Cerberus now has control over Mick Wallace’s restaurant loan…

Here’s an interesting twist on the NAMA story. Independent TD Mick Wallace who broke the story in the Dail of a £7million deposit in an Isle of Man bank account which he alleged was “earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or party” now has an indirect interest in the story.

Ronald Quinlan reports:

Cerberus has acquired a mortgage Mr Wallace secured against one of his Dublin restaurants, La Taverna Di Bacco on Dublin’s Ormond Quay. The transaction formed part of the private equity giant’s €1.4bn recent acquisition from the Ulster Bank of Project Aran – a portfolio with a nominal value of €6bn secured by 5,400 properties across Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Cerberus has been at the centre of controversy since Mr Wallace claimed under Dail privilege on July 2 last that in the course of completing its other major Irish deal – the €1.6bn acquisition of Nama’s Northern Ireland loan book, codenamed ‘Project Eagle’ – a £7m fee to be paid to a law firm had been deposited in an offshore bank account and “earmarked” for a Northern Ireland politician or political party. Mr Wallace’s allegation has seen an inquiry established by Northern Ireland Assembly’s Finance Committee and led to a criminal investigation by the UK’s National Crime Agency.

Deputy Wallace has been cool on the idea of explaining this or subsequent statements to Stormont’s Finance Committee despite being one of those named by the Committee Chair Daithi McKay from the outset. He was also reluctant to be cross examined on the matter by the PAC at Leinster House.

As Quinlan notes, Cerberus’s Irish subsidiary, Promontoria (Aran) Ltd now has control of the restaurant’s mortgage with Ken Fennell of Deloitte being appointed receiver on 24th August, just seven weeks after Wallace made his revelations in Leinster House.

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  • Jag

    That’s deeply misleading Mick.

    Mick Wallace is, besides being an Independent TD in the Dail, a builder. His main company is M&J Wallace Limited. Like many property companies, Mick ran into financial trouble after the Irish property crash. On 17th May 2011, ACC Bank (part of Rabobank) first had receivers appointed to some of Mick’s properties, including the so-called Italian Quarter, a development of offices, apartments and restaurants beside Ha’penny bridge in Dublin city centre. The properties include Taverna di Bacco. At the time, Mick admitted that his other lenders (Ulster Bank, Bank of Scotland and AIB) could take subsequent foreclosure action, and have their own receivers appointed. ACC Bank also obtained a €19m judgement against Mick in Dublin’s High Court in 2012, and Mick has said that ACC Bank could theoretically bankrupt him which would disqualify Mick working as a TD in the Dail. Mick Wallace is a man in financial difficulties and has been for some considerable time.

    In September 2012, AIB had receivers appointed to M&J Wallace, including the Italian Quarter.

    In September 2013, Bank of Scotland had receivers appointed to M&J Wallace.

    Hooke & McDonald were trying to flog the restaurant on behalf of the receivers (who in turn would have been acting for the creditors to the property) in 2014
    http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/former-wallace-property-in-italian-quarter-up-for-sale-30075144.html

    In December 2014, Ulster Bank sold a huge portfolio of loans, including loans secured on Mick’s Italian Quarter, to Cerberus.

    When Mick made his explosive Cerberus claims in July 2015, Mick was already up to his eyes in debt with AIB, ACC and Bank of Scotland, who previously had receivers appointed. If Cerberus has had a receiver appointed on 24th Aug 2015 as claimed above (there hasn’t been any notice in the State Gazette and there is no notice filed at the Irish Companies Registration Office), then it just means all four lenders have had their own receivers appointed.

    If you’re trying to paint a picture of Mick Wallace being motivated to attack Cerberus because of its treatment of his loans, I think you’ll find Mick was already so far under water that Cerberus is irrelevant.

    And let’s not forget, Mick’s claim that a £7m payment was made to an off-shore account which originated with Cerberus as part of its purchase of a NAMA portfolio *has been established as fact*. What’s in dispute is that the payment was illegal or wrongful (Cerberus denies it was) and that a politician or political party was to benefit (and for completeness, Peter Robinson has categorically denied either he, his family or DUP were in line to financially benefit from the deal).

