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I am not answerable to Dublin inquiry into Nama sale, says Peter Robinson

Published 14/11/2016

Peter Robinson says his position
Peter Robinson says his position "has already been set out in detail" at the Northern Ireland Finance Committee hearing

Peter Robinson has said he is not answerable to a parliamentary inquiry in Dublin probing a controversial £1.2 billion property portfolio sale by the Republic's toxic assets agency Nama.

The former Northern Ireland first minister said he would want to help the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee investigation but he has not received an invitation to attend.

The committee said it sent a letter to Mr Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness more than a month ago, on October 5, asking them to give evidence before the hearings.

While Mr McGuinness agreed to attend, and is to be cross-examined on Wednesday, the parliamentary watchdog said it never received a response from Mr Robinson.

It works on the assumption that no response within 10 days means the invitee is unavailable.

Mr Robinson told the Press Association: "I have not received any invitation yet but constitutionally Northern Ireland ministers are not and should not be answerable to a Dail committee for their actions.

"However I would want to be helpful to the committee in carrying out its role. If they do want to contact me I'm sure we can devise another way to provide my views to the committee."

He added: "My position has already been set out in detail at the Northern Ireland Finance Committee hearing."

Mr McGuinness has previously said he thinks Mr Robinson should attend the hearings.

Dublin's Public Accounts Committee is investigating the sale by Nama of a massive Northern Ireland property portfolio, known as Project Eagle, to American investment fund Cerberus in 2014.

It wants to speak to Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness about a phone call they were involved in, along with Dublin's Finance Minister Michael Noonan, about Project Eagle in January 2014, months before the sale.

Another US investment company, Pimco, has told the committee it pulled out of an earlier bid for the portfolio after it discovered a "success fee" or fixer payment of £16 million for three parties behind the scenes.

Pimco said the money was to be shared equally by Belfast businessman Frank Cushnahan, US law firm Brown Rudnick, and Ian Coulter, a managing partner of Tughans, a Belfast law firm subcontracted to assist in the deal.

Mr Cushnahan was formerly a Nama adviser on Northern Ireland on the recommendation of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Brown Rudnick also acted as advisers in the successful deal with Cerberus, which has been dogged by scandal for more than a year, including £7 million linked to it being found in an Isle of Man bank account.

Mr Coulter resigned after it was unearthed.

Pimco said it was first approached about buying the portfolio in April 2013, by Brown Rudnick, which introduced Mr Cushnahan and Mr Coulter.

The investment firm was told the Northern Ireland government wanted to ensure there would no fire-sale of the properties and that "it was a sensitive political matter and would have a major impact on the Northern Ireland economy".

Following a meeting with Mr Robinson and then finance minister Sammy Wilson in May 2013, Pimco was "informed by Brown Rudnick that it was the Northern Irish government's preferred purchaser for Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio", the firm said in a letter to the committee last week.

All parties involved have denied any wrongdoing.

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