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Cushnahan rejects criticism at Nama inquiry

Former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan

A key figure in the Nama controversy has rejected criticism of him at a Stormont inquiry.

Earlier this month, Belfast businessman Gareth Graham told the assembly's finance committee that former adviser Frank Cushnahan had tried to ruin his family business.

Mr Graham also claimed that hundreds of hours of tape recordings of phone calls involving Mr Cushnahan could expose an "ingrained culture of inappropriate and possibly illegal conduct" spanning political, legal and banking sectors.

In a lengthy rebuttal to Mr Graham's evidence, Mr Cushnahan's solicitor has said he was never informed that his telephone calls would be recorded.

"Illegally, it now appears that his calls were subject to recording. Many of these calls deal with all aspects of Mr Cushnahan's professional and personal life," the letter claimed.

The finance committee is investigating the £1.3bn sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book to US investment firm Cerberus.

The probe was launched following sensational allegations made in the Dáil in July that a northern politician was to personally benefit from the deal.

In his letter, Mr Cushnahan said he began working for the Graham family following the death of Sean Graham, Gareth's father, at the behest of Mrs Brenda Graham. He was given an office in the bookmakers business.

The Irish News understands that he used a phone provided to make and receive calls, often unrelated to his work for Graham's, because the reception on his mobile phone was not of adequate quality in the building.

These were recorded because bookmakers typically record all phone conversations in order to have proof of wagers placed.

Mr Cushnahan's solicitor said: "Gareth Graham has no propriety right to the tapes or their content. He has not sought permission from Mr Cushnahan to listen to tapes or to divulge their content or to disclose their content to any third party including lawyer, journalist or politician."

The business relationship between the Grahams and Mr Cushnahan broke down in 2008.

Mr Graham claimed that Mr Cushnahan was then "intent on destroying our businesses", and his firms were wrongly taken into Nama, the Republic's 'bad bank', following his former colleague's "malevolent" influence.

Mr Cushnahan had lined up a buyer for the Sean Graham bookies, which The Irish News understands to have been an internationally known bookmakers.

The Grahams refused the offer and Mr Cushnahan left the business.

The letter sent by Mr Cushnahan's solicitor John J Rice & Co said there was no fall out with the Graham family and he "achieved a maximisation of value" for the SP Graham Group that he advised for three years.

Mr Graham told the finance committee that Mr Cushnahan had retained a five per cent stake in his property companies.

He claimed that should have led to a declaration of interest when he became a member of the Nama Northern Ireland advisory committee.

But Mr Cushnahan said he gave up those shareholdings in 2009 and that if he remains on the share register it is only because the Graham companies have not provided the necessary updates.

The letter rejected the claim of a conflict of interest and said that "at no time was Mr Cushnahan ever involved in deciding which loans should be placed in Nama by the Bank of Ireland".

A spokesperson for Gareth Graham said that he "stands 100 per cent behind the evidence he gave to the committee".

:: Read the full letter at http://www.irishnews.com/news/nama/

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