'Up to four politicians from two parties' linked to Nama scandal

Independent TD Mick Wallace
Independent TD Mick Wallace Independent TD Mick Wallace

Private investigators looking into the Nama scandal have identified "up to four politicians from two parties" that stood to benefit from £7m discovered in an offshore account, it has been claimed.

It had previously been alleged that a single politician or party from Northern Ireland had been earmarked for money 'diverted' by high-profile Belfast solicitor Ian Coulter to an Isle of Man bank.

But now it is alleged a "small group" of politicians may have been in line to benefit.

The Irish Independent also reported at the weekend that the US Department of Justice will be given information about the claims.

It is more than a week since independent TD Mick Wallace told the Dail that money relating to the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio to US fund Cerberus had been placed into an offshore account.

Law firm Tughans said it retrieved the fees, which had been diverted to the Isle of Man by its managing partner Mr Coulter without its knowledge, and the lawyer left the practice in January.

Senior politicians have since denied any involvement in the scandal.

Nama's €4.5bn portfolio of around 850 properties north of the border was sold to Cerberus for £1.3bn last year in the biggest single property transaction in Northern Ireland history.

The Irish News revealed last week that a meeting took place between First Minister Peter Robinson, then DUP finance minister Simon Hamilton, Ian Coulter and Cerberus chairman and former US vice-president Dan Quayle shortly before the deal was struck.

Deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said he had no knowledge of the meeting, but Mr Robinson said in interviews on Friday he was acting for the government and no-one in his party or family hoped to benefit from the sale.

Prior to the sale to Cerberus going through, another US fund, Pimco, had been lined up to purchase the so-called Project Eagle loan book.

However, Nama told the Dail's public accounts committee last week it asked Pimco to withdraw from the process after learning of a £15m fee to be split between Mr Coulter, former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan and American law firm Brown Rudnick.

Pimco insisted at the weekend it removed itself "voluntarily" over concerns about fees to "third parties".

"At no point was Pimco required or asked to withdraw by Nama, and no such decision was communicated by Nama," it said.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Frank Cushnahan was described as a shareholder of several Nama debtors while he was on the body's Northern Ireland advisory committee.

According to company records, Mr Cushnahan, who has denied any wrongdoing, held shares of four firms controlled by Lehill Properties.

Papers filed with Companies House list Mr Cushnahan as a five per cent shareholder in Lehill, with the remaining 95 per cent owned by bookmaker Gareth Graham.

However, his solicitor Paul Tweed said Mr Cushnahan's name was included due to an "administrative error".

"Frank Cushnahan resigned from the SP Graham group approximately seven years ago, and at that time relinquished all equity interests in the group and associated companies.

"The fact that his name remains on the company documentation has been brought to his attention recently and this administrative error will be corrected as soon as possible."