Wallace makes "cash in bag" NAMA allegations

Wallace makes "cash in bag" NAMA allegations

MICK WALLACE says he will co-operate with the gardaí over allegations he made under Dáil privilege about the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).

The Independent TD's latest accusations focus on an alleged corrupt payment demanded by a NAMA manager from a construction company seeking to exit NAMA.

Mr Wallace claimed the manager of the NAMA portfolio said: “It will cost you €15,000 in cash and I want it in a bag."

He said the construction firm paid the money and a few weeks later “he demanded the same again. They duly obliged and all was sorted.”

He says he intends giving the gardaí the name of the company at the centre of the allegations.

Gardaí have opened an investigation into the matter after NAMA chief executive Brendan McDonagh wrote to Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan asking the force to investigate the claims “as a matter of urgency”.

Deputy Wallace also defended his original claims that sparked the NAMA controversy.

The Wexford TD claimed that £7million from the sale of NAMA’s North of Ireland portfolio to Cerberus Capital Management had been deposited in an Isle of Man bank account and was earmarked for a “Northern Ireland politician or party”.

The person allegedly in control of the bank account, solicitor Ian Coulter, has denied that any politician, or any relative of a politician, was ever to receive any money from the deal.

Mr Coulter is a former managing partner of Tughans solicitors in Belfast. Cerberus were represented by the US firm Brown Rudnick in the deal, who in turn engaged with Tughans to assist locally with the transaction.

The money was the fee paid by Brown Rudnick to Tughans for its work on the NAMA deal.

In a statement, Mr Coulter said he had directed the transfer but it was for "a complex, commercially – and legally – sensitive" reason.

“The fees payable were paid into a Tughans company account supervised by the firm’s finance team,” he said.

“In September 2014, a portion of the fees was retained by Tughans and I instructed Tughans’ finance director to transfer the remaining portion into an external account which was controlled only by me.

“Not a penny of this money was touched.”

He added: “The reason for the transfer is a complex, commercially – and legally – sensitive issue and has been explained to my former partners at Tughans.

“It will be explained to the appropriate authorities and those entitled to that information as part of my continuing co-operation with any investigation.”

Mr Coulter also disputed claims that the money had been discovered by Tughans during an audit.

“In fact, I transferred the money back to Tughans in early December 2014, and I brought this to their attention,” he said.

“I have not received any personal financial benefit for my work on this transaction.

“Neither I nor any third party has received any part of the £7.5million fees.”

Tughans however disputes Mr Coulter’s version of events, claiming in a statement: “Tughans notes the assertions made by Ian Coulter.

“The firm strongly disagrees with his version of events surrounding the treatment, discovery and retrieval of the professional fees and his exit from the practice and it has passed all documentation relating to this to the Law Society.

“Tughans voluntarily brought the matter to the attention of the Law Society and will continue to co-operate with any inquiry.”

The deal is currently being investigated by the Law Society, the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee and Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), who are conducting a police investigation into the deal on behalf of the PSNI.

The Stormont Finance Committee will decide shortly on whether it can go ahead with hearings concerning the contentious deal, having cancelled its planned first hearing.

This follows a meeting between its chairman Daithi McKay and representatives of the NCA, who are concerned its criminal investigation could be undermined.