Saturday 10 December 2016

Robinson was given assurances by buyer of Nama loans

Published 08/10/2015 | 02:30

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson

The US vulture fund Cerberus provided the North's First Minister Peter Robinson with an assurance that Nama borrowers would be released from personal guarantees.

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The fund said "debt forgiveness" was also on the table for co-operating borrowers.

The pledges were revealed in a letter to Mr Robinson just days before the firm bought Nama's northern loan portfolio, Project Eagle, for €1.6bn.

A copy of the letter was supplied by Cerberus to the Stormont inquiry into the deal, which has heard claims of intended kickback payments for politicians and business figures.

Among those alleged to have been in line for a payment was Mr Robinson, a claim firmly denied by the First Minister.

Cerberus has also denied any inappropriate payments.

The letter was sent to Mr Robinson a day before he held a meeting with former US vice-president Dan Quayle, who is now a senior figure with Cerberus, in March of last year.

It was not copied to the North's Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, who has said he was unaware of the meeting with Mr Quayle.

Cerberus was selected by Nama as the winning bidder for the portfolio 10 days later.

The letter said: "Cerberus will release personal and corporate guarantees as a key part of consensual workout plans with corporate borrowers."

It also pledged to provide incentives to borrowers.

The letter was provided by Cerberus to its legal advisors Brown Rudnick on March 24, 2014 and was passed on to Mr Robinson ahead of the meeting between him and Mr Quayle.

The meeting was also attended by one of Mr Robinson's special advisors, the North's then finance minister, Simon Hamilton, and Ian Coulter, the then managing partner of Belfast law firm Tughans.

Mr Robinson's office had previously secured similar assurances from another bidder, investment firm Pimco. But Pimco pulled out of the process.

Following the completion of the deal, a £7.5m (€10.2m) success fee paid to Tughans, who acted as Brown Rudnick's local advisors, was diverted by Mr Coulter to an account in the Isle of Man.

Mr Coulter subsequently left the law firm and the matter was referred to the Law Society of Northern Ireland, which launched an investigation.

He has denied any wrongdoing and said he would explain the transfer to the appropriate authorities.

Political blogger Jamie Bryson alleged that Mr Robinson and four others had been in line to receive the money.

This has been denied by Mr Robinson.

Evidence

Meanwhile, Independent TD Mick Wallace has been urged to appear in front of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Mr Wallace claimed in the Dáil that a "Nama insider" in Dublin collaborated with Cerebus to ensure it secured a deal.

He accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of being involved in a "cover-up" by failing to call for an independent commission of inquiry.

"You are the leader of this country… and ignoring serious issues I am raising," he said.

The Taoiseach said the allegations being made by the Wexford TD were "pretty serious" and that he should appear in front of the PAC to give evidence. He said ongoing investigations in the North must not be interfered with.

Nama's Head of Relationship Management Martin Whelan wrote to Mr Wallace, saying his Dáil allegations were made "without you producing a shred of supporting evidence".

Irish Independent

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