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Police probing ex-Nama adviser Cushnahan over property case

By Alan Erwin

Published 26/11/2015

Former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan
Former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan

Former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan is being investigated by police following a complaint made by a prominent Belfast businessman, the High Court heard.

Gareth Graham reported Mr Cushnahan to the authorities last month, his barrister said.

A judge was also told Mr Graham has been removed as a director from the management company running one of his apartment complexes in the city.

Details emerged during the businessman's legal battle with US investment fund Cerberus.

Mr Graham is a director and major shareholder in property firms which own premises in Belfast. The companies' loans were among those transferred over to Nama, the Republic's bad bank.

Last year Cerberus snapped up Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio in a deal worth more than £1bn

Mr Graham is challenging the validity of the appointment of administrators to his companies.

He insists his businesses were financially strong and never missed a repayment. His legal team are set to claim an improper motive was involved. A two-week trial is due to get under way at the High Court in Belfast in January.

Mr Justice Horner was previously told the Nama deal would be rendered illegal if third-party 'fixers' were wrongly involved.

At one stage counsel for Mr Graham referred to Mr Cushnahan, a former Nama adviser who also worked for the Graham bookmaking business from 2005 to 2008. During his period with the business he had an office at its premises, the court heard.

Recorded telephone calls allegedly revealed a "deep animosity between Mr Cushnahan and the Graham connection".

In September Mr Graham told a Stormont inquiry the adviser was conflicted in his Nama role because he retained shareholdings in Graham property companies that were moved into the bad bank category.

As the case returned to court yesterday, it was confirmed that no civil action had been taken against Mr Cushnahan.

Mr Justice Horner then asked if the former Nama adviser had been reported to police. Counsel for Mr Graham, Monye Anyadike-Danes QC, replied: "He has, and police indicated that they are proceeding with the investigation."

Mr Cushnahan is not charged with any wrongdoing. He has also rejected the criticisms made at Stormont, insisting he gave up the Graham shareholdings in 2009.

With police enquiries said to be under way, questions were raised over what role transcripts of the recordings could play in proceedings.

The judge stressed that Mr Cushnahan had no involvement in the legal challenge and has rights which must be protected.

He said: "I don't think it's appropriate to be getting into a fact-finding exercise when there's an police investigation."

Earlier, it was disclosed that Mr Graham and his colleague, Adam Dickson, had been removed as directors of College Court Central Management Company Ltd.

Administrators voted to replace them on the body running a city centre apartment block at a meeting this month, the court heard. But Mr Graham and Mr Dickson are disputing the validity of the process, claiming they were not properly notified of the meeting.

The cases were adjourned until next month.

Belfast Telegraph

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