Wednesday 13 December 2017

Vulture fund will cooperate with NAMA loan probe


Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Representativs for the US vulture fund at the centre of the NAMA Northern Ireland loan portfolio controversy have agreed to appear before a parliamentary inquiry.

Officials from Cerberus Capital Management, which bought the portfolio for €1.6bn last year, have committed to giving evidence at the Northern Assembly's committee on finance and personnel in the coming weeks.

The move is significant as the committee's inquiry has been dogged by the refusal of key players, including a senior civil servant from the Republic and NAMA, to appear before it.

The private equity firm had originally been due to brief the committee in private next month about how it was dealing with debtors since taking control of the portfolio.

Cerberus had expressed reservations about discussing commercially sensitive issues in public, but disclosed that it had reached deals with debtors in relation to 87pc of the portfolio.

However, an extra public session is now expected to focus on allegations by Independent TD Mick Wallace of planned kickback payments related to the sale of the portfolio, codenamed Project Eagle.

Mr Wallace claimed Stg£7m in an Isle of Man bank account had been earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or party. The allegations are being investigated by the UK's National Crime Agency.

Belfast solicitor Ian Coulter, who was retained by Cerberus's law firm, Brown Rudnick, in connection with the deal, confirmed that the money had been in an account under his control.

However, he denied any impropriety and said he would explain the transaction to "the appropriate authorities".

A spokesman for Cerberus told the Irish Independent the company had "nothing to hide" in relation to the deal and was happy to appear before the committee. The company had previously stated it was deeply concerned by Mr Wallace's claims and did not tolerate "inappropriate actions such as the ones that have been alleged".

Cerberus will also be quizzed on media claims it has behaved in a ruthless and aggressive manner towards debtor companies in the North.

In a statement the firm denied this, saying it treated every borrower "fairly and consistently".

Irish Independent

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