US probes Nama's £1.3bn fire sale of its Ulster portfolio
The authorities in the US have launched an investigation into the sale of a Northern Irish property portfolio by the Republic's 'bad bank'.
Nama's Northern Ireland loan book was sold to US private equity firm Cerberus last April in a £1.3bn deal. But the deal has become embroiled in controversy after Irish politician Mick Wallace claimed in the Dail that £7m in an Isle of Man account linked to the Nama deal was "reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or political party".
The allegation has already sparked inquiries by the two parliaments on both sides of the border, as well as an investigation by the UK's FBI-style National Crime Agency.
Now it has emerged that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in Washington has also launched a probe. The Financial Times reported that it was in the early stages of scrutinising the deal, and had sent a subpoena to Cerberus to obtain information about Northern Ireland's biggest ever property deal, known as Project Eagle.
Last night, Cerberus said it has not been accused of any wrongdoing. A company statement said matters under consideration by the DoJ related to the claimed conduct of third parties and not to Cerberus or any of its affiliates.
"Cerberus has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has welcomed any inquiry associated with the acquisition of the Project Eagle portfolio," a spokesman said.
"As best we know, these matters are related to the alleged conduct of third parties and not to Cerberus or any of its affiliates."
Cerberus retained New York law firm Brown Rudnick on Project Eagle, which in turn used Belfast legal firm Tughans.
The money which has been called into question was part of the total legal and consultancy fees agreed as payable by Cerberus to Brown Rudnick.
Ian Coulter was a former senior partner of Tughans who resigned earlier this year. Mr Coulter subsequently confirmed that £7.5m had been transferred from Tughans to an "external account" on his instruction last September.
Cerberus did not engage or pay Tughans directly and has denied any wrongdoing or making improper payments.