Sammy Wilson calls BBC ‘biased bigots' in Nama scandal fallout

Former finance minister Sammy Wilson has defended his decision to recommend close friend Frank Cushnahan as a Nama advisor. Picture by Matt Bohill

FORMER finance minister Sammy Wilson said he has "no intention" of watching a BBC Spotlight investigation that aired secret recordings of a man he recommended for the Nama advisory committee taking £40,000 in cash from a property developer.

Mr Wilson was on holiday when the programme aired last week, when allegations of corruption were made against his close friend Frank Cushnahan.

However, speaking to the Irish News on Monday, he said: "I haven't and I've no intention of watching anything Spotlight produce, I think they're a bunch of biased bigots".

The award winning Spotlight programme, which is regarded as having the highest journalistic standards, played a secret recording of Mr Cushnahan speaking to property developer John Miskelly during which he discussed using political influence to drive the price of the Project Eagle property portfolio down.

The portfolio of Northern Ireland property was eventually sold by Nama for the knock down price of £1.2 billion.

In 2012 Mr Cushnahan told Mr Miskelly during a meeting in a hospital carpark that if political influence was exerted to help American company Cerberus get a bargain they could then pass that saving on to the developers.

Then finance minister Mr Wilson was counted among Cushnahan's most loyal friends.

Mr Wilson told Stormont's finance committee investigating the sale that he had recommended Mr Cushnahan for the Nama advisory role because he was a man who would "fight your corner", adding that he had done a "sterling job".

Mr Cushnahan was secretly recorded telling the property developer: "I was up with Sammy Wilson working behind the scenes and that's all very hush".

He later said: "If for example Robinson (Peter) and Wilson (Sammy) were to impose a thing on them to say to the South, you guys should let these assets go less than, because it's better when you think of it £1.9 billion as a total of £78 billion is nothing.

"But the political scenario for Northern Ireland with all the developers having trouble is serious. So I believe we could get government to get a discount.

"What that would happen - that leaves you see, smelling of roses because the next thing that they're going to do is agree with the developers how they exit and if they've got a profit in already they're going to seek to make sure it is shared".

Nama has now reported Mr Cushnahan to gardaí and the National Crime Agency (NCA) alleging possible corruption while in his post as advisor to the Republic's so called 'bad bank'.

Peter Robinson has denied being involved in discussions to drive the price of the Northern Ireland portfolio down.

Mr Wilson refused to answer any questions posed by the Spotlight team prior to the programme being aired.

A spokesperson for the Spotlight team said all programmes are made in "an impartial and rigorous way".

Investigations have been now launched into Project Eagle by the UK's National Crime Agency, the US Department of Justice's Securities and Exchange Commission as well as a standards inquiry in Stormont.

Following the latest revelations there have been growing calls for a cross border inquiry into the property sale.

Allegations of financial corruption were first raised by independent TD Mick Wallace in the Dail last year, with further allegations of political wrongdoing made by loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson.

Mr Bryson appeared before the Stormont finance committee members last September to allege that former DUP leader Peter Robinson was set to benefit from the £1.2 billion transaction - a claim the then first minister has denied.

Last month, Sinn Féin MLA and former Stormont finance committee chair Daithí McKay quit amid allegations he coached the loyalist whistleblower ahead of his evidence.

Former Stormont finance committee chair, Daithi McKay, was suspended from Sinn Fein

Mr McKay apologised after transcripts of private messages between the pair were revealed in the Irish News.

Stormont opposition parties voiced anger yesterday when attempts to have a debate on the Nama controversy were blocked.

DUP Speaker Robin Newton turned down requests for the topic to be raised as a matter of the day during the first plenary session of the new assembly term.

Opposition leader Mike Nesbitt accused Stormont of indulging in "ostrich politics".

"This head in the sand ostrich approach does nothing to protect the integrity or relevance of the institutions under the control of DUP/Sinn Fein," said the UUP leader.

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