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Martin McGuinness attended Nama call

Deputy First Minister present when 'Project Eagle' was discussed

By Shane Phelan

Published 01/10/2015

Martin McGuinness is understood to have sat in on a conference call when Project Eagle was
Martin McGuinness is understood to have sat in on a conference call when Project Eagle was discussed

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was present during a conference call where the controversial sale of Nama's Project Eagle Northern Ireland loan book was discussed.

Mr McGuinness and First Minister Peter Robinson were joined by Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan during the call in January last year.

Crucially, minutes of the conversation show a letter of intent provided by investment company Pimco was discussed during the call.

Pimco was in the running for the loan book until the firm's compliance staff informed Nama that a former Nama advisor, Frank Cushnahan, stood to earn £5m in fees should the company win the bid.

Nama expressed concerns about this and Pimco subsequently stepped out of the bidding process leaving two other bidders - Cerberus, which ultimately bought the £1.2bn portfolio, and Fortress.

Mr McGuinness told the Stormont Assembly's Finance Committee last week he was never consulted about the Pimco letter of intent.

The letter summarised an agreement between Pimco and the Executive which included guarantees that would see Nama debtors in Northern Ireland receive favourable treatment.

Mr McGuinness said the letter had come from the DUP side of Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minster, and did not have his consent.

However, notes taken by the Irish Department of Finance suggest Mr McGuinness was made aware of the letter.

The notes said Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness requested a call with Mr Noonan to discuss the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book after a meeting in September 2013.

The conference call was held on January 14 last year.

Mr Robinson is recorded as saying "they (the Northern Ireland Executive) did not align themselves with any particular buyer". The note adds: "However, he (Mr Robinson) reiterated the comfort provided by the commitments Pimco had made to the Northern Ireland Executive through a letter of intent regarding their management of assets if they were a successful acquirer."

Mr Robinson said he would welcome similar commitments from any buyer and he agreed to furnish Nama with the letter of intent.

Sinn Fein did not respond to requests for comment last night.

Last week, the Belfast Telegraph also revealed an email sent by David McCreedie from the First Minister's Office in Stormont Castle to Mr McGuinness' then special adviser Dara O'Hagan, including a memorandum of understanding about the acquisition of the Nama assets.

The email is dated December 2013, when Pimco was then in negotiations to buy the portfolio, and opens with the words "as discussed". It also suggested Sinn Fein knew about a progressing deal to sell Nama's assets in Northern Ireland.

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