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'Fixers' behind Nama property deal 'were paid £45 million'

Published 24/09/2015

Mick Wallace claimed that some £45 million has been paid to
Mick Wallace claimed that some £45 million has been paid to "fixers" behind the biggest ever property deal in Northern Ireland
Mick Wallace claimed that some £45 million has been paid to "fixers" behind the biggest ever property deal in Northern Ireland

Some £45 million has been paid to "fixers" behind the biggest ever property deal in Northern Ireland, it has been claimed.

Mick Wallace, an Independent TD in the Irish Republic, made the allegation over the £1.2 billion Project Eagle portfolio sale to US investment trust Cerberus by Ireland's bad bank, the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

The former builder previously claimed money had been set aside in the mammoth deal to be paid to a politician.

"It is nonsense for Nama to suggest that the problems are all about the purchase. There are serious problems about the sale of Project Eagle to Cerberus and it stinks to the high heavens," he said.

Investigations are ongoing over £7 million discovered in an off-shore account controlled by Ian Coulter, a former managing partner of Belfast-based law firm Tughans which acted as local legal advisers in the successful Cerberus bid.

The UK's National Crime Agency and political watchdogs either side of the Irish border are looking into the sale of the bank loans linked to Project Eagle.

Mr Wallace claimed in the Dail parliament in Dublin that Irish taxpayers had covered the cost of massive losses on the deal while the US investment fund, which boasted former US vice president Dan Quayle among its senior ranks, was doubling its money on some of the property.

"The seven million we have been talking about in the Isle of Man was only for openers. Forty-five million has been paid to fixers," Mr Wallace said.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Peter Robinson yesterday vehemently rejected allegations he was to receive any payment linked to the Project Eagle sale after he was named at a parliamentary committee at Stormont.

Meanwhile, Mr Wallace called on the Irish Government to stop treating the allegations as a northern problem.

"Cerberus have been able to sell loans for double what they paid for them in a very short space of time. Why were Nama not able to do that?" he said.

"Nama sold Project Eagle to Cerberus for approx 27p in the pound. That missing 73p has been picked up by the Irish taxpayer in the south of Ireland not the north. This isn't just a northern problem. This is a seriously southern problem."

Mr Wallace also called for an independent inquiry into Project Eagle and demanded that the sale of Project Arrow, the next major property portfolio to be sold by Nama, with a par or original book value of 7.2 billion euro (£5.3 billion), be suspended. He claimed it is being offered to bidders for 1 billion euro (£740m).

On the Project Eagle deal he also went on to claim that Nama only ran up a 1.8 million euro (£1.3m) bill for due diligence checks ahead of agreeing the sale to Cerberus while the same fees in Northern Ireland ran to £21 million.

Tanaiste Joan Burton urged Mr Wallace to bring his information to the Stormont finance committee.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams also called for the Government to establish a commission of inquiry into the workings of Nama.

"This scandal is now being investigated by the police. It is being investigated by the Assembly's Finance Committee. The US Department of Justice is also investigating it," he said.

"But this government is defending it. This is unacceptable and outrageous.

"Nama is an arm of the state. It should be accountable. In light of all of the disclosures now made it is unacceptable that Minister Noonan continues to protect Nama from public scrutiny."

Nama issued a statement insisting the agency has not been accused of, or involved in, any wrongdoing in respect of the Project Eagle sale.

"The ongoing inquiries in Northern Ireland relate to the alleged conduct of third parties on the buyer side of the Project Eagle transaction, and not to Nama," it said.

Nama also insisted none of the total value of the sale went to a third party and none of the money ended up in the Isle of Man.

Mr Robinson was one of five men alleged to be beneficiaries of the £7 million fee by loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson during his appearance before Stormont's Finance committee.

Another of the five, property developer Andrew Creighton, tonight strongly denied the claim.

"Following allegations made yesterday at Stormont, I can categorically state that I have made no claim for a fee, I have not received any payment nor do I expect to receive any payment in relation to Project Eagle," he said in a statement.

"I will not be making any further comment on this matter."

Another of the five named - accountant David Watters - also issued a strong statement of denial tonight.

"Unsupported testimony provided yesterday at Stormont claimed I was due to receive a fee from monies paid to an Isle of Man account," he said.

"That is completely false. I had no role in, and was in no way party to, the issuance of this fee.

"Additionally, and for the avoidance of any doubt, I had no direct or indirect involvement in the Project Eagle transaction."

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