Legal advice says Stormont Nama inquiry can go ahead

Jim Allister is optimistic that a Stormont finance committee probe into Nama's Project Eagle sale will be resurrected. Picture by Mal McCann

Stormont's finance committee has been told that a probe into aspects of Nama's sale of its northern portfolio can proceed without impeding an ongoing criminal investigation.

Committee member Jim Allister last night told The Irish News he was optimistic that MLAs will get the go-ahead to resurrect their inquiry into the controversy surrounding the £1.24bn Project Eagle sale.

The TUV leader is proposing that the finance committee examines whether Stormont ministers sought to use political pressure to influence Nama's sale of its northern loans.

In a report earlier this month, the Republic's Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) said Nama had cited the "political and cross jurisdictional context" in its decision to offload Project Eagle as a single job lot and at a price which the watchdog concluded was up to £190m below market value.

"It's important that the committee demonstrates some relevance by not ducking the issues at the heart of this controversy," Mr Allister said.

"I believe I have made a proposal to the committee to address issues which lie well within our bailiwick."

Mr Allister welcomed assurances that legal advice to the committee found it could proceed without impeding the National Crime Agency's investigation, which has been going on for the past 14 months.

"The excuse of potential sub judice that some people have been hiding behind is clearly no longer relevant," he said.

Meanwhile, the Republic's Public Accounts Committee will today begin hearings on the C&AG report into Project Eagle.

The Dáil watchdog is to quiz the C&AG officials along with Nama chairman Frank Daly and its chief executive Brendan McDonagh.

Committee chairman Seán Fleming said: "The sale of Nama's northern loanbook or Project Eagle has been a source of considerable controversy and the findings of the C&AG report, particularly that there were shortcomings in the sales process that indicate a loss for the taxpayer.

"Therefore, it is important that the Public Accounts Committee examines the report in greater detail."

He said today's meeting, which begins at 9am, would be the first of several.


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