Northern Ireland news

Frank Cushnahan and Ian Coulter face fraud charges in relation to Nama sale

Frank Cushnahan faces fraud charges

TWO prominent figures are facing fraud charges relating to the £1.2bn sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan portfolio.

The charges against the agency's one-time northern adviser Frank Cushnahan (78) and Ian Coulter (49), a former managing partner with solicitors firm Tughans, are the first to arise from a five-year National Crime Agency (NCA) probe into the Project Eagle sale in 2014.

The deal with US firm Cerberus was the subject of parliamentary inquiries on both sides of the border.

Another US company, Pimco, aborted its bid for Project Eagle amid concerns about how the sale was being conducted.

Read More: The Nama controversy and Project Eagle probe – Q&A

Previously, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said the file on the case sent from the NCA had identified eight suspects in all.

It said yesterday there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the remaining six, while in November 2018 it announced a decision not to prosecute another individual.

Former Tughan's solicitor Ian Coulter. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Both Mr Cushnahan and Mr Coulter are to be jointly charged with one count of fraud involving a false representation made on or around April 3 2014.

Mr Cushnahan is also facing a charge of fraud involving failure to disclose information between April 1 2013 and November 7 2013.

Mr Coulter faces four further charges, including one count of fraud involving a false representation made on or around September 11 2014 and one count of fraud involving making an article in connection with a fraud on or about August 13 2014.

The two remaining charges against the former CBI regional chairman are of concealing criminal property involving concealing, disguising or transferring criminal property between September 15 2014 and December 1 2014.

PPS assistant director Ciaran McQuillan said the case involved a "considerable volume of evidence" that had been "painstakingly examined" by a team of experienced and senior prosecutors, with the benefit of advice from two senior counsel.

"As a result, it has been concluded that there is sufficient evidence for two of those reported to be prosecuted for a number of serious charges," he said.

"Whilst the test for prosecution was met in respect of two suspects, it was considered not met on evidential grounds in respect of seven further individuals with regard to the Project Eagle investigation."

Solicitors acting for the two men told the Press Association that they both denied all charges.

Joe Rice, representing Mr Cushnahan, said: "We are extremely disappointed with the decision to prosecute.

"We will be pleading not guilty to both allegations at any forthcoming criminal trial."

John Finucane, representing Mr Coulter, said: "My client now enters into what will undoubtedly be a lengthy court process lasting years, where he will maintain his innocence to the offences alleged, as he has throughout this drawn-out process."

NCA deputy director of investigations Craig Naylor said the investigation had been, and remained, "incredibly complex"

"Today's announcement is therefore a significant milestone," he said, adding that the probe was "not over yet".

"We have further lines of inquiry to follow up and we will continue to liaise as appropriate with PPS colleagues."

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