Nama stands behind sale of €6.3bn in loans

Nama has stood behind the sale of £4.5bn (€6.3bn) loans in the North, saying it remains fully satisfied that taxpayers got the best possible price in a deal struck with Cerberus Capital that was completed last year.

Nama stands behind sale of €6.3bn in loans

The controversy about the huge sale of loans secured on about 850 properties, codenamed Project Eagle, reignited on Thursday.

Independent TD Mick Wallace alleged in the Dáil that £7m in fees paid to the Belfast law firm Tughans for its work as an adviser on Project Eagle “ended up” in an Isle of Man account.

He said those monies were “reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician”.

The TD called for an independent inquiry into the sale by Nama to Cerberus Capital — the huge US equity fund — for a discounted £1.3bn.

The sale was the largest ever at the time executed by Nama on behalf of the state anywhere in Ireland. It included all Nama’s Northern loans and some Nama loans in the Republic and Britain.

For the North, it was the largest ever commercial property transaction, covering the loans advanced by Dublin-based banks during the boom that rebuilt large swathes of Lagan-side commercial properties in Belfast city centre.

After an auction of nine bidders, the loans were sold to Cerberus Capital. Nama yesterday said that the sale of the Project Eagle loans had been completed totally properly.

“Cerberus Capital Management emerged as the highest and preferred bidder for the portfolio in April 2014. The sale completed on 20 June 2014.

"Prior to confirming Cerberus as its preferred bidder, Nama sought and received confirmation from Cerberus that no fee was payable by Cerberus to any person connected with Nama in relation to any aspect of the Project Eagle sales process,” Nama said.

Tughans yesterday said it was sub-contracted by the main advisers to Cerberus as a local adviser to the transaction. It said “no part” of the fees were earmarked for any politician and that it had fully retrieved the monies.

It said its former managing partner, Ian Coulter, was involved in the Project Eagle deal after Tughans was hired by a US law firm representing Cerberus. Mr Coulter is understood to have left the firm last January.

“Following internal investigation Tughans voluntarily brought the circumstances leading to Ian Coulter’s departure to the attention of the Law Society of Northern Ireland,” Tughans said in a statement.

“Tughans has co-operated fully with the Law Society of Northern Ireland ’s inquiry. That inquiry is ongoing.

"The firm awaits the outcome of the inquiry before deciding which other agencies should be notified.

“No part of its professional fee is payable or will be paid to any third party, politician or advisor.”

Mr Coulter could not be contacted for comment last night. A Cerberus spokesman for said “no improper or illegal fees were paid by us or on our behalf and we take any allegation to the contrary extremely seriously”.

“We are not and never have been a client of Tughans,” Cerberus said in a statement. “We appointed Brown Rudnick as our lawyers. We were advised by them that they would be seeking local counsel support in Northern Ireland by Tughans and that they would be paying Tughans out of their fees.

“Cerberus has never paid Tughans.”

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