Northern Ireland news

Jamie Byson pressing ahead with legal bid to have Nama inquiry plot case thrown out

Jamie Bryson insists he has no case to answer. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire.

A LOYALIST activist accused of plotting to subvert a Stormont inquiry into a billion pound property deal is pressing ahead with a legal bid to have the case thrown out, he confirmed yesterday.

Jamie Bryson's attempt to halt criminal proceedings had been put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Belfast Magistrates' Court heard that a date for a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) hearing, when he will test the strength of prosecution evidence, is to be fixed next month.

Mr Bryson (30) confirmed later: "My contention is that there is not a prima facie case to answer.

"Therefore I will be asking the court to dismiss the charges at this stage, and also lodging an abuse of process application given recent developments."

He is accused of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office on dates between September 1-24, 2015.

Former Sinn Féin MLA Daithi McKay and party member Thomas O'Hara are charged with the same offence.

The case relates to a Stormont probe into the £1.2bn sale of the National Asset Managment Agency (Nama)'s Northern Ireland property portfolio to US investment giant Cerberus.

In September 2015 Mr Bryson gave explosive evidence to the Finance Committee examining the deal.

Using parliamentary privilege, he made an unsubstantiated allegation that Peter Robinson, the then DUP First Minister, was set to profit.

Mr Robinson strenuously denied any wrongdoing, insisting that he neither expected nor received any money from the sale.

He branded Mr Bryson's evidence a "pantomime".

At the time Mr McKay was chair of the Finance Committee and seen as a rising star within Sinn Féin's ranks.

But a year later he stood down as an MLA for North Antrim and quit the party.

His resignation followed allegations that he and Mr O'Hara were involved in coaching Mr Bryson ahead of his appearance at the committee.

Police launched an investigation into the affair following a complaint by senior DUP figure Lord Morrow.

A decision was then taken to prosecute Mr Bryson, of Rosepark in Donaghadee, Co Down; 37-year-old Mr McKay, of Loughan Road in Dunnamanagh, Co Tyrone; and 35-year-old Mr O'Hara, from Lisnahunshin Road in Cullybackey, Co Antrim.

It centres on an alleged conspiracy to subvert the Finance Committee's proceedings by giving evidence that should not have been permitted in open session.

Mr Bryson, who denies the charge, intends to call DUP MLA Jim Wells and the independent Irish MEP Mick Wallace as defence witnesses at his PI.

It is also understood that up to 11 experts will be called by the prosecution.

Even if the case does advance to the Crown Court, any trial could be delayed by a year because of the Covid backlog.

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