only a commission of inquiry will get the unredacted version, and only this way will we get to the truth of what is happening.

 

I argue that the process of the sale of Project Eagle was not competitive. Fortress bid less than £1.1 billion and the reserve was £1.24 billion. There was something amiss. Cerberus was the only live bidder left on the pitch. We probably have not heard the last of Fortress, and there are problems with it.

 

As Deputy Michael McGrath said, there is a cloud over the workings of NAMA and it will remain there until there is an independent commission of inquiry of some nature. If the Government does not do it, we will probably get it after the election, but we will get one eventually, and the sooner the better. Project Arrow should be frozen. It would be criminal if NAMA goes ahead and sells to a company under criminal investigation.”

Mick Wallace

 

 

namaleaks

THE TRUTH IS COMING....

Namaleaks is a project that seeks to uncover possible injustice and poor practice related to NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) and financial institutions in Ireland.

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