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Hand over all files on £1.2bn Nama deal, Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir told as arrested pair bailed

By John Mulgrew

Published 02/06/2016

Released on bail: Frank Cushnahan
Released on bail: Frank Cushnahan

The new Finance Minister has been told by Assembly members to release any previously withheld information his department has on Northern Ireland's biggest ever property deal.

It comes after two men arrested in Co Down by officers investigating claims of fraud were released on bail pending further inquiries yesterday.

One of the men is understood to be former Nama adviser and businessman Frank Cushnahan, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing over the Project Eagle property deal.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) detained the pair in relation to the controversial £1.2bn sale of loans previously owned by Nama - dubbed the Republic's "bad bank" - to US investment fund Cerberus in 2014.

During its first sitting yesterday, Stormont's finance committee confirmed that it would write to the new Finance Minister, Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir, to ask for the release of any additional documents relating to the Nama loan sale.

The deputy chair, SDLP MLA Claire Hanna, pledged that the committee's "rigorous investigation" would continue.

Fellow committee member, Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey, said the Nama investigation "can't be allowed to go away".

Speaking following the meeting, Ms Hanna added: "From day one, our message to the public on this matter was that they could have fullest confidence, and that we would pursue the truth rigorously and with full transparency.

"This is a live issue and we hope that the NCA and the US regulatory authority go wherever the evidence takes them.

"However, there are many issues within the remit of the Assembly and the finance committee, and there are no reasons why criminal and public inquiries cannot operate in parallel.

"The committee has requested that a letter be sent to the new Finance Minister (Mr O Muilleoir) asking him to release all papers from his department in relation to this issue."

Finance Committee chairwoman Emma Pengelly added: "I am indicating that I think we should have an early discussion with the NCA before we have any other substantive discussion around this matter just to ensure that we keep ourselves absolutely right and that we keep everybody else right on this."

But TUV leader Jim Allister said: "It is a matter of significant public interest, and I think it touches upon the credibility of this committee that we continue to address it."

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