Peter Robinson could face Stormont Nama probe
PETER Robinson could be called before a Stormont committee over claims surrounding the Nama portfolio deal that a DUP colleague yesterday branded a "dirty scheme".
The finance committee is probing the £1.1bn sale to a US investment firm last year of Northern Ireland assets owned by the Republic's 'bad bank' Nama.
Its inquiry has been set up after sensational claims that a £7m offshore fund linked to the property deal was earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician.
Leading politicians, business and legal figures will be called before the committee to give evidence, with sittings beginning as early as next week.
DUP finance committee member Paul Girvan yesterday described the alleged property deal as a "dirty scheme" that could damage Stormont's reputation.
"There is enough of a cloud hanging over this place, with a view to everything that goes on, and now to have implications there is a politician potentially involved in what is a dirty scheme and potentially how that could impact upon how this institution is viewed, albeit probably not very well at the moment, I think it is vitally important that we move as soon as possible to get some resolution to the matter," he said.
The SDLP's Dominic Bradley called for politicians "right up to first and deputy first minister level" who attended meetings relating to the Nama sale to appear before the committee.
It comes after First Minister Peter Robinson revealed to The Irish News that he met top US investment firm Pimco when it considered buying the Nama portfolio.
The firm but did not proceed with a deal after expressing concerns with Nama over proposed fee arrangements with its former adviser Frank Cushnahan.
More than 800 properties in Northern Ireland were included in the portfolio, worth £4.5bn, which was eventually purchased by New York firm Cerberus in April last year for just £1.1bn - less than a third its estimated value.
Yesterday The Irish News revealed Mr Robinson's son Gareth previously carried out work for Tughans, the Belfast law firm at the centre of the Nama scandal.
His public relations company Verbatim Communications was paid thousands of pounds by Tughans to manage an event hosted by the solicitors' firm in 2012.
Last week the DUP leader told this newspaper: "I can unequivocally, and without reservation, confirm that.. I have not received, nor was I ever to receive any proceeds from Cerberus, Tughans, or anyone else in relation to the Nama sale."
The DUP last night did not respond when asked if Mr Robinson would be willing to appear before the committee.
The Stormont probe was sparked by allegations in the Dáil last week by independent TD Mick Wallace.
Following the claims, Tughans said professional fees due to the firm were diverted to an account without its knowledge by former managing partner Ian Coulter.
It said the money was retrieved and Mr Coulter has since left the practice.
He was named by the finance committee yesterday as one of the witnesses who will be called to give evidence.
But Mr Wallace has said he does not intend to give evidence either in Belfast or Dublin, instead calling for a "proper independent investigation".
Other potential witnesses suggested were Nama officials, Tughans, its former managing partner Ian Coulter.
Frank Cushnahan and Brian Rowntree, former advisers on the Nama Northern Ireland advisory committee, were also suggested.
The committee said if witnesses choose not to appear it can compel them to attend.
In the Republic Nama officials have been invited to appear before the public accounts committee tomorrow.
Mr Coulter has not responded to requests for a comment, but others involved have denied any wrongdoing.