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Peter Robinson could face grilling in Dail over sale of Nama's £1.3bn loans book

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 08/07/2015

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson could be called before an Irish parliamentary committee to answer questions over a major property deal.

The Dail's Public Accounts Committee will today discuss claims surrounding the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book.

It will consider calling the First Minister to answer questions on the £1.3 billion deal.

The DUP did not respond last night when asked if Mr Robinson would be prepared to face the committee.

The Nama deal is at the centre of a growing political storm following allegations that £7m linked to the sale had been earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician.

Yesterday, Stormont's finance committee agreed to hold urgent hearings with a range of key figures involved in the Nama sale.

Witnesses will be compelled to appear if they do not attend voluntarily, committee chair Daithi McKay said.

The brief hearing was told the allegations, made by independent TD Mick Wallace in the Dail last week, are damaging Stormont.

DUP MLA Paul Girvan referred to "a dirty scheme".

Separately, the Dail's Public Accounts Committee is due to discuss the matter this morning.

It will consider compelling Mr Wallace to attend after he indicated his appearance would not serve any purpose. Today's meeting will also consider asking Mr Robinson to appear.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness, who chairs the committee, said he would "love to hear" from the DUP leader.

But he said the committee would have no powers to make him appear if he declined the invitation.

"It is outside our remit to compel him - we can't do that but certainly if he was of a mind to attend a meeting to clarify matters we'd love to hear from him," he told this newspaper.

Mr McGuinness said the committee's inquiry risked being incomplete without contributions from key players such as Mr Wallace and Mr Robinson.

"Nama can clarify their side of it, but it will be an unfinished story because of the fact that it was acted out in the north after that," he added. He said every political leader should try to help the investigation.

Earlier, Stormont's finance committee drew up a list of witnesses it wants to quiz over the Nama sale.

They include Ian Coulter, the former managing partner of Tughans, who is at the centre of claims about an off-shore account. He is alleged to have diverted funds to the Isle of Man bank account. Tughans - which denies any wrongdoing - said the money was diverted without its knowledge and has since been retrieved.

Mr Wallace, and Nama's Northern Ireland advisers Frank Cushnahan and Brian Rowntree, will also be asked to appear.

Former Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, as well as representatives from Nama and Cerberus Capital Management, a US investment firm which bought the portfolio, will also be called. Mr McKay said the committee had the power to compel attendance.

"A number of those players have said that they have nothing to hide, that they have not done anything untoward so there should be no issue with them attending the committee," he said.

Mr McKay said the committee was aware of rumours in the newspapers "and elsewhere" about the Nama sale.

He said public confidence must be restored.

Last April's Nama sale was the biggest property deal ever concluded in Northern Ireland.

Cerberus bought the 850-property portfolio in a £1.3bn deal.

That was a write-down of more than £3bn on its £4.5bn face value.

At the time Mr Robinson said the sale was "excellent news for the Northern Ireland economy".

In the wake of Mr Wallace's allegations, he unequivocally denied any link to the alleged £7m deal linked to Nama.

In the Dail yesterday, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he had long-running concerns about Nama's operations.

"This is public money - billions of euros worth of public assets, being sold off by Nama for vulture capitalists behind closed doors without any democratic oversight," he said.

"Nama has been ordered by the government to wind up faster than its 2020 remit, also raising concerns about a fire-sale of assets."

Mr Adams claimed Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan was aware of concerns at the sale of Nama's northern portfolio before it happened.

He said Mr Wallace's allegations were indicative of insider trading and political cronyism in the sale.

Nama and all the private firms involved in the Northern Ireland assets sale have denied any wrongdoing.


It has been alleged that a Northern Ireland politician stood to benefit from the sale of Nama’s northern property portfolio. It was bought in April 2014 by Cerberus Capital Management, a US investment firm. The £1.3b Cerberus paid was less than a third of the portfolio’s £4.5bn face value. Independent TD Mick Wallace raised concerns over the sale, naming Tughans, a Belfast law firm, as having acted for Cerberus and said “a routine audit showed that £7m ended up in an Isle of Man bank account”. He added: “It was reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician.”

Tughans has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

The company confirmed that a former partner, understood to be its former managing director Ian Coulter, diverted professional fees to an account without its knowledge. The BBC reported the £7m in the Isle of Man bank account was intended to facilitate payments to non-lawyers or deal fixers.

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