BELFAST Oct 6 Six people are under criminal
investigation in connection with the sale by Ireland's state-run
"bad bank" of a multi-billion-pound portfolio of Northern Irish
loans, the head of Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) was
quoted as saying on Thursday.
The NCA opened an inquiry last year into the National Asset
Management Agency's (NAMA) 1.3 billion pound sale in 2014 of its
entire portfolio of loans belonging to Northern Ireland-based
debtors to U.S. private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.
The investigation began after an independent member of the
Irish parliament raised concerns about the portfolio, alleging
that a 7 million-pound fee had been "earmarked" for a Northern
Ireland politician. The NCA arrested two men earlier this year.
"We have interviewed over 40 witnesses, we have searched
eight properties, we have achieved a number of court orders both
for private properties and for public locations, and our
inquiries continue," NCA director general Lynne Owens told the
Possible offences being investigated include bribery, fraud
and corruption, she added.
NAMA, which became one of the largest property groups in the
world in 2009 when it paid 32 billion euros to purge local banks
of risky loans worth over double that amount, has said the
investigation is in no way concerned with its side of the sale.
Cerberus has said that no improper or illegal fees were paid
by it or on its behalf.
The U.S. Department of Justice and parliamentary committees
in both the Irish and Northern Irish parliament are also
investigating the deal.
Dublin this week ordered a statutory investigation into the
transaction after the state's audit body said last month that
NAMA set too low a minimum price for the sale. NAMA rejected
that the loan book, dubbed Project Eagle, had been mis-priced.
(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson; editing Padraic Halpin and Ralph