Belfast Telegraph

Calls for fresh Nama probe over claims businessman admitted to fixer's fee deal

By Allan Preston

Politicians have demanded a new investigation into Nama's controversial Northern Ireland property sale after allegations made on Monday by a BBC Spotlight programme.

In 2014, Northern Ireland's Nama loan portfolio was sold to the American company Cerberus for a sum of £1.3 billion in a deal called Project Eagle.

The BBC Spotlight investigation revealed that the businessman Frank Cushnahan claimed he was due to receive an illegal fixer's fee for helping to arrange the sale to Cerberus. Several DUP politicians were also implicated in the programme.

As a former adviser to Nama, Mr Cushnahan was not supposed to have had any involvement.

He has always denied asking for payments but was caught on camera admitting the opposite in a video secretly recorded in a Belfast hotel last year by the Spotlight team.

Following the programme, politicians on both sides of the border repeated their calls for a fresh probe.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he wanted a commission of investigation established in the Republic of Ireland.

"Sinn Fein does not believe the taxpayer got best value for money from the sale of Project Eagle to a US vulture fund at a huge discount," he added.

"I have asked why (Irish Finance Minister) Michael Noonan failed to abandon the flawed sales process when another bidder, Pimco, made very serious disclosures to them about fixers and fee arrangements."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said the "whiff of foul play and skulduggery" would haunt politics at Stormont until all the facts were known about the Nama affair.

Mr Nesbitt added that it "called into question the judgment of those at the very heart of Northern Ireland's political institutions". "Some individuals have come forward to shed some light on this dark corner of Northern Ireland society - it's now time for others to step up and do the same," Mr Nesbitt said, adding he would also be asking the Chief Constable for an update of the police investigation into the allegations.

Naomi Long, the Alliance Party deputy leader, called the Spotlight video of Frank Cushnahan "disturbing" and said: "At a time when public confidence in local politics is at an all-time low, it is vital any allegations of wrongdoing are investigated and done so urgently.

"Only by doing so can the parties implicated regain the trust of the people."

SDLP finance spokeswoman MLA Claire Hanna praised Spotlight for blowing "the lid on backroom dealings that went on around the Nama northern property deal."

She called for an independent cross-border inquiry, saying "sunlight is the best disinfectant" to get the truth about "such a shocking loss to the taxpayer".

The independent TD Mick Wallace famously made a series of allegations over fixers fees in the Irish Parliament last year.

Yesterday in typically direct style he tweeted: "Spotlight programme was good TV and shocking to many. But a bit fluffy, missed much of the core issues and showed a lack of b***s. Watch this space."

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