Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson has rejected as “outrageous and groundless” an accusation he was to receive a payment linked to Northern Ireland’s largest ever property sale.
Mr Robinson denounced the claim as he gave evidence to a Stormont committee investigating the controversial £1.2bn (€1.6bn) sale of assets owned by Nama to US investment firm Cerberus.
At a previous committee hearing, loyalist blogger and flag protester Jamie Bryson alleged the DUP leader was among five people to receive a share of a “success fee” linked to the deal.
In a lengthy opening statement to committee members in parliament buildings, Belfast, Mr Robinson said he was “offended” by the allegation but “given its source, not surprised”. He said Mr Bryson had not produced “one shred of evidence” to support his allegation.
“For the record I didn’t receive, expect to receive, sought or was offered a single penny as a result of the Nama sale,” said Mr Robinson.
The huge deal involving Nama’s assets in the Northwas thrust into the spotlight in the summer when Independent TD Mick Wallace used parliamentary privilege in the Dáil to make allegations of a political pay-off.
He claimed £7m in an Isle of Man bank account was “reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or political party”.
Central to the inquiry is a fee paid in to an off-shore account controlled by solicitor Ian Coulter, a former managing partner of Belfast-based law firm Tughans. Tughans, which was involved in the Nama transaction after being subcontracted by Cerberus’s US lawyers Brown Rudnick, has insisted it was not aware of this transfer.
The role of Belfast businessman Frank Cushnahan has also come in for intense scrutiny. He previously served on Nama’s Northern Ireland advisory committee but it has been claimed he later advised Cerberus and another potential US buyer of the portfolio — prompting questions about potential conflicts of interest.
Giving evidence to the committee last month, Mr Bryson alleged Mr Robinson, Mr Cushnahan, Mr Coulter and two others — developer Andrew Creighton and accountant David Watters — were to share in the success fee. All five men have publicly denied wrong doing.
During the hearing, Mr Robinson said he knew Mr Coulter and Mr Cushnahan as “pillars of the establishment” who both were “motivated by the best interests of Northern Ireland”. He said he never considered they would be in line for a fee as a result of the Nama deal.
The North’s First Minister stressed while the picture had been “clouded” regarding the Nama deal, the transaction ultimately was good for the North, as it effectively unfroze assets that had been controlled by Nama.
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