Belfast Telegraph

Recorded phone calls of Nama's £1.2bn advisor will be handed to police

By Shane Phelan

Recordings of thousands of phone calls involving bankers, solicitors and politicians will be handed over to police investigating the Project Eagle Nama deal.

All of the calls are said to involve former Nama advisor Frank Cushnahan, who is embroiled in the controversy over the £1.2bn sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loans portfolio to US vulture fund Cerberus.

Belfast property developer and bookmaker Gareth Graham said the recordings demonstrated "an ingrained culture of inappropriate and quite possibly illegal business conduct". He said this stretched "across political, legal, banking and accountancy sectors".

The tapes were made between 2005 and 2008 when Mr Cushnahan worked as a consultant for the Graham family's businesses in Belfast.

Although the conversations pre-date the Project Eagle sale by the Republic's so-called 'bad bank', which took place in April 2014, Mr Graham believes their contents are relevant to inquiries being conducted by the PSNI and the National Crime Agency.

Both agencies are investigating claims politicians were due to receive kickback payments in connection with the sale of the loan portfolio.

Mr Graham has also contacted the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), highlighting "inappropriate political relationships and potentially unlawful banking relationships" he alleges are disclosed in the conversations.

He told a hearing of the Assembly's finance and personnel committee there were potential breaches of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which would merit an SEC investigation.

The allegations were among a series of explosive claims made by the businessman during his evidence to the committee.

Mr Graham also alleged Mr Cushnahan failed to disclose to Nama that he had a 5% interest in companies whose loans were taken over by Nama. Mr Cushnahan previously claimed documents indicating he had the shareholding were "an administrative error".

Former banker Mr Cushnahan served on Nama's Northern Ireland Advisory Committee (NIAC) between May 2010 and October 2013. His appointment was made by the Republic's late former finance minister Brian Lenihan following a recommendation from the then Stormont finance minister Sammy Wilson.

Mr Cushnahan has been mired in controversy since July when Nama revealed how his involvement in the Project Eagle sale led to one of the bidders, investment firm Pimco, withdrawing.

This occurred after Pimco informed Nama in March 2014 - five months after Mr Cushnahan stepped down from the NIAC - that he stood to be paid £5m in fees if Pimco was the successful bidder. After Pimco withdrew, Cerberus secured the portfolio.

Mr Graham was one of 55 Nama debtors whose loans were sold to Cerberus as part of the deal. Cerberus subsequently moved to appoint administrators to two of his businesses, a move Mr Graham is currently fighting in Belfast's High Court.

The committee is to write to Mr Cushnahan inviting him to respond. His solicitor did not return calls seeking comment.

Belfast Telegraph


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