A Northern Irish law firm disputed its former managing partner’s account of how fees linked to one of the biggest deals in the province’s history ended up in his own bank account, as police and lawmakers prepared to investigate the controversy.
Cerberus Capital Management LP paid the fees to Brown Rudnick LLP, its main legal adviser, which in turn paid Belfast-based Tughans 7.5 million pounds ($11.7 million) for work on the acquisition of loans from Ireland’s so-called bad bank, the National Asset Management Agency.
Ian Coulter, former managing partner of Tughans, said that he had directed the company’s finance director to move some of the fees into an account controlled by him because of a “complex, commercially and legally sensitive issue” that he’d explained to his fellow partners. Coulter said he had transferred the money back to Tughans in December 2014 and had alerted the company of this.
Tughans “strongly disagrees with his version of events surrounding the treatment, discovery and retrieval of the professional fees and his exit from the practice,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
The matter shot into public prominence when Irish lawmaker Mick Wallace alleged the fees tied to the deal wound up in an offshore bank account and were earmarked for an unidentified politician or political party. In his statement, Coulter said “no politician was ever to receive any monies in any way as part of this deal” and Cerberus has acted completely “professionally and properly at all times.”
Police in Northern Ireland opened a criminal probe into Wallace’s claims, while lawmakers on both sides of the Irish border are preparing to investigate. Wallace said in parliament on Wednesday in Dublin that he stood by his claims.
Separately, Wallace claimed that a NAMA official had sought 15,000 euros in a bag from a debtor to allow them to exit the agency’s control. Wallace said the unidentifed official had also sought a second payment. NAMA CEO Brendan McDonagh wrote to Irish police asking for an investigation into the claims.
“The allegation, if not investigated as a matter of urgency, casts a shadow over all NAMA officers and, accordingly, we will ask that the Deputy’s allegation, including any evidence that he may claim to possess, be investigated as a matter of urgency,” McDonagh wrote in the letter to the police, released by the agency.
NAMA said Wallace hasn’t provided the agency with any information in relation to the claims he raised, and said anyone with evidence of criminal wrongdoing is legally obliged to bring such evidence to the notice of police.