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Nama row: Businessman Frank Cushnahan stood to make £5m in fees, Dail told

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 09/07/2015

Frank Cushnahan
Frank Cushnahan
Nama chairman Frank Daly
Nama chief Brendan McDonagh
Mick Wallace, independent deputy for Wexford, said the Dail that a Northern Ireland politician was to benefit from £7 million diverted to a bank account in the Isle of Man. Pic: Tom Burke.

A former member of Nama’s Northern Ireland advisory committee stood to make £5m in fees resulting from a massive property sale, it was claimed today.

Frank Cushnahan, a Northern Ireland businessman, was allegedly due to receive a £5m share of £15m in acquisition fees to be paid to Pimco, a global investment firm interested in buying Nama’s Northern Ireland assets.

The allegations emerged during a meeting of the Dail’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this morning.

The meeting in Dublin has heard claims that Mr Cushnahan resigned, became involved with a potential bidder for its NI portfolio and was in line for a fee:

* Mr Cushnahan stepped down from his post six months early, in November 2013, for “personal reasons” and family concerns;

* He subsequently became involved as an adviser with Pimco, a US investment firm which had expressed an interest in Nama’s NI loan book;

* Mr Cushnahan, "a managing partner" at Tughans and Brown Rudnick were allegedly to be paid £15m between them as part of the proposed purchase by Pimco;

* Nama considered calling off the bid after Pimco admitted it had used Mr Cushnahan as an advisor;

* One TD asked if Pimco was a stalking horse, entering the race and pulling out to drive down the price for the eventual winning bidder.

Nama is the bank set up by the Irish government to clear property loans from bailed out lenders.

The PAC is hearing evidence from senior officials on the sale of the agency’s Northern Ireland portfolio, which comprised about 850 assets.

It was sold en masse in April 2014 in the biggest property deal in Northern Ireland’s history.

Yesterday the PSNI said it was probing the huge purchase by US investment firm Cerberus Capital Management.

It follows explosive allegations levelled in the Irish parliament last week by independent TD Mick Wallace.

Using parliamentary privilege - a legal immunity - Mr Wallace alleged that £7million in an Isle of Man account linked to the deal was “reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or political party”.

All the parties involved deny any wrongdoing. Mr Coulter has not commented on the matter to date.

Today, the head of Nama insisted that political pressure did not influence the sale of its Northern Ireland assets.

Nama chairman Frank Daly said the £1.3billion sell-off was robust, competitive and achieved the best deal possible for Irish taxpayers.

Mr Daly said no pressure from any source, political or otherwise, had pressured Nama in the sale of its Northern Ireland assets.

Mr Daly insisted the alleged £7m payment did not come from Nama.

It also emerged a second US bidder, besides Cerberus, was involved in negotiations for the purchase.

Fortress Investment Group, based in New York, offered £1.1bn for the assets.

This was after Pimco withdrew from the process.

Mr Daly also moved to clarify a reported £3bn write-down in the price Nama secured for its assets.

He referred to reports that the assets were sold for £1.3bn - less than a third of their £4.5bn face value.

Mr Daly said: “Nama sold the assets for exactly what they were worth and not a cent less. 

“The assets may – years earlier – have been worth more but the fall in their value was a result of the property crash and they were not worth anything more that the price Nama achieved when sold by Nama.”

Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh said he was happy the sale would stand up to “rigorous scrutiny”.

Mr McDonagh said efforts to besmirch Nama’s reputation over the sale were “entirely unfair”.

The hearing continues.

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