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Peter Robinson denies 'scurrilous and unfounded' payment allegations

Published 23/09/2015

Peter Robinson said he would be willing to appear before MLAs
Jamie Bryson leaving Parliament Buildings in Belfast

Democratic Unionist Party leader Peter Robinson has rejected allegations he was to receive any payment linked to Northern Ireland's largest ever property sale.

Dismissing as baseless the accusations made to a Stormont scrutiny committee, Mr Robinson, who has temporarily stood aside as first minister to facilitate talks to save the devolved Assembly at Stormont, said he would be willing to appear before MLAs.

DUP leader Peter Robinson
DUP leader Peter Robinson

In a hard hitting statement, 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."

In evidence to the finance committee at Parliament Buildings Belfast, high profile loyalist blogger and flag protester Jamie Bryson named the DUP leader among five people to receive a share of a "success fee" linked to the £1.2 billion sale of assets owned by Nama (National Asset Management Agency) - the so-called bad bank set up by the Irish government - to US investment firm Cerberus.

The fee was to be paid into an off-shore account controlled by Ian Coulter, a former managing partner of Belfast-based law firm Tughans, the committee heard.

Mr Bryson said: "This was a success fee that was to be paid in to a dormant Danske Bank account in the Donegal Square West branch (in Belfast) and from there it was transferred to an off-shore account.

"There were to be a number of beneficiaries to this fee and I will refer to them simply as person A, person B, person C, person D and person E.

"I can now tell this committee without fear of contradiction that person A is Mr Peter Robinson MLA, person B is (developer) Mr Andrew Creighton, person C is (accountant) Mr David Watters, person D is (ex Nama adviser) Mr Frank Cushnahan and person E is (solicitor) Ian Coulter."

The Nama sale hit the headlines when controversial Independent TD Mick Wallace used parliamentary privilege to make allegations of a political pay-off linked to the £1.2 billion sale of Nama's Nothern Ireland portfolio.

He claimed £7 million in an Isle of Man bank account was "reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or political party".

Political watchdogs on both sides of the border are examining the circumstances surrounding the Nama multi million deal while the National Crime Agency has also launched a criminal investigation.

All parties involved in the transaction have vehemently denied acting unlawfully and Mr Coulter, the lawyer who transferred money, has denied it was intended for any politician.

Mr Bryson was permitted to give his evidence in public following a committee vote by MLAs.

Members of the DUP opposed holding an open session claiming he had not established a direct link to the inquiry remit and challenged the credibility of his evidence throughout.

South Down MLA Jim Wells said: " Here we have no direct evidence from Mr Bryson.

"He has now moved on to make extremely serious allegations and all he has is hearsay and his opinion."

However, Mr Bryson hit back telling the committee he stood over his allegations "110%".

"I believe I have demonstrated a clear web of individuals, including politicians, who have contrived and conspired together to get things done and increase their own bank balances by a nod and a wink schemes," he said.

When pushed to reveal the source of his evidence, the well-known loyalist from Bangor, Co Down said he would rather go to jail than betray a confidence.

He said: "I am giving relevant information to this committee which sources, extremely close and involved in this nefarious deal, have provided to me as whistleblowers.

"I am not in a position to breach somebody's confidence before this committee."

Under questioning from Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir, Mr Bryson batted away any suggestion he was motivated by a dislike of the DUP.

"It is no secret that I have absolutely no time for the DUP but I am here to provide evidence," he said.

Earlier Martin McGuinness told MLAs he had not been fully engaged or fully briefed on the Nama deal.

The Deputy First Minister said he had been "kept in the dark" about a meeting at Stormont Castle between DUP ministers and former US vice president Dan Quayle.

He said: "I find it incredible that the First Minister did not tell me that a former US vice president was in Stormont.

"I can't get my head around that."

An important memorandum of understanding document relating to the Nama portfolio sale was also sent to the authorities in Dublin without his consent, Mr McGuinness said.

Afterwards, chairman of the finance committee Daithi McKay, confirmed that Mr Robinson would be invited to give evidence.

The public were entitled to answers, he said.

"Throughout this inquiry process I have repeatedly said that the public want openness and transparency on the sale of Nama's northern portfolio.

"This is a hugely important issue and the public want and are entitled to answers.

"I was pleased that we had openness and transparency today with the evidence sessions being conducted in public.

"The committee also agreed today to invite former first minister Peter Robinson to come before the inquiry to answer the serious allegations which were made today."

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