Graham tells Stormont Nama inquiry of telephone recordings

Businessman says he is legally in possession of recorded calls made by Frank Cushnahan

Northern Ireland businessman Gareth Graham (centre) leaving Stormont after speaking to the Nama inquiry. Photograph: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker

Northern Ireland businessman Gareth Graham (centre) leaving Stormont after speaking to the Nama inquiry. Photograph: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker

 

Hundreds of hours of recordings of telephone calls that were made by Nama’s former Northern Ireland advisor, Frank Cushnahan, in a Belfast bookmakers will reveal why one Belfast property company ended up in the agency’s portfolio in the North and why this firm is currently fighting a legal battle with Cerberus, a Belfast business man claimed today.

Gareth Graham, a property developer and member of the family which own the bookmaker chain Sean P Graham, today appeared before the Stormont inquiry investigating the sale of Nama’s former portfolio to share what the committee described as “extraordinary testimony” that included allegations of “inappropriate and illegal conduct” by politicians, solicitors and accountants in the North.

Mr Graham said he was legally in possession of telephone recordings – which he intends to share with authorities North and South – which will highlight how his companies in the North were “directly impacted” by the appointment of Mr Cushnahan to Nama’s Northern Ireland advisory committee.

The phonecalls were made by Mr Cushnahan over the period 2005 to 2008 - before he was appointed to Nama – and when he was chairman of Sean P Graham and a director in several property companies controlled by Mr Graham himself.

Mr Cushnahan and the Graham family’s business relationship broke down in 2008 but Mr Graham said Mr Cushnahan retained a shareholding in his property business – even during his period with Nama which Mr Graham claims he did not disclose to the agency at any time.

He told the Stormont committee that he had listened to conversations between Mr Cushnahan and various people from public office, solicitors, accountants and politics between 2005 and 2008 which Mr Graham claimed would later explain why his property business was ultimately transferred by Bank of Ireland into Nama.

He said the “lack of accountability” surrounding the appointments of Nama’s Northern Ireland advisory committee – Frank Cushnahan and Brian Rowntree both who were put forward by the North’s Department of Finance – was in his view the reason why his business ended up with Nama.

Mr Graham is currently engaged in a legal battle with Cerberus, the American investment fund that acquired Nama’s former portfolio in the North.

He launched a legal challenge against Cerberus earlier this year when the American company placed two of his property companies – Fernhill Properties NI Ltd and AD Enterprises (NI) Ltd – into administration and attempted to put another two -STH 500 and Lehill Properties into administration.

Mr Graham detailed at length how his property companies had “never missed a single payment” on its loans during its time with Bank of Ireland or Nama and how he had hoped that he would continue to have a “positive and mutually beneficial working relationship” with Cerberus.

But he told the Stormont Committee that despite his efforts to work with the American investment company they chose to issue him with a demand letter that gave him just 24 hours to make a full repayment of £33 million in loans.

Mr Graham said Cerberus treatment of his company and other businesses in the North was “ruthless”.