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Robinson says he will go before committee probing £1.2bn deal

By Staff Reporter

Published 02/10/2015

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson is to appear before a parliamentary committee investigating Northern Ireland's biggest property deal.

The DUP leader said he was willing to give oral evidence to Stormont's finance committee on October 14.

In a letter to committee chairman, Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay, he wrote: "I will happily make myself available to attend the committee on the earliest of the dates you offered me of Wednesday, October 14."

A copy of the letter was posted on Twitter.

In evidence to the committee last week, high-profile loyalist blogger and flag protester Jamie Bryson named Mr Robinson among five people to receive a share of a "success fee" linked to the £1.2bn sale of assets by Nama (National Asset Management Agency) - the so-called bad bank set up by the Irish government - to US investment firm Cerberus.

He alleged 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 - who has since left the firm.

Mr Bryson did not produce documentary evidence to substantiate his claims. All parties involved in the Nama transaction have vehemently denied acting unlawfully.

Afterwards, Mr Robinson (right), who has temporarily stepped aside as First Minister amid a political crisis linked to the murder of a man by IRA members in August, issued a statement in which he branded the allegations baseless and described Mr Bryson's performance like a pantomime.

He 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."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has already given evidence to the finance committee.

He has now said he would be willing to give evidence on his knowledge of the Project Eagle sale in Dublin.

Forty-one files on the sale of Project Eagle were released by the Republic's Department of Finance on Wednesday night, sparking withering attacks from members of Dublin's Public Accounts Committee.

One document showed Mr McGuinness had been listed as attending a teleconference on the sale of the Nama portfolio with Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Mr Robinson, despite the Sinn Fein MLA saying previously he had been "kept in the dark".

DUP MLA and former Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said Mr McGuinness was "intimately involved in the discussions" around the Project Eagle sale.

So far, Nama officials have refused to travel to Stormont, saying they are only accountable to the Oireachtas in Dublin.

Yesterday's hearing was attended by Mr McKay, who said it was "regrettable" Nama had refused to appear before it in Belfast.

"Nama and others cannot continue to use the excuse of the ongoing criminal investigation as a reason for not coming before the committee," he said.

But yesterday at the Dail's Public Accounts Committee, Nama chairman Frank Daly offered to get support from the board to meet the Stormont committee in private.

Nama has been dogged by allegations from Independent TD Mick Wallace, a former builder, first about the Isle of Man deposit, then that £45m was set aside for "fixers" who secured the Project Eagle purchase and a third claim that a company was encouraged to pay a €30,000 bribe to exit the debt agency.

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