Irish PM Kenny Urges Caution on Probe Into NAMA’s Loan Sale

  • Northern Irish police investigate circumstances of transaction
  • Cerebus bought agency’s Northern Irish portfolio in 2014

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said the government must proceed carefully with any inquiry into the controversial sale of National Asset Management Agency’s Northern Irish loan portfolio in 2014.

Ireland’s political opposition are demanding a probe into the sale of the agency’s loan book, known as Project Eagle, to Cerebus Capital Management LP for about 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion). Northern Irish police last year opened an investigation after an Irish lawmaker alleged legal fees from the deal wound up in an offshore bank account and were earmarked for an unidentified politician or political party. All parties deny any wrongdoing, and nobody has been charged with any offense.

Demands for a political inquiry resurfaced this week after the Irish Times reported on Monday that Ireland’s Comptroller and Auditor General will say this week that NAMA could have got a higher price for the portfolio, a suggestion rejected by the agency. Kenny said any decision on an inquiry will wait until after a parliamentary committee questions NAMA executives on Sept. 22.

“Let’s follow the process here,” Kenny said in an interview with broadcaster RTE on Tuesday. “Let’s see what question needs to be asked. Any inquiry needs to be very focused, if one needs to be held.”

While Kenny said he wasn’t ruling out an investigation, he said any Dublin-based inquiry could run into difficulty, as it wouldn’t have jurisdiction in Northern Ireland and would run parallel with ongoing criminal investigations.

NAMA said it will respond to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report when it’s published. The Irish government set up NAMA in 2009 to purchase risky real estate assets from the nation’s lenders in an attempt to prevent their collapse.

“NAMA has consistently maintained that the sales process was managed in a professional manner and that it delivered the best achievable outcome,” the agency said in an e-mail statement.