Belfast Telegraph

TD teases more £7m Nama details

A politician behind allegations linked to the sale of hundreds of Northern Ireland properties by the Republic's 'bad bank' Nama has declared there are more revelations to come.

Independent TD Mick Wallace claimed last week, under parliamentary privilege, that £7 million (9.8 million euro) "reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or political party" was channelled into an Isle of Man account.

The sale last year, codenamed Project Eagle, involved an 850-property portfolio with a book value of £4.5 billion (6.3 billion euro) being sold for around £1.1 billion (1.5 billion euro), he claimed.

Mr Wallace said he is now working to confirm further revelations before making them public.

"I have further information, but I need to check the validity of it, before I release it," he told RTE radio.

The Wexford TD said he stood over his remarks in the Dail last week and goes to grave lengths to avoid abusing parliamentary privilege.

"I could have named the politician that was speculated was earmarked for the 7 million, but because I wasn't 100% certain I didn't use his name in the Dail, because if I was wrong then I would have done him a serious injustice," he said.

"I have other information, and when I am more confident that I am 100% sure that what I am saying is correct, then I will let that out too."

Mr Wallace has called for an independent inquiry into property sales by the National Assets Management Agency (Nama), set up by the Dublin government to buy toxic loans off bailed out lenders during the financial crisis.

Last Thursday he told the Dail the Isle of Man account had been discovered during a routine audit of Tughans law firm in Belfast, one of the North's largest commercial practices.

The firm has since issued a statement saying a former partner, later named as Ian Coulter, diverted "professional fees" into an account without the knowledge of the other partners.

"We have since retrieved the money and he has left the practice," it said.

There has been no evidence of any wrongdoing produced.

The Law Society is carrying out an investigation.

Mr Wallace has rejected calls for him to give his information to the Garda or the Police Service of Northern Ireland, whom he said were already investigating Project Eagle for some time.

"I don't think that this was something that the gardai should be shouldered with, I think they are already under-resourced, I think they have already too much on their plate, I think we need an independent inquiry," he said.

Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said there was no question of any conflict of interest with anyone involved in the deal and no wrongdoing was alleged against Nama.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has access to the bad bank's files while the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee has the power to cross examine Nama executives.

"I don't think we should certainly not jump to an inquiry immediately, but I'm sure there is more information that can be put in the public arena via the very strong processes we have in place for Nama, the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee," she said.

"In the first instance, it seems to me, that's where you go."

The property portfolio at the centre of the controversy was bought by a US investment giant Cerberus.

It has issued a statement saying no improper or illegal fees were paid by it or on its behalf.

The SDLP has called for an emergency reconvening of the Stormont Assembly over the allegations, while Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has written to Dublin Finance Minister Michael Noonan demanding he make a full statement on the controversy.


From Belfast Telegraph