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Nama probe may call up those who were named in explosive hearing

By Philip Ryan

Published 13/07/2015

PAC chairman John McGuinness
PAC chairman John McGuinness

The main players involved in the controversial sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book could be set for a grilling by the Republic's powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

PAC chairman John McGuinness plans to invite all those mentioned during an explosive committee hearing last week at which Nama revealed how it learned a former employee was to receive a £5m fee from the sale.

An invite will now be extended to former Nama advisor Frank Cushnahan, who was in line for the massive payout from US investment firm Pimco if it bought the portfolio.

It also emerged yesterday that Mr Cushnahan was a registered shareholder in one of the property companies whose loans were eventually sold to a separate US firm, Cerberus, for €1.5bn.

Representatives of Pimco and Cerberus will also be invited to attend a PAC hearing, as will Belfast law firm Tughans, which was involved in the successful bid.

Former Tughans' managing director Ian Coulter, who left the firm after an audit found he created a secret bank account in the Isle of Man, will also be asked to attend.

Police in Northern Ireland are currently investigating if the £7m held in this account was to have been used inappropriately. Tughans claims it was not.

Pimco will be asked to clarify a statement published in yesterday's Sunday Independent which contradicted evidence given by Nama chief executive Frank Daly to the PAC. Mr Daly suggested that Nama made it clear to Pimco that it should remove itself from the sale process voluntarily or face being forced out by the agency after compliance concerns were raised over the proposed fee for Mr Cushnanan and a further £10m payment to be split between Tughans and US law firm Brown Rudnick.

"I do not propose to enter into a debate with Pimco as to the meaning of the word 'voluntary'. Suffice it to say that it was left in no doubt that if the withdrawal was not voluntary, it would have to be involuntary," Mr Daly said.

In response, Pimco stated: "Pimco decided to withdraw from the Project Eagle tender process, not because of any Nama decision, but because of the concerns relating to the third parties that Pimco had identified as part of its due diligence checks.

"At no point was Pimco required or asked to withdraw by Nama, and no such decision was communicated by Nama to Pimco or relevant to Pimco's decision."

PAC chairman Mr McGuinness said he would send transcripts of last week's hearing to all those involved to ensure they had a right of reply.

The controversy over Nama's sale of its Northern Ireland loan book has raged since independent TD Mick Wallace used Dail privilege to claim £7m in an offshore bank account had been "earmarked" for a Northern Ireland politician or political party.

The implication was that the money was a pay-off linked to the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio, code-named Project Eagle.

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