What exactly is going on with this ‘draft’ letter to Tughans?

In Dublin Frank Daly of Nama told his critics to put up or shut up after the PAC in Dublin failed to land a single blow on him over Project Eagle. Meanwhile away from the northern antics of the Finance and Personnel Committee, Julian O’Neill unearths something very odd

The sale of the Northern Ireland Nama loan book was claimed to be the idea of a Belfast accountant who has said he was due the £7.5m success fee.

The BBC has obtained a draft letter, on the headed notepaper of David Watters, which contains the claim.

It was addressed to the Belfast law firm Tughans, but never sent.

Interesting. A draft copy of a letter (apparently unsigned) which was never sent? Like so much of this story the letter’s precise provenance is both odd and vague.

It could repay the NCA to look for an electronic copy of said letter to get a precise fix on exactly when it was written. But since it wasn’t actually sent, what exactly are we being invited to draw from it by whomever it was that released to the BBC?

Update (via Pete): It’s worth carrying Daly’s statement at some length…

We have explained that we ran a robust, competitive sales process that delivered £1.3 billion for the Irish taxpayer, the amount of the highest bid submitted from the nine global investment groups who entered the bid process.

The sale was conducted in line with international best practice, independently overseen by Lazard, a major international investment bank. The integrity of the sales process was fully protected.

No external members of the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee had access to confidential information on the sale.

No third parties, political or otherwise, had influence over the Nama board’s decision to sell the portfolio. None were in a position to confer an unfair competitive advantage on any bidder.

The UK National Crime Agency has made it clear to us that it is in no way concerned about Nama’s role in the sale.

Yet, in some quarters, the response to Nama demonstrating that it has nothing to hide reflects poorly on people who should know better. We have seen people clutching at every conceivable straw to allege malfeasance by Nama.

Some claim we should have got a better price, but they know there was no bidder willing to pay more.

Some claim we should have abandoned the sale process, but they know this would have made it much harder to get a return from this portfolio and that it would have threatened the sale of every other portfolio Nama has successfully brought to market since.

Some claim we should have retained the portfolio and worked it out over a period of many years, but knowing what we know about this portfolio, this would have been a costly mistake.

Some claim we should have raised red flags about the role of advisers to Pimco (the bidder we excluded from consideration) who went on to advise the successful bidder. The logic of this is that we should have accepted £1.1 billion from the runner-up bidder instead of the £1.3 billion that we achieved for the taxpayer.

Amid all the noise that has been generated on this transaction, no one has produced a bidder who would have paid more for Project Eagle.

No one has shown how Nama could have got more from retaining and working out a heavily distressed portfolio in a peripheral market with limited growth potential, which six of the world’s biggest investment groups did not want to bid for.

And, tellingly, no one who has made allegations about Nama’s conduct has revealed anything resembling evidence to back up their claims.

By contrast, Nama can stand over the actions it has taken; Nama can back up all it has said with concrete proof.

Politicians, media and individuals are free not to take us at our word. That is their right.

But ignoring the evidence serves no one. Falling for unsubstantiated, false claims is a very poor substitute for demanding proof.

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