Peter Robinson says he was not ‘earmarked to benefit’ from Nama sale

McGuinness ‘kept in dark’ about controversial Nama deal

 DUP leader and Former Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson.  A loyalist blogger and flag protestor on Wednesday alleged that the former first minister, Peter Robinson, was one of five people earmarked to financially benefit from the sale of Nama’s portfolio in the North. Photograph:  Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

DUP leader and Former Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson. A loyalist blogger and flag protestor on Wednesday alleged that the former first minister, Peter Robinson, was one of five people earmarked to financially benefit from the sale of Nama’s portfolio in the North. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

A loyalist blogger and flag protestor on Wednesday alleged that the former first minister, Peter Robinson, was one of five people earmarked to financially benefit from the sale of Nama’s portfolio in the North. Jamie Bryson was giving evidence to the Stormont inquiry investigating the £1.2 billion property disposal.

In his evidence to the Committee for Finance and Personnel Mr Bryson also detailed that Ian Coulter, the former managing partner of Belfast law firm Tughans; property developer Andrew Creighton; accountant David Watters and the former Nama advisor Frank Cushnahan, were also set to benefit from the deal.

Commenting on Mr Bryson’s allegations Mr Robinson said:”I repeat, I neither received, expected to receive, sought, nor was I offered a single penny as a result of the NAMA sale. The allegations made today lack credibility and can have no evidential basis. The scripted performance was little short of pantomime. It is outrageous that such scurrilous and unfounded allegations can be made without providing one iota of evidence. I am happy to appear before the committee.”

Mr Bryson said that the payment these five were to receive had been paid into a bank account in the Isle of Man.

He said evidence documenting these names was currently with the UK’s National Crime Agency, which is conducting a separate inquiry into the sale of the Nama portfolio in the North.

Mr Robinson has previously stated that no one in his family or his party sought to benefit by “one penny” from the sale of the Nama portfolio to the American group Cerberus for £1.2 billion.

Mr Cushnahan also previously informed the Stormont inquiry, by letter, that he never had any “meetings, dealings, correspondence or contact of any kind” with Cerberus or any of its representatives.

During his appearance before the committee Mr Bryson also revealed information which he said had been given to him by sources which he would not reveal to the committee.

He outlined what he said were the “facts” relating to various relationships between property developers and politicians in the North and how Cerberus had formed beneficial relationships with some property developers but not with others.

The North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told the Stormont inquiry investigating the sale of Nama’s former Northern Ireland portfolio he had been “kept in the dark” over the transaction.

Mr McGuinness said on Wednesday it was “totally and absolutely wrong” to say he was fully briefed about the Nama sale process from start to finish.

The North’s former First Minister Peter Robinson has previously claimed there is a paper trail relating to the Nama deal.

But Mr McGuinness told the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Finance and Personnel today that despite the fact it was “supposed to be a joint office” officials from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) have informed him there is no paper trail.

Mr McGuinness told the Stormont inquiry that “there were all sorts of meetings taking place” in relation to Nama and the subsequent transaction that he had not been aware of.

He said he did not know in June 2013 that the former Northern Ireland Finance Minister Sammy Wilson had written to the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan stating that the US law firm Brown Rudnick had a client, which was later identified as Pimco, who was interested in the Nama portfolio.

Mr McGuinness said he was also not aware of a subsequent letter which Nama had received in January 2014 from the Principal Private Secretary to the North’s First Minister, which was a copy of a “letter of intent” relating to the proposed management of the Northern Ireland portfolio. The letter, according to Nama, appeared to summarise an agreement between Pimco and the NI Executive which outlined details of a proposed memorandum of understanding.

He said this came from the “DUP side of the OFMDFM and did not have his consent or that of any official in his department.

Mr McGuinness said he was later told by Mr Robinson that the Pimco deal had collapsed - but he did not ask any questions about the deal or why it had collapsed.

He detailed several other meetings and a litany of phonecalls that had taken place relating to the Nama portfolio and its potential and subsequent sale - some of which he said included the Finance Minister,Michael Noonan - that he said he was also not privy to at the time, but had found out about later.

Mr McGuinness said the fact he was not involved in these contacts in his opinion raised questions about how Mr Noonan had handled the situation and how he had treated his office.

Mr McGuinness also said that the fact he was repeatedly not informed by the North’s former first Minister Peter Robinson about various meetings and phone calls also raised “ very serious questions in relation to what capacity the first minister was acting” in relation to Nama.

The Deputy First Minister told the Stormont Committee that from his perspective the most serious of the meetings that he was excluded from was one that took place at Stormont Castle on 25 March 2014.

This involved the First Minister Peter Robinson, the former Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, Ian Coulter, the former managing partner of Tughans and representatives from the US investment group Cerberus, which ultimately acquired the Nama portfolio.

Mr McGuinness said this meeting was “hugely significant”.

Mr McGuinness also told the Stormont inquiry that he was never personally informed that the sale of the Nama portfolio had taken place.

He is continuing to give evidence to the Stormont inquiry.

Before Mr McGuinness arrived to give evidence in public session to the Finance Committee it also debated whether it should hear evidence from the loyalist blogger and flag protestor Jamie Bryson in public.

The cross party committee agreed to hold a preliminary public session with Mr Bryson to decide if his evidence would meet the terms of reference that the inquiry is based.

This session will begin after Mr McGuinness has concluded his evidence giving session with the inquiry.