Frank Cushnahan claims he was due 'fee' over Nama deal
Frank Cushnahan, one of the men at the centre of the Nama Northern Ireland portfolio controversy, has been recorded saying he was due to get a secret ‘fixer’s fee’ from the £1.2 billion property deal.
In clandestine recordings broadcast by the BBC’s Spotlight programme last night, the businessman told a lunch meeting last year between him, developer John Miskelly and accountant David Gray that he had secretly worked on the deal between Nama and US company Cerberus.
The meeting also heard details of a phone call between Gareth Robinson, the son of former First Minister Peter Robinson, and Mr Miskelly, in which Gareth Robinson advised the developer to contact Mr Cushnahan.
The Cerberus investment fund bought Nama’s Northern Ireland property portfolio in 2014.
As part of the huge property deal, Cerberus had said it would not pay any former or current Nama member – a stipulation which ruled out Mr Cushnahan, who had been a member of the Northern Ireland advisory committee of the Republic’s ‘bad bank’.
Mr Cushnahan has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing or that he was due to receive money.
In the recordings, he said he and the former managing partner of Belfast law firm Tughans, Ian Coulter, did all the work on the deal but his role was kept secret because of objections from Nama.
“You know the, when I was working on that Cerberus thing to get that thing out, they uh, he (Mr Coulter) worked with me to get that,” he said.
“And basically all the work was done by him and me.”
Mr Cushnahan told Mr Gray that Mr Coulter moved £6m into a temporary holding account so that he, Mr Cushnahan, could be paid a fixer’s fee.
“He did that because he was able to say to them, ‘There’s this. Cushnahan’s done all this work, therefore he’s entitled to his fee’,” he said.
Mr Cushnahan, a former banker, was appointed to the Nama advisory committee by the DUP. Before he left his post, he had been in meetings with Pimco, a US investment fund which wanted to buy the property portfolio.
Nama has already said Mr Cushnahan had been due to get £5m if the Pimco bid succeeded – but it failed and Cerberus bought the portfolio instead.
Nama has previously said that Mr Cushnahan would not have had access to sensitive information, even though he was a member of the advisory committee.
But Brian Rowntree, who was also on the committee, told the programme they did see sensitive information.
He said: “...information that we discussed of a commercially sensitive nature in my view would have added some value to the application because it would have given them some steer on the strategic capacity to work out that... overall portfolio”.
The Spotlight programme suggested that Mr Cushnahan was also working to help developers as well being involved in the Cerberus deal.
During the meeting Mr Miskelly, a Co Down developer who feared being shut down by the Nama sale, said former First Minister Peter Robinson’s son Gareth advised him to contact Mr Cushnahan.
“You remember when Gareth Robinson phoned me that morning and told me to go to your office?” he said.
In a statement last night, Mr Miskelly said the recordings were an accurate reflection of the meeting and he had been gathering his own evidence over alleged financial misconduct.
“I realised that in view of the continual suppression of my complaints to financial institutions that this would be the only way to expose the financial misconduct,” he said.
His evidence has been handed to the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US.
It is understood Mr Miskelly has also contacted the National Crime Agency.
Following the programme, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams last night called again for the establishment of a commission of investigation into the Nama deal.
“There has been zero accountability from the outgoing government on this issue and again, the taxpayer is left to shoulder the cost,” he said.
The Irish News revealed last year that Peter Robinson held two secret meetings in Belfast with former US vice president Dan Quayle who heads Cerberus.