Barry O’Halloran and MICHAEL O’REGAN
State assets agency Nama said on Thursday that independent TD Mick Wallace had falsely accused it of lying to him in his latest claims about its €1.6 billion sale of the Project Eagle property loans to US company Cerberus.
Cerberus Capital Management's purchase of the Project Eagle loans last year is at the centre of controversy over claims Northern Ireland politicians and businessmen were to benefit from the deal. The firm denies any wrongdoing.
Mr Wallace claimed in the Dáil that former Nama executive, Ronnie Hanna, "was part of a cabal to seek payment for affecting the biggest property deal in the history of this State''.
An agency spokesman dismissed this on Thursday and said that the claims were a result of Mr Wallace deliberately misinterpreting its correspondence to him.
“Deputy Wallace has today falsely accused Nama of giving untrue answers to his questions. He is wrong to do so,” the spokesman said.
The latest row over Project Eagle blew up as it emerged that the Northern Ireland Assembly committee investigating the deal is seeking the answers to 39 questions from former Nama advisory body member, Frank Cushnahan.
The questions, sent in a letter to his lawyer, Joe Rice of John J Rice & Co, cover his relationship with Nama and any dealings that he might have had with Project Eagle bidders, including Cerberus and Pimco.
Mr Cushnahan, David Watters, head of Belfast accountants, RSM McClure Watters, and Ian Coulter, then managing partner of solicitors, Tughans, came up with a plan in 2013 to sell the loans and agreed that they should get a £15 million success fee if a deal went ahead.
Mr Cushnahan resigned from the Nama advisory committee in November 2013. The following March, US fund Pimco dropped out of the bidding for Project Eagle after it emerged that it had agreed to pay £5 million each to him, Tughans and law firm, Brown Rudnick.
Mr Wallace said in the Dáil that he asked Nama if Mr Hanna and Mr Cushnahan, or Belfast accountant David Watters, ever met any US investment fund personnel.
While Nama had replied that Mr Hanna had no such meetings, it was now known that Mr Hanna did meet at least one of the US investment funds, Mr Wallace said.
Howevever, Nama’s spokesman said that it never claimed to the TD that Mr Hanna never met US investment funds. “Meeting these funds was part of his job as head of asset recovery. He never met them with the two people named in deputy Wallace’s question,” he said.