Nama adviser got job from Lenihan after North lobbying
Published 24/07/2015 | 02:30
The late former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan appointed a controversial businessman to a Nama advisory role after being lobbied by his counterpart in the North.
A parliamentary inquiry heard how Democratic Unionist MP Sammy Wilson pressed Mr Lenihan to appoint former banker Frank Cushnahan to a committee advising the State bad bank.
Mr Cushnahan's involvement in the sale of Nama's northern loan book is currently under scrutiny following revelations he stood to earn Stg£5m had one bidder, global investment firm Pimco, been successful.
Pimco was asked to withdraw from the race by Nama after Mr Cushnahan's involvement became known and the loan book, codenamed Project Eagle, was subsequently sold to rival bidder Cerberus for €1.6bn.
An inquiry by the Northern Ireland Assembly's Committee for Finance and Personnel was told Mr Wilson had initially sought to have a northern representative appointed to Nama's board. But when this was ruled out by Mr Lenihan, an advisory committee was set up as a compromise arrangement.
Documents disclosed to the committee by the North's Department of Finance and Personnel reveal Mr Wilson wrote to Mr Lenihan in November 2009 proposing the appointment of Mr Cushnahan, senior civil servant Richard Pengelly, and another unidentified individual to the advisory group.
Of the three on Mr Wilson's list, only Mr Cushnahan was appointed by Mr Lenihan.
Mr Cushnahan remained on the committee until November 2013. The Project Eagle sale happened five months later.
"The decision about who sat on the advisory committee was a matter for the finance minister in the Irish Government," David Sterling, the department's permanent secretary, told an inquiry hearing in Stormont.
It also emerged during the hearing that the department had been unable to locate minutes for a number of meetings between Mr Wilson and Nama representatives.
Mr Wilson is set to be called before the committee in the coming weeks.
Mr Sterling declined to answer several questions during the hearing, citing legal advice.
These included a question about the level of knowledge his department had about a meeting between the North's First Minister, Peter Robinson, and the former US vice-president Dan Quayle, who now works for Cerberus.
Mr Sterling said he did not want to prejudice an ongoing criminal investigation.
The PSNI and the UK's National Crime Agency is investigating allegations made in the Dáil by Independent TD Mick Wallace in relation to the Project Eagle sale.