    Mick has also made serious allegations against NAMA recently including a claim (being investigated by the Irish police) that a NAMA official sought a €30,000 bribe to facilitate an agreement with a borrower. Mick Wallace’s loans are not in NAMA, and that fact shouldn’t invalidate Mick’s claims any more than Mick’s claims about the £7m (which have been partly established as fact).

  • Cosmo

    I do hope that lawyers involved in this case are not following the US tactic of deliberately ‘leaking’ bad PR stories.

  • Gingray

    Mick, interesting that this is the NAMA story you are leading with, while most discussion in the real world seems to be around Peter Robinsons threat to take legal action against Mick Wallace. Given the Robinsons history of threatening such action and not following through, I am surprised you guys are not all over this? Its all in the public domain.

    For completeness, Peter Robinson himself has used the media to discuss NAMA to say that nobody in his party or family benefited from the sale of the loan.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-33485137

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you, Jag, for so clearly explaining the issues here. I have no more information than anyone else about what might have gone on, so do not know how accurate Mick Wallace’s allegations may be, but I am all too aware that proving anything of this nature through the sort of evidence that legal channels require is profoundly difficult. But as Mick (Fealty this time) so recently said:

    “Evidence is what you need to be certain of getting a safe conviction. You don’t need that to form an intelligent view of what was is most likely to have happened.”

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/sluggerotoole/robinson8217s_comedy_bloomers_or_the_limited_value_of_purely_tactical_maneuvers8230/#comment-2250463241

    I am profoundly suspicious of politicians here of every shade, and of their self-serving failure to bring defamation legislation in NI up to the same current standard as the rest of the UK. This makes any needed cover up of anything whatsoever so much easier than it would be across the water. I would wish that we might have total transparency on all public issues across the board, something that is the very essence of our ever creating genuine trust, but as many of the other threads show in regard to many other issues that affect us all here, such transparency is simply not in the interests of anyone in power locally. So we all have to continue to “form an intelligent view” and accept the “necessary” walls of silence that allow the sham that is Stormont to continue on its dysfunctional path of constantly degenerating compromises.

  • Robin Keogh

    It looks like you are trying to paint an unfair picture there. Wallace collapsed business interests and they accompanying debts have been swept up left, right and centre. He has been to court in Dublin regarding tax issues and from what i understand he has been compliant with orders as is possible given his circumstances. He has nothing to gain by bringing up any anomoly that could draw attention to his own affairs. So his Dail statements could not be reasonably classes as in any way vindictive but a genuine call to investigate what seems to be a very dodgy deal. At least you didnt accuse him of murder i suppose.

  • Robin Keogh

    Slugger? Attack the DUP? Ah now come on !

  • Kevin Breslin

    This has all happened after Mick Wallace made his statements, probably with little knowledge on his part where the loans were being sold to. It would not surprise me if the one with the suspected conflict of interest here is Cerberus … and even then, that could also be put in doubt as Cerberus might not even know or care who those loans belonged to in the first place.

  • Gingray

    Now Robin, I was not suggesting they attack the DUP, just that some of the rigour applied to other parties is applied in this instance.

    Mick Wallace is still a bit nuts for my liking, but I do think he has kicked a hornets nest here in terms of people making money off NAMA, I am surprised given the murky nature of politicians in Ireland North and South that its taken so long for rumours to start.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    What would they possibly have to gain……oh, yes…….ah…..

  • C Mac Siacais

    Seaan a chroí be careful where you dig. You may, libel laws notwithstanding, stir up a butterfly’s nest and have all our kilted kingpins affronted by the sight of Seamáisín óg ag damhsa taobh amuigh de Stormont!
    And oh dear Mick (Wallace – not Fealty) where do you get those tresses fluffed?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I am painfully aware of just how the defamation laws are used as a gagging order on anything that might rock the boat, especially where politicians are in any way concerned. I have some experience myself of how defamation claims were employed to stop in their tracks allegations of sexual abuse made by many of those survivors I’d met while working in the media. Generally in English law “A defamatory statement is presumed to be false unless the defendant can prove its truth”. In a situation where exposure of a possible action is going to be highly damaging to the reputation and status of a person, there will have been some caution on the part of anyone engaging in such actions, should they be intelligent enough to understand the need to cover their tracks. The success of those using their status and connections to slap down even the most credible of claimants in an accusation relating to something that is by its very nature uncorroborated has a gagging effect on many others who are used from their life experience to being compelled to put up and shut up.

