Nama: Peter Robinson had ‘major errors of judgement' says justice minister

Alliance leader David Ford and former DUP First Minister Peter Robinson. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

THE justice minister has said the Nama scandal raises questions over major "errors of judgement" by senior DUP figures Peter Robinson and Sammy Wilson.

David Ford called for an independent inquiry over the £1bn sale of Nama's Northern Ireland property loans portfolio.

It comes after a BBC Spotlight programme revealed covert footage of ex-Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan saying he was due a secret 'fixer's fee'.

The huge property deal is already being investigated by the British National Crime Agency and parliamentary probes on both sides of the border.

They followed claims in the Dáil last year that around £7m linked to the deal had been earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or party.

Speaking to The Irish News, Alliance Party leader Mr Ford said it was important to "show politics is clean".

He called for an independent probe rather than the inquiry conducted through the Department of Finance and Personnel's (DFP) scrutiny committee.

"We need a proper independent inquiry. With no disrespect to DFP committee, as a committee of partisan politicians they weren't the right place to explore the issues," he said.

"And there are clearly now issues being raised that at least call into question errors of judgement and fairly major ones on the part of Peter Robinson and Sammy Wilson.

"There are challenges that require something to show politics is clean and that can only be done with some sort of independent inquiry."

His comments came as it emerged that Nama has made a complaint about Mr Cushnahan to the south's ethics watchdog.

Two issues have reportedly been referred to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo), which oversees declarations of interest by politicians and public servants.

The first relates to Mr Cushnahan's dealings with US investment fund Pimco, which was interested in buying Nama's northern loan book.

Mr Cushnahan met Pimco in May 2013 prior to leaving his Nama committee post and without informing the agency.

The bid collapsed when Nama learned of his role. Senior officials told an astonished Dáil committee that he was due to be paid £5m if the bid succeeded.

The second issue relates to Mr Cushnahan's shareholding in companies that had loans moved into Nama, thought to relate to the Graham property group.

Mr Cushnahan has dismissed concerns of a conflict of interest, insisting that he gave up the interests before becoming a Nama adviser and that any shareholder listing is an "administrative error".

The Republic's 'bad bank' Nama sold its Northern Ireland portfolio to Cerberus in 2014.

Mr Cushnahan, a friend of former First Minister Peter Robinson, was appointment to Nama's Northern Ireland advisory committee on the recommendation of then Stormont finance minister Sammy Wilson.

At Stormont's Nama inquiry in September, loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson alleged Mr Cushnahan and Mr Robinson were among five men set to share in a "success fee" linked to the northern Nama deal.

All have dismissed allegations and strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Wilson has also dismissed concerns over the Nama deal and branded Stormont's inquiry a "Mickey Mouse exercise".

Last night Sinn Féin's Daithí McKay, chair of the finance committee, hit out at Nama's response as he renewed the party's calls for a Commission of Investigation.

"Nama making a complaint to the Standards in Public Office now is like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted," he said.

"Nama were aware of concerns about the alleged involvement of Frank Cushnahan in the sale of the northern property portfolio to Pimco more than two years ago.

"However, they choose to proceed with the sale just weeks later to another US vulture fund Cerberus."

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