Northern Ireland news

Nama: Calls for independent inquiry after Frank Cushnahan 'fixer fee' claims

Belfast businessman Frank Cushnahan was a Northern Ireland adviser to Nama from May 2010 until November 2013
Brendan Hughes

POLITICIANS have stepped up calls for an independent inquiry into the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loans portfolio after a former adviser was filmed saying he was due a secret 'fixer's fee'.

Frank Cushnahan has consistently denied that he was due to receive money from the huge property loans deal worth more than £1bn.

But in covert footage recorded last year by BBC Spotlight, the businessman claimed he was to get a fee in relation to the sale.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said there should be a Commission of Investigation in the Republic into the deal, while Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long also called for an independent investigation.

A criminal probe by the British National Crime Agency is already ongoing since July last year.

It was launched following claims in the Dáil that around £7m linked to the deal had been earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or party.

Nama (National Asset Management Agency) is the Republic's 'bad bank', set up during the financial crash to take at-risk loans off the books of bailed-out lenders.

It sold its entire northern portfolio of property loans to US investment fund Cerberus in 2014.

Mr Cushnahan has been at the centre of allegations surrounding the loan book sale since the controversy emerged.

The 74-year-old former banker was appointed to Nama's Northern Ireland advisory committee on the recommendation of the DUP.

He began talks with a US investment fund Pimco about buying the portfolio prior to leaving his committee post and without informing Nama.

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.

Cerberus then bought the loan portfolio, with Nama receiving assurances that no-one connected to it was to benefit from the deal.

However, Mr Cushnahan was recorded by Spotlight discussing work he did with prominent Belfast solicitor Ian Coulter.

Mr Cushnahan said: "You know when I was working on that Cerberus thing to get that thing out, he worked with me to get that. And basically all the work was done by me and him."

He goes on to say his role was kept hidden because of Nama's objections.

Attempts were made yesterday to give Mr Cushnahan an opportunity to explain the disparity between the covert recording and his public statements.

When contacted yesterday afternoon his solicitor Joe Rice declined to answer questions.

The secret recording was made last year during a lunch meeting between Mr Cushnahan, developer John Miskelly and accountant David Gray.

Mr Miskelly, a Co Down developer whose loans were in Nama, subsequently told BBC Spotlight he has reported financial misconduct allegations relating to the Nama sale to a powerful US watchdog.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday declined to comment.

Cerberus has previously stated that it has "never employed, paid or sought advice from Frank Cushnahan in relation to our purchase of the Project Eagle portfolio or any other activity."

Nama said it has dealt "extensively" with these issues and "has nothing further to add at this time".

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