    Defamation legislation in NI still follows the 1996 changes to legislation in England and Wales. When the new Act of 2013 was passed over the water revising many of the things that had so limited the defence of statements and inhibited people coming forward our then Finance Minister Sammy Wilson ensured that Stormont refused to extend “Legislative Consent” to the new Defamation Act, meaning the old UK laws still apply here.

    I am all too aware that without the important changes enacted over the water, even in a situation where a statement may be in essence accurate, the defamation laws here are still strongly weighted to “protect” those who can rely on powerfully placed, influential people in their social circle from any but the most legally watertight challenge. As Mick Fealty said above in the quote solid evidence is one thing, probability yet another.

  • Jag

    Hi Gingray, I though PR wasn’t taking legal action against Jamie Bryson for two reasons, firstly because Jamie “doesn’t have money”. I don’t know what Jamie’s wealth is, but poor auld Mick Wallace with a €19m judgement against him, and with an albatros around his neck of commercial property which has halved in value since the peak of the boom, I’d bet that Jamie is worth considerably more (financially speaking at least) than Mick.

    Of course, Mick has the gravitas of being elected a member of parliament where he is allowed speak under privilege. But tomorrow Wednesday, Jamie will be addressing the finance committee’s NAMA Inquiry, possibly in open session if he can convince the committee he has “direct” evidence.

    Jamie has a criminal record, having been handed a 6-month suspended sentence after taking part in an unlawful protest. Mick has been convicted of trespass at Shannon Airport to protest at its use by the US military; Mick is expected to spend a month in prison shortly because he said he won’t pay the fine handed down for the trespass. Jamie has published a few book, Mick hasn’t.

    You’d have thought Jamie was a better candidate for suing than Mick!

  • Cosmo

    This is so much part of the story, and you explain it very clearly.
    Can a journalist please pick this up and use it, in their coverage.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Cosmo. One of the disadvantages of being governed by “representatives” and not having any greater say in how we are governed (through perhaps some form of direct democracy, perfectly possible in a polity as small as ours) is that representatives of any persuasion will frequently (quite naturally) privilege their self-interest on public interest issues where the “good of all” (utter transparency) may threaten them in some way. The defamation issue here is only one example of this. As I’ve said elsewhere, it is disingenuous in my thinking to ask the general public to “trust” the political process and those engaged in it as long as anything like this blocking of important and progressive legislation goes on.

    There are many things that any serious enquiry into the NAMA/CERBERUS issues can be blocked over, such as, for example, the requirements of business confidentiality, and defamation is but one thread here, although the 1996 Defamation Act has in the past proved a most potent gaging device on sensitive issues in the UK. The new law over the water was meant to reform the legal abuse of defamation and ensures a rather more balanced approach legally, something I’d feel we could all strongly benefit from here in our “unique circumstance”.

    The problem is, despite many notable exceptions still, the shift of the balance of readership of news media from the old print press to non-paying internet pages has led to a new habit of many journalists simply using quite poorly digested press releases to prepare articles, rather than serious investigation of issues. It is much, much simpler just to regurgitate what the parties involved say about the issues than to (expensively) analyse how these underlying issues affect everything. Slugger is one of the notable examples, were issues are still seriously analysed and aired, but even here anyone posting responsibly will still need to keep the all the very real constraints of local defamation legislation always in mind if we are to continue having use of so important a voice as Slugger available.

