Northern Ireland

Nama property sale: Mick Wallace claims Belfast firm had £7m in bank after deal

Mick Wallace Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Mick Wallace has made allegations against Belfast law firm Tughans

A Belfast law firm had £7m in a bank account "reportedly earmarked for a politician" after a major property deal, it has been claimed.

The allegation was made in the Irish parliament by independent member Mick Wallace against the law firm, Tughans.

Mr Wallace raised concerns over the sale of the Northern Ireland property portfolio of the National Assets Management Agency (Nama) in April 2014.

Tughans have denied Mr Wallace's allegations.

The Nama portfolio was purchased by New York firm Cerberus Capital Management for £1.3bn.

Mr Wallace named Tughans as having acted for Cerberus and that "a routine audit showed that £7m ended up in an Isle of Man bank account".

According to the official transcript of parliamentary proceedings, he added: "It was reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician."

In a statement to the BBC, Cerberus said: "We are deeply troubled by Mr Wallace's allegations and we want to make it clear that no improper or illegal fees were paid by us or on our behalf and we take any allegation to the contrary extremely seriously."

'Diverted'

The BBC understands that Tughans have not been acting as Cerberus' lawyers in Northern Ireland.

Tughans said in a statement: "The practice is not linked to any political party nor has it ever made party political donations."

It went on: "We can confirm that a former partner diverted to an account of which he was the sole beneficiary professional fees due to the firm, without the knowledge of the partners.

"We have since retrieved the money and he has left the practice.

"Tughans reported the circumstances of the departure of the former partner to the Law Society."

A spokesperson for the Law Society of Northern Ireland said it "does not comment on whether or not there is any investigation ongoing in relation to any particular matter or firm".

'Best possible return'

In a statement, Nama told the BBC it was "fully satisfied" that the sales process for the Northern Ireland loan portfolio "delivered the best possible return".

The statement added that the Lazard investment bank advised on and oversaw the sales process.

Based on its assessment of the market, Lazard invited "nine major global investment groups" to participate in the process.

Nama said that Cerberus emerged as the highest bidder following a competitive sales process.

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton advised Mr Wallace to take his concerns to the police.

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