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'Dirty money' developer brands Robinson's Nama claims 'risible'

Belfast property developer Peter Curistan has accused Peter Robinson of "double standards" 

The Belfast property developer who Peter Robinson claimed was an IRA money launderer has accused the DUP leader of "double-standards".

In 2006 Mr Robinson used Westminster's parliamentary privilege to claim Peter Curistan was linked to "dirty money".

The Sheridan Group chairman, who played a central role in the development of Belfast's Odyssey complex, has never been interviewed or arrested by police in relation to the allegation and a High Court judge described the claim as "baseless". Yet he maintains his reputation has been ruined by the controversial comments.

Mr Curistan said he finds it ironic that Mr Robinson bemoans the lack of evidence to support Jamie Bryson's recent claims to the assembly's finance committee.

Under similar rules of privilege which prevented Mr Curistan from seeking to sue the DUP leader, the loyalist blogger claimed Mr Robinson was one of five people due to share in a £7.5m payment from US investment fund Cerberus after it sealed the purchase of Nama's northern loan portfolio.

The DUP leader denied the allegation, saying Bryson's claims lacked credibility and had "no evidential basis".

"It is outrageous that such scurrilous and unfounded allegations can be made without providing one iota of evidence," the DUP leader said.

Mr Curistan described Mr Robinson's response to the one-time flag protester's appearance at the finance committee as "risible".

"It is pitiful to see Mr Robinson complain about the abuse of parliamentary privilege – there's some irony in that," he said.

"For him to come out now and feel sorry for himself is disgraceful. It's double standards."

Ten years ago Mr Curistan was a significant business figure, receiving an honorary degree from Queen's University and winning the Institute of Directors' Entrepreneur of the Year award. His company had just been awarded preferred bidder status for the redevelopment of Queen's Quay in Belfast, a project which promised hundreds of jobs.

However, the then East Belfast MP stood up at Westminster and called the secretary of state "to ensure the activities of the Sheridan group and its association with the IRA's dirty money are fully investigated".

He also asked Peter Hain to "guarantee that no further public money is channelled in their direction until if ever, they get a clean bill of health".

In the aftermath of the then DUP deputy leader's remarks, Mr Curistan's reputation floundered along with Sheridan's Laganside plans.

"There's no doubt that his comments have destroyed my business," the 60-year-old developer said.

"I feel a lot of resentment that he can get away with saying something under parliamentary privilege – why did he not say it outside; why did he not go to the PSNI; why was I not interviewed?"

The DUP leader's comments stem from Mr Curistan's association with Des Mackin, Sinn Féin's one-time director of finance who has a conviction for IRA membership.

The pair first became friends while Mr Curistan was at university and they became reacquainted decades later after meeting in Dublin. According to the developer, Mr Mackin became "someone in Dublin I relied on" and a director for a number of his companies.

The DUP did not respond when the Irish News asked yesterday if Mr Robinson stood by his 2006 remarks.

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