Peter Robinson denies any benefit from Nama sale

DUP leader says there was no ‘vulgar’ talk of fees at meetings involving Ministers on deal

The North's First Minister Peter Robinson has said that no one in his family or his party sought to benefit by "one penny" from the purchase of Nama's Northern Ireland 850-property portfolio.

Mr Robinson also said on Friday that the first he became aware of allegations of £7 million being lodged in an Isle of Man account of solicitor Ian Coulter reportedly for a Northern Ireland politician or party was after independent TD Mick Wallace made that allegation in the Dáil last week.

Mr Robinson said there had been "no vulgar" talk about fees at any meetings involving Northern Executive ministers relating to the sale of the Nama portfolio which was bought by US investment firm Cerberus for £1.3 million last year.

He insisted the DUP had not crossed a line by seeking to promote the sale of the Nama portfolio, first to the Pimco investment fund, and then when it withdrew from the deal to Cerberus.


“Not one penny was coming to anybody in my family or in the party as a result of this deal. All of the Ministers who were involved, whether they were in my party or not, the only thing that they were ever going to get out of this was to see on the skyline that the building cranes were moving again,” Mr Robinson told the BBC.

‘Derelict in their duty’

The First Minister added that ministers would have been viewed as “derelict in their duty” if they had not sought to get the best possible deal for Northern Ireland.

Mr Robinson also denied any conflict of interest between his position as First Minister and the business activities of his son Gareth who runs the PR firm, Verbatim Communications. It was reported by the Irish News this week that Tughans former managing partner Ian Coulter hired Verbatim to manage an event hosted by Tughans in 2012.

This prompted Gareth Robinson to state that no one in Verbatim was involved in or benefitted from the Cerberus/Nama deal.

Mr Robinson said his son had been the target of a “witch hunt” by people seeking to get at the First Minister. He said his son had “made a very clear statement on the issue” and he didn’t intend to expand on that comment.

The sale of the Nama portfolio has placed a particular spotlight on Ian Coulter who, it was disclosed by Tughans, placed the £7 million, understood to be part of a £15 million acquisitions fee paid by Cerberus, into the Isle of Man account, and on businessman Frank Cushnahan.

Acquisitions fee

On Thursday it was disclosed that had Pimco been successful that Mr Cushnahan, who previously was a Northern Ireland adviser to Nama, would have received £5 million as part of a £15 million acquisitions fee.

Mr Robinson said that Mr Coulter and Mr Cushnahan were “two pretty major players in the Northern Ireland business world”. He referred to how Mr Coulter was chairman of the Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland [he stood down in January] and was a “renowned lawyer”.

He said Mr Cushnahan was a “significant financier” and that he enjoyed a “good relationship with both of them”. He described Mr Cushnahan as a “significant supporter of the Executive” and a man who had devoted “quite a lot of his time to public service and had done a lot of good to the public service”.

“Anything that I saw, I have to say, was very much in the interests of Northern Ireland in terms of what he was doing,” he also told the BBC.

This week Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he had not been made aware of one purportedly "official" meeting held ahead of the Nama sale to Cerberus involving Mr Robinson and former US president Dan Quayle, one of Cerberus's most senior executives.

Mr Robinson said some people were trying to create the wrong perception that the DUP had “gone it alone” in relation to the Nama deal. “They need to be a bit careful because of course there is a [paper] trail on all of these matters,” he said.

“I feel sorry in many ways for Cerberus,” he added. “Cerberus were convinced that Northern Ireland was a good place to come and to do business and they are left with this dilemma. I don’t think that is going to help other investment in the future if they tell their story to others about what their experiences was,” he said.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times