The key players of the Nama scandal
The National Asset Management Agency, the bad bank set up to buy and sell impaired loans and based in the Treasury Building (main pic), sold 850 property loans last year in a deal named Project Eagle. While some of the properties were in the Republic and Britain, half of the properties were in the North. Nama sold the property-linked loans to US firm Cerberus for €1.6 bn (£1.3bn), at a loss of over €280m. It claims that the deal was the best value for money for the taxpayer. But it now faces massive questions about the deal after revelations about fees being paid to third parties.
Pimco, a US firm, was kicked out of the process when it emerged it was going to pay fees for advice on the deal, including £5m to an ex-Nama official. Both Brown Rudnick and Tughans had been involved in Pimco for its bid also. Nama sasy it does “not question” why a purchaser of a loan portfolio would be making payments to two law firms.
Fortress Capital, another US private equity firm, was one of the three final bidders, alongside Pimco and Cerberus
US equity firm Cerberus, one of nine bidders for the massive property portfolio, says it paid fees for advice on the deal to US lawyers Brown Rudnick, which says these were shared with Belfast solicitors Tughans.
The UK’s top law enforcement body, the National Crime Agency, is to investigate the allegations at the heart of Project Eagle, the largest ever property deal in the North. It has been asked by the PSNI to examine alleged pay-offs made on the side of the sale of 850 properties to Cerberus.
Independent TD Mick Wallace raised questions in the Dáil over Project Eagle and alleged a £7m fund in the Isle of Man had been ‘earmarked for a politician or political party’. Mr Wallace says that PAC does not have ‘the wherewithal’ to investigate the deal and that an independent probe is needed. He says he will speak to police in the North about an investigation there into the deal.
Peter Robinson, the North’s first minister, has been drawn into the controversy after PAC heard that a letter from his office to Nama proposed a deal with the successful buyer where the guarantees of debtors in the North would be protected or released for ‘nil payment’. Nama says it found this proposal
Finance Minister Michael Noonan was ‘alarmed’ about fees being paid under the Pimco bid in March last year, but did not suggest that Nama halt the property portfolio sale. He referred a letter to Nama, forwarded to him, where lawyers Brown Rudnick told the North’s finance minister Sammy Wilson about two clients wanting to bid for Project Eagle.
Sammy Wilson, the North’s former finance minister, was involved in appointing Frank Cushnahan to Nama’s Northern Ireland advisory committee. Wilson wrote to Noonan in June 2013, forward-ing a letter from Brown Rudnick, where the US firm had notified the Northern minister that two of its clients were interested in bidding for Project Eagle. The firm said one of the clients was known to Nama and ‘highly credible’. The firm asked Wilson about the ‘integrity’ of the sale, saying it wanted a closed deal to be con-ducted with one party exclusively.
Frank Cushnahan was the ex-Nama official who was set to get £5m in fees if the Pimco deal was successful. He was originally nominated to Nama’s Northern Ireland advisory committee in the North by politicians. He stepped down for personal reasons in November 2013, five months before Project Eagle was completed. Namasaid the next time it came across him— after he resigned— was when it emerged he might get a fee for advising Pimco.
Belfast-solicitor firm Tughans has confirmed that one of its partners involved in the purchase of the Nama loan book, advising purchasers Cerberus, had diverted fees to an Isle of Man bank account. Tughans say the money was diverted without its knowledge. Tughans had advised Pimco before later advising the successful bidders Cerberus.
Brown Rudnick: The law firm acted for both Pimco and later Cerberus.
The Isle of Man: £7m was put in a bank account on the island, money Mick Wallace alleges was destined for a Northern Ireland politician.
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