  • Cosmo

    Yes, realise there’s now a crisis of funding of investigative journalism, and little protection for whistle-blowers. Of course, it’s repugnant that someone is wrongly accused in public and/or convicted in the media. And the recent interview on R4 with Paul Gambaccini brought that to life. I agree with his suggestion, that a balance is there should be penalties for false malicious complainants and their being named (if they are cleared of being mentally ill). But, The fact that the NI defammation libel laws are out of sync with UK, should be pointed out in all coverage of this NAMA case. it seems glaringly significant.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Cosmo, the need for protection for the wrongly accused is the claim that Jimmy Saville, for example, used to great effect. I have it anecdotally, from some of those who suffered, that Saville used to come on them unexpectedly, after he discovered they were “making accusations”, and sit across from them eyeballing them to show he had no fear of what they could do. He also worked on other family members, especially mothers, to claim that the victim was falsely accusing him, and was highly successful in isolating such victims even from those who knew them best until the flood of people coming forward with statements that showed a similarity of methodology after he was outed confirmed systematic grooming and abuse. His virtual immunity (relying on the insurmountable problem of showing proof for something that only two people, perpetrator and victim, have actually experienced) is dramatic proof of how such canvasing of family and the threat of possible defamation actions to protect the reputation of “the innocent” (Saville himself) could be used to silence the raped. Even now, after some vital changes in the defamation laws, it is far, far easier for someone to brazen out such accusations and “prove” their innocence in law when the accuser is unable to produce anything that will unquestionably prove their guilt to the standards of legal proof, as the balance of proof is still on the victim.

    Regarding Paul Gambaccini, it is on record that at the time of his release, (I quote) “Alison Saunders – the most senior prosecutor in England and Wales………. stressed that a decision not to press charges is not a determination of innocence or guilt, but a judgment on whether there is
    sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.

    Ms Saunders made clear she did not believe the Crown
    Prosecution Service (CPS) owed Gambaccini an apology.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31720761

    I may be wrong but I do not believe this has been retracted. I have not read Paul Gambaccini’s book, so cannot comment on the case he has made against this, having heard the radio interview you mention only.

  • Cosmo

    thank you. Interesting reply. Saville was a ‘real piece of work’.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I was active in media myself at this time, and if half of what I was told by informants who claimed personal experience is correct, Saville was just the tip of an enormous iceberg. I met him a few times, was taken in by the charity work at first despite the clear freakiness, but after meeting people who had been targeted by him, trying to survive in the media without meeting him, I used to leave the room if he entered. He used to put the word about that such people should not be employed by anyone who ever expected help from him, and could pull endless favours in lots of private film companies as well as the BBC proper. Such experience has down a lot to explain for me how similar things (not necessarily limited to just sexual abuse) go on across the political scene.

    I’ll be the first to admit the scope of what I’ve heard that has not yet been aired in public has jaundiced me to most claims of innocence.

  • Cosmo

    also, recall from the interview that Gambaccini claimed that it was the ( unapologetic). attitude of Met and Saunders at time his case was dropped, which drove him to write his book.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I should really read his book to get his full side of the story, but I’d read the attitude of Saunders and the MET as a kind of “non-proven” claim. Gambaccini may be entirely innocent, but in the light of just how impossible it is to prove his guilt under the very (properly) stringent standards of proof required for the securing of a conviction, I’d value some substantial proof of his innocence over and above the “they had no proof” statements I’ve heard so far on the media. I am entirely open to believe him innocent if he can actually show convincingly that his accuser is clearly inaccurate or unreliable, but I’m only too aware of just how grey an area claim and counter claim becomes. While I’m not in any way starry eyed about the behaviour of the Met, there are more ways of judging their failure to apologise than simply their protecting themselves. I would also be interested to find out if Gambaccini is considering any legal case for harassment and false arrest against his “persecutors”.

  • Cosmo

    his description of the police dredging for victims amongst all his contacts, brought to mind the many instances of entrapment on terrorism charges, being used by US police, with Muslim teenagers.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As I have said, I have little faith in the cynical methods of the MET, but this says nothing about the actual experience of the victims, who, to my mind, are suffering in two directions here if they are genuine. Most suffers I’d personally met were educated, even elite sufferers, who knew better than to press claims of abuse in a situation where they would experience public doubt and simply a different pattern of abuse by a police force brow beating them to force them to disclose sufficient evidence to secure a prosecution. As I’ve said, the entire system is weighted so heavily against the victim and in favour of the perpetrator (including the frequently destructive behaviour of the police, even after so much has been aired) that most survivors who really think it through simply spend their lives accepting the inevitable silencing, enduring the misery in dread of a general public doubt of their claims should they be made public, something that regurgitates for them their experiences daily in many cases.

