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Peter Robinson says he will appear before Stormont over Nama claims

DUP leader Peter Robinson has rejected allegations made by loyalist Jamie Bryson (right) that he was to receive any payment linked to Northern Ireland Nama deal. Picture by Mal McCann
 
Brendan Hughes

PETER Robinson says he will appear before a Stormont probe into the Nama scandal following sensational claims that he was to receive a payment connected to the huge property deal.

The DUP leader has fiercely rejected allegations that he was among five people set to share in a "success fee" following the £1.3bn northern loan book sale.

The explosive claims were made by loyalist blogger and flag protester Jamie Bryson as he attend the finance committee inquiry into the Nama deal.

In a statement Mr Robinson, who has temporarily stood aside as first minister amid a political row over the murder of ex-IRA man Kevin McGuigan, said: "I repeat, I neither received, expected to receive, sought, nor was I offered a single penny as a result of the Nama sale.

"The allegations made today lack credibility and can have no evidential basis. The scripted performance was little short of pantomime. It is outrageous that such scurrilous and unfounded allegations can be made without providing one iota of evidence.

"I am happy to appear before the committee."

Appearing at the committee yesterday Mr Bryson named the DUP leader among five people to receive a share of a "success fee" linked to the sale last year of Nama's northern property loans portfolio to US investment firm Cerberus.

The committee heard that the fee was to be paid into an off-shore account controlled by Ian Coulter, a former managing partner of Belfast-based law firm Tughans.

"This was a success fee that was to be paid in to a dormant Danske Bank account in the Donegall Square West branch (in Belfast) and from there it was transferred to an off-shore account," Mr Bryson said.

"There were to be a number of beneficiaries to this fee and I will refer to them simply as person A, person B, person C, person D and person E.

"I can now tell this committee without fear of contradiction that person A is Mr Peter Robinson MLA, person B is (developer) Mr Andrew Creighton, person C is (accountant) Mr David Watters, person D is (ex Nama adviser) Mr Frank Cushnahan and person E is (solicitor) Ian Coulter."

The Stormont inquiry was launched following shock claims in the Dáil in July by independent TD Mick Wallace.

Under parliamentary privilege he claimed that £7m linked to the northern Nama deal and placed in an Isle of Man bank account was "reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or political party".

His explosive allegations have sparked a criminal investigation led by the National Crime Agency and political inquiries on both sides of the border.

Nama is the 'bad bank' set up by the Republic to clear property loans from bailed-out lenders.

All parties involved in the northern loans transaction have strongly denied acting unlawfully. Former Tughans managing partner Mr Coulter, who transferred money, has denied it was intended for any politician.

Mr Bryson was permitted to give his evidence in public following a committee vote by MLAs.

Members of the DUP opposed holding an open session, claiming he had not established a "direct link" to the inquiry remit and repeatedly challenged the credibility of his evidence.

South Down MLA and former health minister Jim Wells said: "Here we have no direct evidence from Mr Bryson.

"He has now moved on to make extremely serious allegations and all he has is hearsay and his opinion."

However, Mr Bryson told the committee he stood over his claims "110 per cent".

"I believe I have demonstrated a clear web of individuals, including politicians, who have contrived and conspired together to get things done and increase their own bank balances by a nod and a wink schemes," he said.

The high-profile loyalist from Bangor in Co Down was pushed to reveal the source of his evidence, but he said he would rather go to jail than betray a confidence.

Under questioning from Sinn Fein's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Mr Bryson dismissed suggestions that he was motivated by a dislike of the DUP.

"It is no secret that I have absolutely no time for the DUP but I am here to provide evidence," he said.

Sinn Féin's Daithí McKay, chair of the finance committee, confirmed following yesterday's meeting that Mr Robinson would be invited to give evidence, saying that the public were entitled to answers.

"Throughout this inquiry process I have repeatedly said that the public want openness and transparency on the sale of Nama's northern portfolio," he said.

"This is a hugely important issue and the public want and are entitled to answers.

"I was pleased that we had openness and transparency today with the evidence sessions being conducted in public.

"The committee also agreed today to invite former first minister Peter Robinson to come before the inquiry to answer the serious allegations which were made today."

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