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BBC reveals illegal 'fixer's fee' admission from Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan - call for inquiry

By Allan Preston

Published 01/03/2016

Frank Cushnahan
Frank Cushnahan

A BBC Spotlight investigation has accused a businessman at the heart of Northern Ireland's £1 billion Nama property deal of accepting corrupt payments.

Frank Cushnahan had been appointed as an adviser to Nama, the Irish Government agency that was formed in 2009 to deal with property debts following the financial crash north and south of the border.

Northern Ireland's loan portfolio was sold to the American firm Cerberus in 2014.

It has been alleged that Mr Cushnahan was due to receive a so-called 'fixer's fee' for this and other deals, although he has always denied it.

A secret video recording last year of Mr Cushnahan in a Belfast hotel while he met with a Northern Ireland developer and an accountant appears to contradict this.

In the video he can be heard to admit that he would be paid an illegal multi-million pound fixer's fee for his work in arranging the deal.

Alliance Deputy Leader Naomi Long has called for an investigation into the allegations.

Mr Cushnahan had originally been appointed by the DUP as an adviser to Nama.

He had set up a meeting with the then First Minister Peter Robinson and an American firm called Pimco, which had offered to buy Northern Ireland's total property loan portfolio in a single deal.

That would have been the largest ever land deal in Northern Ireland's history.

Nama said it had no knowledge these meetings were taking place.

A £5m fee for Mr Cushnahan was promised by Pimco if the deal was successful.

The deal collapsed when Nama learned what was happening, as all sales were supposed to be on the open market.

Mr Cushnahan left Nama shortly after this and was not supposed to be involved with any further dealings.

When Cerberus, a second American firm, made a successful bid in 2014, Mr Cushnahan was not supposed to have had any part in it.

The secret video obtained by Spotlight contradicts this, appearing to show that Mr Cushnahan was still at the centre of the deal and that his continuing involvement was kept hidden from Nama.

Mr Cushnahan is heard to say that the majority of the work on the deal was completed by himself and a former Belfast solicitor, Ian Coulter.

John Miskelly, a Belfast developer who was present at the secretly-recorded meeting with Mr Cushnahan, has said he acted as a whistleblower to an American financial watchdog.

He added that he has kept detailed evidence of his property dealings over the past seven years that implicates others in financial misconduct in the Northern Ireland property dealings.

Mr Miskelly said he has passed his information on to the National Crime Agency and it is believed an investigation by the body has now been launched.

Mr Miskelly also made suggestions that at one point Mr Robinson's son, Gareth Robinson, advised him to contact Mr Cushnahan for advice.

In response to the programme, Mr Robinson said he had given a full account of his actions to the Public Accounts Committee at Stormont and would co-operate fully with the NCA investigation.

The former First Minister and DUP leader added that "such matters should be left to professional investigators rather than a television programme".

At the end of the programme BBC Spotlight reporter Mandy McAuley said: "Northern Ireland's biggest ever property sale is about to turn into its biggest financial and political scandal."

Belfast Telegraph

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