The winner of the controversial multibillion euro Project Eagle Nama deal paid two firms heavily involved in a previous bid £15m for help “accessing” Finance Minister Michael Noonan and “the Northern Ireland executive”.
Cerberus chief operating officer Mark Neporent made the claim during a detailed Dáil public accounts committee meeting in which he also said the money was provided to access debtor information giving it an advantage over rival bids.
Speaking to the PAC, Mr Neporent confirmed that his company received “unsolicited” contact from US legal firm Brown Rudnick and Belfast legal firm Tughan’s on March 14, 2014, asking it for stg£15m in return for help in bidding for Nama’s Northern Ireland property portfolio.
Days earlier, rival firm Pimco — which was being supported by Brown Rudnick and Tughan’s — had left the bidding process due to revelations then Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan was to receive €5m if the bid was successful.
Mr Neporent said Cerberus chose within days to pay Brown Rudnick and Tughan’s a requested £15m for support in its bid in order to access debtor information, block rival firms and — crucially — obtain access to politicians north and south of the border.
“The Northern Ireland executive, people in the Republic. We wanted to be certain we would be welcomed by those stakeholders,” he said.
While there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by any politician, Mr Neporent said when asked that the only individuals his firm met in the Republic were Finance Minister Michael Noonan and a member of his staff, Ann Nolan, on March 31, 2014, and April 4, 2014.
In Northern Ireland, meetings included those with then DUP leader and first minister Peter Robinson.
The revelation caused significant controversy at yesterday’s meeting, with Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald saying the money was “one hell of a fee for two weeks’ work”.
When it was put to her the sum was also for information on whether the Irish economy was “robust enough” to invest in, she said: “You didn’t need £15m to make those systemic decisions.”
Mr Neporent said Cerberus — which also met Nama officials the night before it lodged its Project Eagle bid — stressed he was unaware of the controversy surrounding Mr Cushnahan’s planned success fee for the Pimco deal.
He said that while Cerberus was also due to meet with Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness on April 3-4 2014, Mr McGuinness pulled out because he “was delayed meeting the Queen”.
The comments were made after a former Nama board member John Mulcahy described the Project Eagle deal, which allegedly saw taxpayers lose out on €200m as a “superb” and “inspired” transaction.
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