Northern Ireland news

Former Nama adviser Cushnahan claims tapes are illegal

Businessman Frank Cushnahan

Frank Cushnahan, the former Nama adviser being investigated by a Stormont probe, has made a lengthy rebuttal to critical comments made about him at an inquiry hearing.

The finance committee is investigating the £1.3 billion sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book. The probe was launched following sensational allegations made in the Dáil in July that a northern politician was to personally benefit from the deal.

Earlier this month, Gareth Graham, a Belfast businessman told the committee that Cushnahan had tried to ruin his family business.  Mr Graham said he had tapes of thousands of phone calls made by Frank Cushnahan, a businessman who worked with him and was later a Nama adviser.

However, in his most strongly worded retort to allegations made surrounding the Nama scandal, Mr Cushnahan said that he "achieved a maximisation of value" for the SP Graham Group that he advised for three years.

In Cushnahan's letter sent by his solicitor John J Rice & Co, he stated that recordings of his telephone calls made by Graham's company are illegal and were made without his knowledge.

Phone calls in and out of the Grahams' bookmaking business, like most bookies, were recorded for regulatory reasons.

The business relationship between the Grahams and Mr Cushnahan broke down in 2008.

Mr Graham claimed Mr Cushnahan was then "intent on destroying our businesses", and his firms were wrongly taken into Nama following his former colleague's "malevolent" influence.

Referring to one tape recording, he said: "Frank Cushnahan said 'thank God I am worth a good few quid elsewhere... my shareholdings will be worth sweet f*** all by the time I am finished'."

Mr Graham, a member of the Sean Graham bookmaker family, told the finance committee Mr Cushnahan had retained a five per cent stake in his property companies.

He claimed that should have led to a declaration of interest by Mr Cushnahan when he became a member of the Nama Northern Ireland advisory committee.

But Mr Cushnahan said he gave up those shareholdings in 2009 and that if he remains on the share register it is only because the Graham companies have not provided the necessary updates.

He rejected the claim of a conflict of interest and said that "at no time was Mr Cushnahan ever involved in deciding which loans should be placed in Nama by the Bank of Ireland."

Mr Graham said recordings of Mr Cushnahan's phone calls could expose an "ingrained culture of inappropriate and possibly illegal conduct" across political, banking, legal and accountancy sectors.

Cushnahan's letter also questions the committee for inviting blogger Jamie Bryson who he said had made "false and sensational claims about many third parties." 

In September 2013 while sitting on the Nama committee, Cushnahan had helped organise Nama meetings out of Tughan's offices in Belfast.

In March 2014 it was revealed that he was advising Pimco on a bid for Nama's northern portfolio, alongside Tughan's managing partner Ian Coulter.

Coulter made a dramatic exit from Tughans in January following a dispute over a £7 million payment linked to the Cerberus purchase of Nama's portfolio. The money was transferred, at Coulter's instruction, to an offshore bank account. It is being investigated by the US department of Justice and the National Crime Agency. 

A spokesperson for Gareth Graham said that he "stands 100 per cent behind the evidence he gave to the committee. 


Letter sent from Frank Cushnahan's solicitor to Stormont finance committee

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