Nama: Sacking adviser Frank Cushnahan 'would have stoked political tensions'

Nama chairman Frank Daly
Brian Hutton

SACKING prominent Belfast businessman Frank Cushnahan from his role as a Nama adviser would have stoked political tensions in the north, the agency's chairman has said.

Nama's Frank Daly was asked before a parliamentary committee investigating its controversial sale of the £1.24 billion Project Eagle portfolio if that meant Mr Cushnahan was protected.

"No, it doesn't mean he was protected," he told the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee.

"We would have needed something very solid to remove Mr Cushnahan from (Nama's) Northern Ireland Advisory Committee because there is no doubt at all it would have caused tension up north."

However, Mr Daly said if Nama knew about Mr Cushnahan's alleged involvement in the Project Eagle sale while he was still a Nama adviser then he would been removed - "political sensitivities or not".

He added: "But up until the time he resigned in 2013 we knew absolutely nothing about those activities of his, or alleged activities."

The Project Eagle portfolio of Northern Ireland property loans was bought by US investors Cerberus in April 2014.

Another US company Pimco, a leading bidder, has said it pulled out weeks earlier because it was asked for a fixer payment of £16 million for three parties behind the scenes.

The money was to be shared equally by Mr Cushnahan, US law firm Brown Rudnick and Ian Coulter, a managing partner of Belfast solicitors Tughans, Pimco has said.

All parties have denied any wrongdoing.

Ronnie Hanna, Nama's former head of asset recovery, has turned down an invitation to appear before the hearings.

Mr Hanna, a former senior executive at the Ulster Bank, said he was declining the invite because of an ongoing investigation into Project Eagle by the UK's National Crime Agency and the PSNI.

He added that he still has not been released from a duty of confidentiality to Nama.

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