Nama: Ian Coulter questioned by NCA for first time
THE solicitor at the centre of the Nama controversy has been questioned by the National Crime Agency for the first time – four months after a police investigation was launched.
Ian Coulter, former managing partner of Belfast-based law firm Tughans, voluntarily attended Musgrave Police Station in the city on Wednesday.
Since July the National Crime Agency (NCA) has been leading a probe into allegations surrounding the sale of Nama's northern property portfolio.
It was launched after independent TD Mick Wallace claimed in the Dáil that around £7m linked to the purchase was earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or party.
The Republic's 'bad bank' Nama sold its massive northern loan book to US investment firm Cerberus last year for more than £1bn.
Tughans worked on the deal on behalf of American law firm Brown Rudnick and was paid £7.5m.
It claimed professional fees were diverted to an off-shore account without its knowledge by Mr Coulter. The firm said the money was retrieved and the high-profile solicitor left the practice.
Mr Coulter has previously said fees were transferred to an Isle of Man bank for "a complex, commercially and legally-sensitive" reason.
He said the reason had been explained to his former partners at Tughans and "will be explained to the appropriate authorities".
The Irish News understands this is the first time Mr Coulter has been formally questioned by the NCA, dubbed by some as the British FBI.
He had previously contacted the agency to say he was available for any questioning as part of the investigation.
It is believed others have also been approached as part of the NCA probe. Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson last month claimed the agency called at his home in north Down following allegations he had made online.
Political watchdogs on both sides of the border are also examining the Nama sale – the north's biggest ever property deal.
At Stormont's Nama inquiry, Mr Bryson alleged in September that Mr Coulter was among five men set to share in a "success fee" linked to the sale.
The other four were said to be First Minister Peter Robinson, accountant David Watters, developer Andrew Creighton and ex-Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan.
All five have dismissed the allegations and strongly denied any wrongdoing.
In July Nama also told a Dáil committee that Mr Coulter was to share in a three-way split of £15m with Brown Rudnick and Frank Cushnahan if an earlier abandoned bid to purchase the northern Nama portfolio had gone ahead.