Charges still being considered against one suspect over inquiry into Nama
Deal in which €6bn worth of property loans to a US firm for €1.6bn prompted a criminal inquiry
Inquiries into Project Eagle revealed that former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan, Belfast solicitor Ian Coulter and US lawyers Brown Rudnick were to share €18 million if another bidder, Pimco, succeeded in buying the loans
Prosecutors are still considering charges against one suspect arising from an investigation into State assets agency Nama’s €1.6 billion sale of loans to Northern Ireland-based developers.
Nama sold €6 billion worth of property loans to Northern-based developers to US company Cerberus in April 2014 for €1.6 billion in a deal that sparked criminal and parliamentary investigations.
The North’s Public Prosecution Service said in May it was considering charges against two unnamed suspects after receiving a file on an investigation into the deal by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).
In a statement on Friday, the service said it had decided not to prosecute one of those after concluding there was not enough evidence to obtain a conviction.
“A decision on a second person reported by NCA will be taken upon receipt of a further file that is expected from NCA,” the prosecution service added.
The NCA said the investigation remained a priority and its remit included the sale of the loans, the dispersal of funds offshore and the relationships of people involved in the process.
Inquiries into the sale, dubbed Project Eagle, revealed that former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan, Belfast solicitor Ian Coulter and US lawyers Brown Rudnick were meant to share £16 million (€18 million) if another bidder, Pimco, succeeded in buying the loans.
Mr Coulter resigned as managing partner of Belfast law firm Tughans in early 2015, after it emerged he had transferred £6 million to an Isle of Man account – and then moved it back – in late 2014, after the sale to Cerberus went through.
This transaction led to the controversy over the sale when independent TD Mick Wallace highlighted it in the Dáil in mid-2015. This in turn prompted investigations by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Séamus McCarthy, and the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee.
It is understood neither Mr Cushnahan nor Mr Coulter are the individuals that the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service considered charging. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
Nama has always maintained it conducted the Project Eagle sale properly and got the best value possible for the State at the time.
Mr McCarthy’s report in September 2016 criticised elements of the auction and estimated it may have resulted in a possible €220 million loss to the taxpayer. However, Nama has contested this estimate.