Sammy Wilson defends 'good work' of his friend Frank Cushnahan

Frank Cushnahan is at the centre of the Project eagle controversy

FORMER finance minister Sammy Wilson has described businessman Frank Cushnahan as "a friend" who did "great work" in his role as an adviser to Nama.

A fortnight ago BBC Spotlight broadcast secret recordings which showed Mr Cushnahan accepting £40,000 in cash from property developer and Nama client John Miskelly.

The former Belfast Harbour Commisioners' chairman worked as an adviser to Nama between 2010 and 2013, and was recommended for the role by Mr Wilson.

Mr Cushnahan was arrested in June as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into the £1.24bn sale of Nama's northern loan portfolio in 2014. He was later released from police bail.

In the same secret recordings, Mr Cushnahan told Mr Miskelly: "I was up with Sammy Wilson working behind the scenes and that's all very hush".

He later said: "If for example Robinson (Peter) and Wilson (Sammy) were to impose a thing on them to say to the South, you guys should let these assets go less than, because it's better when you think of it £1.9 billion as a total of £78 billion is nothing.

"But the political scenario for Northern Ireland with all the developers having trouble is serious. So I believe we could get government to get a discount."

When challenged by The Irish News in the wake of the broadcast, Mr Wilson said he had "no intention" of watching the programme.

"I haven't and I've no intention of watching anything Spotlight produce, I think they're a bunch of biased bigots," he said.

Speaking on BBC's Talkback yesterday, the DUP MP said: "Frank Cushnahan is a friend, he did great work for me when I was in the department."

"I would prefer if the people who would determine whether Frank did anything wrong or not was not a bunch of amateurs in Spotlight, who in my view have an agenda, but I would prefer if the police would deal with that."

When asked if he wished to withdraw the remark about Spotlight, Mr Wilson did not respond.

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