Sunday 25 September 2016

Nama deal cash was to be paid to me: accountant

Published 06/10/2015 | 02:30

Tughans was the local adviser to international law firm Brown Rudnick, which acted for US vulture fund Cerberus in the acquisition of the portfolio last year for €1.6bn
Tughans was the local adviser to international law firm Brown Rudnick, which acted for US vulture fund Cerberus in the acquisition of the portfolio last year for €1.6bn

A Belfast accountant believed he was entitled to a Stg£7.5m "acquisition fee" linked to the sale of Nama's northern loan book, Project Eagle.

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A draft letter written by prominent accountant David Watters also claims he had the initial idea for the sell-off of the agency's northern loans.

The cash referred to was the Stg£7.5m moved to an Isle of Man account by Ian Coulter, the former managing partner at Belfast law firm Tughans.

Revelations about this cash sparked investigations by the UK's National Crime Agency and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as parliamentary inquiries on both sides of the border.

Tughans was the local adviser to international law firm Brown Rudnick, which acted for US vulture fund Cerberus in the acquisition of the portfolio last year for €1.6bn.

Following the deal, Brown Rudnick shared its fees with Tughans, with Stg£7.5m going to the Belfast firm.

However, this was quickly moved offshore by Mr Coulter.

Mr Watters was one of five people named at the Stormont inquiry by blogger Jamie Bryson as having been due to benefit from the payment.

In the aftermath of those claims he issued a statement saying he had "no direct or indirect involvement in the Project Eagle transaction", nor was "due to receive a fee from monies paid to an Isle of Man account".

However, in a draft letter obtained by BBC Northern Ireland, dated 24 April last year, Mr Watters detailed how he came up with the initial idea for the acquisition of the loan book, which he says he originally termed "Project Amani".

The letter was a draft addressed to Tughans, but it was never sent to the law firm. It is understood Mr Watters circulated it to at least one other person before deciding against sending the correspondence.

According to Mr Watters, the Stg£7.5m fee was to be paid to a company he set up for the purpose, Cadogan Futures LLP.

He said he had "waited discretely" for the money to be paid and was surprised when he learned in January that Mr Coulter had left Tughans and that the fee had been diverted abroad.

Mr Coulter has denied any wrongdoing and claims the money was moved abroad for "complex, commercially and legally-sensitive" reasons.

A spokesman for Mr Watters said he had no comment to make.

Irish Independent

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