NCA told to end nine-month silence on Project Eagle probe

NCA director general Lynne Owens updated the Policing Board in October last year

THE National Crime Agency (NCA) has been urged to state whether its probe into the sale of Project Eagle is likely to result in prosecutions.

The UK-wide force has been investigating the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio for two years but has said nothing publicly since it updated the Policing Board nine months ago.

In October last year, NCA director general Lynne Owens told the Policing Board that six people were under criminal investigation in relation to the controversial £1.24bn deal.

She said more than 40 witnesses had been interviewed by the agency, which was probing potential bribery, corruption and fraud.

Ms Owens confirmed that two people had been arrested in May last year and interviewed under caution.

The Irish News understands they were former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan and Ronnie Hanna, a one-time senior executive at Ulster Bank and head of asset recovery at the so-called bad bank. Both were later released from police bail.

All parties connected to the property deal deny any wrongdoing.

Ms Owens described the investigation as "one of our highest priority operations in our serious and organised crime grid".

But when contacted by The Irish News this week, the NCA declined to give any update, saying it "will not provide a running commentary" on the probe.

It has prompted a former member of Stormont's finance committee to call on the NCA to be more forthcoming with information.

"After two years I think it's only reasonable that the public is given some indication of where this investigation is going," SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said.

"It's important that after nine months of silence the NCA clarifies what progress has been made and whether any prosecutions are likely."

The South Belfast representative said the public wanted to know whether the failure so far to prosecute anybody in relation to Project Eagle was due to a "lack of evidence or a lack of will".

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