The Department of Finance won’t tell the Sentinel what its officials said to a special advisor to the New York private investment firm Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. during meetings in December and February.
Cerberus acquired loans attached to a huge swathe of Northern Ireland - including several Londonderry assets - when the Dublin Government’s National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) - sold its Northern Ireland portfolio last year.
The Sentinel asked the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) for copies of all correspondence and minutes involving Ministers, officials and third parties, which were held by the DFP and related to Cerberus’ acquisition of and plans for the Northern Ireland NAMA loans after the acquisition last year.
It indicated at least two meetings between “the Special Advisor to the Cerberus Fund in Northern Ireland and DFP officials” have taken place, the first on December 8, 2014, and the second on February 16, 2015.
However, the Department refused to provide the paper with details of what was discussed at the meetings. In a statement to the paper issued in response to a Freedom of Information request the Department claimed that releasing the details about the huge transaction could potentially “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.”
It said it would be likely to, inhibit “the free and frank provision of advice” or “the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.”
The Sentinel does not accept this and has asked the Department to internally review its decision. Following the sale last year a spokesperson for NAMA told the Sentinel it couldn’t identify individual properties included in the transaction and confirmed that NAMA continued to have some residual exposure to Northern Ireland property but that this exposure was very limited. But NAMA has included several Londonderry assets in its portfolio listing in the past number of years. For example, at the end of February 2014, among the properties listed as subject to enforcement action were assets on the Strand Road, Woodside Road and Culmore Road.
Properties at Claremont Manse and Glenvale on the Northland Road and Charles Court in Limavady were also listed by NAMA as subject to enforcement action.