Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson's son was approached 'in bid to advance Nama-related visas'

By Lisa Smyth

The former Northern Ireland advisor of Nama has said he approached a son of Peter Robinson for assistance in progressing the visa applications of wealthy Chinese investors who were prepared to spend at least €1bn on the body's Northern Ireland assets.

Frank Cushnahan made the claim in an email to Bangkok-based businessman Barry Lloyd on February 1, 2012 - when Peter Robinson was First Minister - as the pair discussed efforts to attract international buyers for Nama's Northern portfolio.

The email in which Gareth Robinson was mentioned is one of a number of exhibits put forward by Mr Lloyd, in which he sets out his interaction with Mr Cushnahan from December 2010 onwards in relation to the potential sale of Nama assets in Northern Ireland.

The email from Mr Cushnahan to Mr Lloyd states he was "progressing the possibility of entrance visas" for the potential Chinese investors.

It goes on: "I have approached Gareth Robinson, the son of the First Minister, to research and compile the application(s)...Could you let me have an update on what, if any, progress you have made?"

Mr Robinson has been asked for his response to the email but declined to comment. "As the National Crime Agency are investigating the matter I have been making no comment on Nama matters," he said.

Mr Cushnahan has repeatedly rejected any suggestions of wrongdoing in relation to the Nama scandal.

He was accused in 2015 by a BBC Spotlight programme of receiving an illegal fixers fee for arranging the sale of the Northern Ireland portfolio to the American company Cerberus.

A subsequent Spotlight programme, which aired last September, featured secret recordings of a meeting between Mr Cushnahan and the property developer John Miskelly.

The programme claimed Mr Cushnahan received £40,000 from Mr Miskelly, with promises to help him buy back property he lost in the crash for a lower price - something Nama had prohibited developers from doing;

Mr Cushnahan could be heard telling Mr Miskelly he would make sure Gareth Robinson "gets something" in the proposed deal.

However, BBC reporter Mandy McAuley stated that there was no evidence Mr Robinson knew about the £40,000 payment, and did not produce any evidence he did know.

Paul Tweed, Mr Cushnahan's solicitor, has said of the latest development: "My client stands firmly over his earlier statement, particularly in relation to lack of context of this latest release to the media. The significance behind this gradual drip feed of emails is not lost on him."

On the matter of the alleged fee to have been payable to Mr Cushnahan in the event that he and Mr Lloyd had secured buyers in China for Nama's Northern Ireland assets, Mr Tweed said his client knew nothing of the proposed arrangement.

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