Project Eagle report delay

A report into the sale of NAMA’s Project Eagle, originally due in June 2018, has been granted a further extension until the end of 2020.

A much-awaited report by the NAMA Commission investigating the sale of the £4.5 billion northern property portfolio named Project Eagle for £1.3 billion is now to be submitted by the end of 2020, after a series of extensions.

The NAMA Commission of Investigation, established in June 2017, on submitting its eighth interim report, issued a formal request for an extension on the timeframe for the report’s submission until 31 December 2020, having originally been granted an extension until the end of September.

The Commission, which is headed by retired judge John Cooke, is investigating the bad bank’s sale of a portfolio of some 850 properties in Northern Ireland which had an estimated original value of £4.5 billion but was sold for £1.24 billion in 2014.

The 70 per cent estimated haircut on the sale of Project Eagle was more than double the estimated 33.5 per cent applied to the entire £77 billion NAMA portfolio.

NAMA was set up in 2009 following Ireland’s banking crisis to prevent the flooding of the market with stressed assets. The aim was that assets would be managed until market recovery would allow for the assets to be maximised in the interests of the taxpayer. However, the ‘fire sale’ method, with which some assets have been sold, has led to criticism and the eventual revelations around Project Eagle.

  • £4.5 billion
    the value of Northern Ireland’s property loans portfolio (Project Eagle) acquired by NAMA
  • 70%
    the estimated haircut applied to the sale of Project Eagle
  • £1.3 billion
    paid by Cerberus for Project Eagle
  • 33.5%
    the average haircut applied to the entire £77 billion NAMA portfolio

In 2016, the Irish Comptroller and Auditor General issued a report that estimated the sale of the Project Eagle portfolio resulted in a probable loss of £190 million to the Irish taxpayer.

The Project Eagle portfolio was purchased by US investment firm Cerberus in circumstances that have been subject to much scrutiny in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Then TD Mick Wallace sparked investigation into the sale when, in 2015, he used parliamentary privilege in the Dáil to claim that a Northern Ireland politician or party stood to benefit from the sale after a £7 million lodgement into an Isle of Man bank account.

In 2015, Dáil Éireann’s Committee of Public Accounts and the Northern Ireland Finance Committee announced inquiries into Project Eagle. Around the same time the PSNI referred the matter to the National Crime Agency (NCA) due to the politically sensitive nature of the allegations and the NCA commenced Operation Pumpless.

In January 2019, the NCA submitted a file to the PPS in Northern Ireland presenting evidence in respect of eight suspects relating to potential offences of fraud, bribery and money laundering.

In August the PPS announced it will prosecute two men in relation to Project Eagle.

Writing to the Taoiseach in his eighth interim report in late August, John Cooke said that, barring major delays, the Commission would hope to support its final report before the expiry of the timeframe extension to 31 December 2020.

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