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David Watters thrust under Nama spotlight

David Watters was named at a Stormont committee as among five people set to share in a "success fee" linked to the Nama deal
Brendan Hughes

DAVID Watters had until recently remained separate from months of sensational allegations surrounding Nama's Northern Ireland property portfolio sale.

It was less than a fortnight ago that he was first publicly linked to the controversy in claims made before a Stormont committee by Jamie Bryson.

The loyalist flag protester turned blogger named Mr Watters as among five people set to share in a "success fee" linked to the £1.3bn deal.

However, his alleged involvement was overshadowed by DUP leader Peter Robinson also being among the five people named.

The others were developer Andrew Creighton, ex-Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan and solicitor Ian Coulter.

All five have dismissed allegations and strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Although relatively unknown to the general public, Mr Watters is a familiar face in the north's business scene.

He is managing partner of Belfast-based accounting and advisory firm McClure Watters – one of the largest accountancy firms in Northern Ireland.

In contrast Ian Coulter, ex-managing partner of Belfast law firm Tughans, was named shortly after initial allegations over the Nama deal were made by independent TD Mick Wallace.

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

His explosive allegations in July sparked a criminal investigation and political inquiries on both sides of the border.

Following the claims Tughans claimed professional fees due to the firm were diverted to an account without its knowledge by Mr Coulter. It said the fees were retrieved and Mr Coulter left the practice.

Frank Cushnahan is considered one of the most well-connected businessmen in the north, having held countless boardroom and advisory posts spanning nearly half a century.

He was on Nama's Northern Ireland advisory committee after being recommended by former DUP finance minister Sammy Wilson.

In July Nama told a Dáil committee that Mr Cushnahan was set to pocket £5m if a failed bid by US firm Pimco to purchase the northern Nama portfolio went ahead.

TDs were told the former Nama adviser was to share in a three-way split of £15m with US law firm Brown Rudnick and Ian Coulter.

Nama eventually sold the northern loan book last year to US firm Cerberus for more than £1bn – the biggest property deal in the north's history.

Mr Cushnahan had left his Nama role months earlier.

Andrew Creighton (54), meanwhile, is one of the north's best-known property magnates, and is currently secretary and director of Brunswick (No.1) – one of the largest property companies trading in Northern Ireland.

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