Nama: Two men held in probe of £1bn sale of assets by ‘bad bank'
TWO men have been arrested by the UK's National Crime Agency in a fraud investigation linked to the biggest property deal ever in Northern Ireland.
Searches were carried out in Co Down in connection with the inquiry into the controversial £1.2 billion sale of assets and property owned by Ireland's "bad bank", the National Assets Management Agency (Nama), to US investment firm Cerberus.
An NCA spokesman said: "Officers from the National Crime Agency have today carried out two arrests and related searches in the Co Down area in connection with a fraud investigation.
"The operation is being assisted by the PSNI.
"As the investigation is continuing we are unable to comment further."
The investigation was sparked following the discovery of a £7 million offshore transfer to an Isle of Man bank account, which was controlled by a former managing partner of Belfast-based law firm Tughans.
Tughans, which was involved in the Nama transaction after being subcontracted by Cerberus's US lawyers Brown Rudnick, insisted it was not aware of the money movement.
Nama is the so-called "bad bank" set up by the Irish Government at the height of the Republic's financial crisis to take property linked-loans off the books of bailed-out banks.
A parliamentary committee at Stormont is carrying out a separate investigation into the Cerberus deal.
All parties involved in the huge £1.2 billion transaction in 2014 have denied wrongdoing.
It is understood the US Department of Justice Securities and Exchange Commission is also examining the deal.
Cerberus, which boasts former US vice president Dan Quayle in its senior ranks, insisted its investment is not central to the investigations, but that the role of third parties involved in the sale is being examined.
Speaking in the Dail parliament in Dublin, Taoiseach Enda Kenny again rejected calls for a State inquiry, insisting that no allegations of wrongdoing had been made against Nama.
Responding to the arrests north of the border, he said: "If they have been arrested, I assume they have been arrested for good reason in respect of activities that would be outside the law.
"I trust that will see itself through that process and be judged before the courts."
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said Mr Kenny was like "a rabbit caught in headlights" and branded the Nama sale a "national scandal".
"It's actually a national scandal and a disgrace," he said.
"The sale of Nama's Northern loan book has been subject of serious allegations of a cosy cartel, of insider trading, payments to the golden circle and payment of illegal fixer fees."
Mr Adams said Nama had fully briefed Dublin's Finance Minister Michael Noonan on the issues - including a "totally irregular and illegal" £15 million fixer fee - but the sale was never suspended.
Despite numerous ongoing investigations in Northern Ireland and the US, there has been no such inquiry in the Republic, he told the Dail.
"In this State the government, the Minister for Finance and Nama have closed ranks," he said.
"This is a public interest matter.
"It must be fully investigated to get to the bottom of any allegations of wrongdoing and cosy cartels which have cost the citizens of this State millions of euros."