Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson bought land for £5
First Minister Peter Robinson is facing increasing pressure to explain why he failed to declare land on the House of Commons register he bought for £5 from a property developer friend.
Last night it emerged the DUP leader had bought the strip of access land from the late property tycoon Fred Fraser for just £5 in 2005, then subsequently sold it for the same price to another developer some 18 months later.
The deal allowed Mr Robinson and his wife Iris to sell part of their back garden for almost £460,000. But he never included the strip, located 50 metres from the back garden of their Gransha Road home, on the Westminster register. The land was the gateway to a proposed housing scheme which included their garden. He is also under pressure to explain why he did not declare a potential conflict of interest when the planning application for the scheme went before Castlereagh Borough Council for consideration.
In a statement the DUP defended its leader saying the sale of the strip to Bloomfield Developments was not essential for access to the housing scheme in east Belfast.
The party said there were no tax implications for the First Minister and his wife because the couple did not profit from the sale.
“The sliver of land was bought for £5 and sold for £5, a fact that has never been hidden, and Mr Robinson derived no financial benefit whatsoever from the transaction. There were a number of other access possibilities and the sliver of land was not essential for access,” the statement said.
According to the BBC, a professional valuation carried out on its behalf put the strip's value at around £75,000 when the Robinsons obtained it, and at least £220,000 when they sold it. While they made no profit, the BBC said tax experts believed Customs and Revenue could use market values on the sale instead of the £5 they bought it and sold it for.
This, the BBC claimed, potentially exposes the Robinsons to a tax bill of thousands of pounds.
But the party accused the media of conducting a “smear campaign” against its leader.
“It is difficult to escape the conclusion that this is yet another example of the ongoing BBC smear campaign against DUP leader Peter Robinson. In January they made groundless allegations against him in the Spotlight Programme and now they seek to smear him further by innuendo and inference,” the statement said.
Earlier this year revelations about Mrs Robinson's business dealings on behalf of her toyboy lover led to Mr Robinson temporarily stepping aside as First Minister. His wife, the former Strangford MP, was forced to quit the seat and her party after she failed to declare her financial interest in a £50,000 loan she helped secure for her lover Kirk McCambley.
Fred Fraser was one of two developers who provided the then teenager with £25,000 to help him set up a cafe in south Belfast.
Mrs Robinson, who attempted suicide when her husband discovered the affair and is in acute psychiatric care, did not declare her interest to ex-colleagues on Castlereagh council, who awarded the cafe contract to Mr McCambley. She is currently the subject of a police investigation.