Thursday, 23 June 2016
10. To ask the Minister for Finance if he has concerns about the operation of the National Asset Management Agency; if he will call for the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17484/16]
The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation announced today that it had arrested the former NAMA employee Paul Pugh, an individual who came onto our radar long before now. That makes four NAMA employees in total who have been arrested. Does the Minister not think it is about time he started asking questions? Could he tell me of any other State organisation that has had four former employees arrested without a sniff of an investigation?
NAMA continues to progress its mandate to maximise the return to the State, as evidenced in its 2015 annual report published on 8 June 2015. In addition to regular audited financial reporting, NAMA is subject to a significant level of oversight, including under sections 226 and 227 of the NAMA Act and section 9 of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act, which provide for regular reviews by the Comptroller and Auditor General and my Department of NAMA's performance.
There have been a number of calls for a commission of investigation into Project Eagle. The allegations of wrongdoing that are being criminally investigated are extremely concerning. We continue to monitor the situation as these criminal investigations progress. If appropriate lines of inquiry do come to light which could usefully be pursued by a commission of investigation they will be brought forward for consideration. However, all known allegations of wrongdoing are currently being investigated by the appropriate authorities. We support these investigations and stand ready to assist in any way that is helpful. The most notable investigation is being carried out by the UK National Crime Agency, NCA, a criminal investigation by the appropriate authorities in the appropriate jurisdiction. Importantly, NAMA advises me that the NCA has confirmed that no aspect of the agency's activities are under investigation.
NAMA has also appeared twice before the Committee of Public Accounts to discuss Project Eagle. Based on recent comments by the Chairman of the committee, I understand NAMA may soon appear for a third time to discuss these issues. In that context, the Comptroller and Auditor General is conducting a value for money review of Project Eagle.
There has been much confusion and conflation of issues. However, it remains the case that allegations of wronging have not been directed at NAMA. Taking into account the investigations under way, it is not clear what specific line of inquiry could usefully be pursued by a commission of investigation in this jurisdiction. I do not believe it is appropriate to launch a commission of investigation based purely on speculation, nor to interfere with current legitimate investigations.
This position of course will be kept under review.
I apologise but, as this is a serious issue, I wish to state that if the Deputy has specific allegations of wrongdoing, he should make them known to the relevant authorities in the appropriate jurisdiction-----
I have gone to the authorities in both the South and the North of Ireland before now with information on the gentleman who was arrested today. These guys worked in Dublin. They did not work in Northern Ireland. Had Hanna stayed in the South he probably never would have been arrested, but he happened to be up there. The authorities there are only meant to be investigating the purchase side of Project Eagle. The Government has been adamant, like NAMA, that there was nothing wrong on the sales side and all the problems were on the purchase side. What in God's name is the NCA looking into? What is the US Securities and Exchange Commission looking into? Why is the Irish State outsourcing its responsibility and not investigating what is going on in NAMA? It is not true to state that there have been no allegations of wrongdoing against NAMA, as there have been plenty of them. I have one question for the Minister. I do not understand why, when he was told-----
-----by NAMA, as it has stated, that PIMCO was obliged to withdraw from the bidding process because its compliance department refused to sign off on the payment of a fixer's fee by the company, the Minister did nothing about it?
I am aware that the media have reported the arrest of a former NAMA official yesterday, 22 June, in respect of an alleged disclosure of confidential information in 2012. The case has been ongoing since NAMA reported the matter to the Garda in February 2013. The existence of this case has been in the public domain since 2013 and the NAMA chief executive officer is on record as confirming this case in his testimony to the Committee of Public Accounts in December 2013. This case, which was brought to the attention of the Garda by NAMA, is unrelated to the questions being investigated by the National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland regarding the buyer's side of the Northern Ireland loan book sale. Members should not conflate these distinct cases, which are being investigated separately by the appropriate authorities in the appropriate jurisdictions. I hope all Members can respect these legal and judicial processes and allow them to run their respective courses unfettered. However, if there is new information in the Deputy's possession, he should give it to the appropriate authorities, whether they are in this jurisdiction or in Northern Ireland.
As the Minister is well aware, I have spoken to the National Crime Agency a few times, as well as to the Garda. The Minister stated today in the Chamber that he remained in regular dialogue with the NAMA chairman and he told Members he had no expertise in selling property as an excuse for taking a hands-off approach.
Many people know a good bit about selling property and would be fairly sceptical about the knowledge NAMA has shown of the same industry. The idea that Project Eagle would be sold for €2.41 billion and that Cerberus will go close to doubling its money is pure nonsense. It simply is ridiculous that Members are content with this.
I do my job as Minister. The Deputy makes allegations under privilege. He made highly non-specific allegations. If the Deputy has specific information, he should put it on the record and give it to the Garda.