Northern Ireland news

Jamie Bryson requests nine witnesses in legal bid to have Nama committee case thrown out

Jamie Bryson

A loyalist blogger accused of plotting to subvert a Stormont inquiry into a billion pound property deal intends to call nine witnesses at his legal bid to have the case thrown out, he told a court.

Jamie Bryson wants DUP MLA Jim Wells and the independent Irish MEP Mick Wallace to give evidence in his defence at the attempt to halt criminal proceedings.

Police officers are also expected to testify during a hearing to test the strength of the prosecution case before trial.

A judge at Belfast Magistrates Court confirmed that a date for the Preliminary Inquiry will be fixed next week.

Mr Bryson (30) denies a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office on dates between September 1-24 2015.

Former Sinn Féin MLA Daithi McKay (38) and party member Thomas O'Hara (36) are accused of 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 assembly 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 Fein'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; Mr McKay, of Loughan Road in Dunnamanagh, Co Tyrone; and 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.

At a review hearing today, Mr Bryson confirmed he wants a three-day Preliminary Inquiry, where he will argue that there is no prima facie case to answer.

He told the court: "I understood from conversations with the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) we were going to look at potentially fixing a date in the near future.

"There are nine witnesses I have requested thus far."

He also indicated a potential objection to expert witnesses giving evidence remotely due to the ongoing pandemic.

Adjourning proceedings for a week, District Judge Mark McGarrity said a hearing date will be listed at that stage.

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