NAMA: £5m fee was for one man who wasn’t a lawyer

Frank Cushnahan, pictured here after being awared an honrary degree by Ulster University
Frank Cushnahan, pictured here after being awared an honrary degree by Ulster University

A well-connected former NAMA adviser from Belfast was in line to receive an astonishing £5 million as part of the sale of assets held by the Republic’s ‘bad bank’, it has been alleged.

As revelations about last year’s sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland loan book to Cerberus for more than £1 billion continue to pour out, the agency’s chief executive told the Dail that his understanding was that £5m of the total £15m ‘legal fees’ to be paid by failed bidder PIMCO were to end up with a non-lawyer — Frank Cushnahan.

Mr Cushnahan, a former banker who was appointed to the NAMA advisory board by Sammy Wilson, has previously denied any wrongdoing during the process.

The revelations came as it was revealed that the National Crime Agency (NCA) is to investigate the extraordinary allegations of corruption involving the transaction.

And last night Irish academic Elaine Byrne wrote to the FBI asking it to investigate the massive deal due to the fact that the money came from Cerberus, an American property fund which has insisted that it was unaware of any irregular payments.

NCA deputy director of operations Graham Gardner said: “The NCA has considered a request from Police Service Northern Ireland and has agreed to lead an investigation, calling on support as necessary from PSNI officers.”

Yesterday’s hearing of the Dail’s Public Accounts Committee also disclosed correspondence from two DUP ministers.

The hearing was shown a letter from the then Finance Minister Sammy Wilson in June 2013, which said that he had been contacted by US lawyers Brown Rudnick – who subsequently represented two bidders for the loans – and forwarded a “highly confidential” proposal from the firm.

In the letter to Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Mr Wilson said he would appreciate it if he would “consider the proposal”.

In its letter, the law firm made clear that it wanted an ultra secret process for the sale, with “limited exclusivity” and “guaranteed confidentiality”. Intriguingly, the firm said that it was acting for two potential bidders.

A second letter revealed at the hearing was from First Minister Peter Robinson’s principal private secretary, Jeremy Gardner – even though it appears to have been done in Mr Robinson’s role as an individual because it does not seem to have had the approval of Martin McGuinness.

The letter contained a proposal for a memorandum of understanding with the Stormont Executive in relation to NAMA’s loans which NAMA chairman Frank Daly said would have been a “debtors’ charter”.

Mr Daly said that the 17 January 2014 correspondence “appeared to summarise an agreement between Pimco [at that point a US fund interested in buying the loans] and the NI Executive”. Mr Daly added “NAMA did not engage further in relation to the draft letter.”

Although the correspondence was interpreted by NAMA as representing an agreement between Pimco and the Executive, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald told the committee that it was effectively a solo run by Mr Robinson.

The News Letter contacted the DUP with questions about Mr Robinson’s involvement with Cerberus and other issues connected to the deal.

The party said to contact the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), which we did. But by late last night there had been no response to any of the questions.

However, a source close to the office of the Deputy First Minister said that Martin McGuinness was entirely unaware of what was going on in the other half of Stormont Castle. The source said: “The correspondence referred to did not have the approval, consent or knowledge of the Deputy First Minister and therefore, was not a formal communication from the office of the First and Deputy First Minister.”

Gareth Robinson: My firm had no role in NAMA deal

Frank Cushnahan: Well connected ex-banker who has been given some key roles by Stormont