The developer behind Belfast's CastleCourt shopping mall has avoided repaying a £10m government grant - despite making a massive profit on the venture.
John Laing Northern Ireland, a subsidiary of John Laing Plc. built the shoping centre in 1990 for an estimated £60m - £10m of which was funded by taxpayers through a Department of Environment Urban Development Grant.
In June of last year the construction group sold CastleCourt to Peterborough property giant, MEPC, for a minimum of £72.5m.
This sale price could however rise to £80.5m, depending on rent reviews and further lettings at the centre by 1998.
Parliament's public accounts committee recommends government departments clawback certain grants when a capital gain is made within a five year period.
A spokeswoman for John Laing said no grant repayment was required in the contract with DoE.
A DoE spokeswomen declined to comment: "The issue of the sale of CastleCourt is the subject of a Northern Ireland Audit Office report and it is government policy not to make any comment in advance of the Audit Office report."
She said the report is due to be released within the next month or two.
John Laing accounts for the year to December 1994 show a profit of £11.5m on the sale of CastleCourt. But this figure includes £4.4m in write downs from previous years.
CastleCourt, built on an 8.4 acre site between Royal Avenue and Millfield, has become one of the most successful shopping centres in the United Kingdom.
It boasts 450,000 square feet of retail space, 170,000 square feet of office acommodation and 1,600 car parking spaces. Debenhams is the anchor tenant. In 1987, it was the biggest commercial project ever undertaken in the province, and during the Troubles, was bombed by the IRA five times.
Under then minister Richard Needham, the DoE viewed CastleCourt as central to its plans to regenerate the city, and backed the project to encourage investment in Belfast.
To ensure the viability of the project, the Department of Health and Social Services took 165,000 square feet to house some 700 civil servants.
In addition to the CastleCourt grant, DoE pumped £5m into developing the Millfield Royal Avenue area, including proposals for road works. The Bank of Tokyo led the financial institutions with a £40m deal to finance construction costs.