    It is notable that most of what has successfully come to light regarding abuse by public figures centres on dead perpetrators, because the living are simply too guarded from any chance of successful prosecution by the high standards of legal proof demanded, and the ever present possibility of a counter move for crippling defamation actions. I’ve even heard of the children of one very famous abuser recently dead threatening those looking for redress with defamation actions as “the family would be harmed by their disclosures”. So far, despite over a hundred cases having been presented to the MET, (I have this orally), the outing of this persons abuse is still as far off as ever.

  • Cosmo

    alleged Briefings on Pimco bid by then Finance Minister Hamilton in Dec 2013, denied took place by McGuinness.
    Finance Committee enquiry meeting set for today.
    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/assembly-business/committees/finance-and-personnel/

  • Nevin

    Seaan, blogs can trigger deeper investigation by journalists as well as questions in the Assembly and action by public agencies.

    Here’s one that simply fizzled out!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, fishing for compliments! You know by now of my respect for your fine investigative work, but all of us could do with the kind of serious funding that used to go into investigative journalism. There’s a limit to what even the best of us can find out without the sort of infrastructure that the old press used to provide, although you often stretch what can be done to its limits.

    This Cerberus issue is a good example of this. We all think we “know” what may be going on, but getting proof enough to state things without finding grinning lawyers on our doorstep is quite another thing.

  • Nevin

    On ‘delicate’ issues, I restrict myself to official documents! Sadly, the onset of FoI requests has been countered by virtually information-free ‘action points’ in place of minutes.

    ‘Complement’, not ‘compliment’, is my idea of a productive relationship between blogger and journalist.

    My fishing technique involves dangling bait in the form of a comment adjacent to the one I’m in search of. ‘You mean the one with Martin and Mitchel’ was the response when I referred to a meeting in or near Derry on November 5, 1993, attended by Douglas Hurd, the then Foreign Secretary.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I know exactly what you mean about this sly habit of answering transparency requests with something that meets the letter but is miles of the spirit of transparency! I’ve had a lot of this with (previous) Environment Ministers here. This fudging is something which is inevitable, I feel, as long as we have representative rather than participatory democracy;

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_democracy

    I feel we will only grow a proper Civil Society when general popular engagement is actively encouraged rather than seen as something to be casually dismissed while the Professionals (Bodie or Doyle, perhaps?) get on with the real business of governing us all as inefficiently as possible. I’ve commented about my understanding of trust issues over on the “Gerry and Trust” thread, along the lines of “you can either have a free society with trust or a society relying on central control, and in the final analysis falling back on coercion.” I’d prefer to live in a mutually supportive, free society myself, but the ned for the likes of us to drag scraps of truth out of the morass of disinformation and open lying we encounter from those in Government of every hue tells me this is very far off.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, what we need is a centrif(r)ugal governor to prevent over-spending – as well as other means to let off steam.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    While I can see how a big boy to knock heads together and hold the money bag might work in the short term it still suffers from the problem of all law centred and all coercion politics. Until habits of honesty and trust are developed self interest will continue to be the default position of any administration, and the people follow this example of how things appear to be moving. Those of us who can imagine another state of things that genuinely works to the public interest are always going to be outsiders as long as this culture of master/slave coercion politics lasts.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Old Robbo makes the top of the national news yet again, and this time it’s not to call those nasty Sinn Fein’ers dishonest. No, our ever honest and upstanding first minister has now been named as one of the potential recipients of the alleged Cerberus slush fund. Well, who would have thought it? Well actually, all of us, but we just couldn’t say.

    Over to you Mick (Fealty not Wallace).

  • Cosmo

    also…
    if McGuinness did not actively keep au fait with €1.3billion NI Nama sale, should he have?
    was he duped, asleep, busy elsewhere?
    If Enda Kenny did not read a letter from Fortress complaining ref Nama process, why not? should he have?
    Who are the people around Robinson in DUP, and in Dublin, who worked on the Nama sale?