Northern Ireland

Frank Cushnahan peddling Nama assets abroad

Businessman Frank Cushnahan
Businessman Frank Cushnahan Businessman Frank Cushnahan

A prominent Belfast businessman who was an adviser to the Republic's "bad bank" Nama was peddling its assets overseas shortly after being appointed, it has been claimed in the Irish parliament.

Independent TD Mick Wallace said he travelled to Asia last weekend to collect emails and documents from another businessman which will help show the controversial Project Eagle sale was the biggest financial scandal in Irish history.

"Within a short time of Frank Cushnahan being appointed to Nama, he was peddling assets belonging to Nama to foreign parts," he said in the Dail.

"Tughans were involved, the Japanese bank Nomura were involved, who were later the main financier for Cerberus's purchase of Project Eagle.

"Nama from start to finish stinks from high heaven."

A massive collection of Northern Ireland property loans, taken over by toxic assets agency Nama after the Republic's economic crash, was sold to US investment fund Cerberus in April 2014.

Known as Project Eagle, the sale has been mired in controversy for more than a year, including £7 million linked to it being found in an Isle of Man bank account.

Another US company, Pimco, has said it pulled out of an earlier bid after it was asked for a "success fee" or fixer payment of £16 million for three parties behind the scenes.

The money was to be shared equally by Mr Cushnahan, US law firm Brown Rudnick, and Ian Coulter, a managing partner of Tughans, a Belfast law firm subcontracted to assist in the deal, Pimco told a parliamentary committee probing the sale.

Mr Cushnahan was formerly a Nama adviser on Northern Ireland, on the recommendation of the Democratic Unionists.

All parties have denied any wrongdoing.

In the Dail, Mr Wallace demanded the board and executive of Nama be suspended until a full state inquiry is launched into the affair.

"It was not a competitive process, it was a scam," he said.

"Nama have undersold a massive slice of this country to US vulture funds for a fraction of its value.

"They are contributing in a serious way to our housing crisis. They are not part of the solution to the housing crisis, they are part of the problem."

Mr Wallace read some of the emails he said he collected from the businessman in Asia.

One dated December 2010, which he said was from Mr Cushnahan, read: "There are very substantial opportunities for major returns to be made for anyone who can access international and institutional funds to acquire blocks of development assets from either development or agency itself."

Another email from an unnamed person read: "On the Nama bank debt issue I have a draft of the agreement we should all sign along with Frank to ensure that we not only get a percentage of the money being invested but also a percentage of the special purpose vehicle and the profits to be made when the asset is sold.

"Frank will ensure that only people with the highest integrity at government level will be involved and the returns look very, very good."

Another refers to "acquisition success fees".