US vulture fund named by Wallace buys his loan
The US vulture fund at the centre of explosive allegations made by Independent TD Mick Wallace in relation to Nama's sale of its €5.7bn Northern Ireland portfolio has bought one of his distressed loans.
The Sunday Independent can reveal that Cerberus has acquired a mortgage Mr Wallace secured against one of his Dublin restaurants, La Taverna Di Bacco on Dublin's Ormond Quay. The transaction formed part of the private equity giant's €1.4bn recent acquisition from the Ulster Bank of Project Aran - a portfolio with a nominal value of €6bn secured by 5,400 properties across Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Cerberus has been at the centre of controversy since Mr Wallace claimed under Dail privilege on July 2 last that in the course of completing its other major Irish deal - the €1.6bn acquisition of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book, codenamed 'Project Eagle' - a £7m fee to be paid to a law firm had been deposited in an offshore bank account and "earmarked" for a Northern Ireland politician or political party. Mr Wallace's allegation has seen an inquiry established by Northern Ireland Assembly's Finance Committee and led to a criminal investigation by the UK's National Crime Agency.
Contacted for comment, Mr Wallace confirmed that Cerberus's Irish subsidiary, Promontoria (Aran) Ltd now had control of the loan behind La Taverna Di Bacco and that it had appointed Ken Fennell of Deloitte as receiver over the restaurant on August 24 last.
Asked how he felt about having Cerberus as his lender in view of the very serious allegations he had made in the Dail in relation to the circumstances surrounding its purchase of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book, he said: "I believe Cerberus treat all of their borrowers equally and fairly. I look forward to being treated well."
A spokesman for Cerberus said:"Given the highly confidential and commercially sensitive nature of our work with borrowers, we are limited in what we can discuss publicly; however we are dedicated to reaching as many consensual outcomes as possible. Cerberus treats every borrower fairly and consistently. Consensual resolutions account for the vast majority of our outcomes and are always our preferred route."
While Cerberus has declined to appear at Northern Ireland's Finance Committee, its European CEO, Liam Strong, wrote to the inquiry last Wednesday to say Cerberus was "deeply concerned" by the allegations and inferences that had been made before the committee, in the Dail and in the media about Project Eagle. He said Cerberus believed the deal had been "conducted with full integrity" and that its bid had been the highest by a "considerable margin".