Belfast Telegraph

PSNI launches NAMA investigation after Mick Wallace's allegations of a political payoff

The PSNI is to launch an investigation into the sale of Nama's property portfolio in Northern Ireland following claims made in the Irish parliament by independent TD Mick Wallace.

Detectives will probe the £1.1 billion sale of Northern Ireland assets owned by NAMA to a US investment firm last year.

Police commanders had been coming under intense pressure to act in the wake of explosive allegations levelled in the Dail last week by independent TD Mick Wallace.

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

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

It and all private firms involved in the Northern Ireland assets sale have denied wrongdoing.

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said: "We believe that there is sufficient concern in relation to potential criminal activity, surrounding this property deal, to instigate an investigation.

"PSNI are now engaging with a number of other national and international law enforcement partners to consider how best to take forward this investigation."

It is understood those other law enforcement organisations include the National Crime Agency.

Mr Wallace's allegations in the Dail last Thursday related to the role one of Northern Ireland's major law firms, Tughans, played in the deal.

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The Wexford TD claimed the cash in the offshore account was discovered during a routine internal audit by the Belfast solicitors following their work for the US buyers - private equity firm Cerberus.

Senior partners at Tughans said the money was diverted without their knowledge and has since been retrieved.

Ian Coulter, a former managing partner at Tughans who the firm said worked on the Cerberus/Nama transaction, has since left the company. Mr Coulter has not commented publicly on Mr Wallace's claims.

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Stormont's finance committee and the Dail's Public Accounts Committee are also examining Mr Wallace's allegations about the project eagle deal to sell Northern Ireland properties held by Nama.

Project Eagle and its 850 properties had a book value of £4.5 billion (6.3 billion euro).

Nama took control of it by paying banks 1.9 billion euro for the loans but then sold it to Cerberus for about £1.1 billion (1.5 billion euro) last June, at a loss of about 200 million euro.

Following an announcement by the PSNI, a DUP spokesman said: "This is a welcome announcement and the appropriate step to deal with the serious allegations which have been made. 

"Indeed, the First Minister called for such action by the authorities last week noting that accusations of criminal behaviour tarnish politics and should be fully investigated. We trust everyone concerned will cooperate fully with the PSNI team.”

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