Northern Ireland

Nama deal: Peter Robinson says no-one in family or party hoped to benefit from sale

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Media captionMr Robinson said no-one in his family or his party hoped to benefit by "one penny" from the sale

First Minister Peter Robinson has said no-one in his family or party hoped to benefit by "one penny" from the sale of Nama's NI property loan portfolio.

He said the only thing Stormont ministers involved in promoting the deal were going to get out of their efforts was to see an eventual upturn in the construction trade.

The DUP leader said he only became aware of the plan for multi-million pound fixer fees in relation to the sale when the issue became public knowledge.

Mr Robinson told the BBC there had been "no vulgar talk about fees" at any meetings involving ministers.

Mr Robinson denied that the DUP had crossed a line by seeking to promote the sale of the Nama portfolio, first to the Pimco investment fund, and then the US firm Cerberus.

The first minister said he believed the public would have considered ministers "derelict in their duty" if they had not sought to get the best possible deal for Northern Ireland.

Mr Robinson denied the DUP had "gone it alone" in relation to the Nama deal.

He said other executive ministers had been kept informed and there is a paper trail related to such matters.

'Witch hunt'

The first minister denied there is a conflict of interests between his role in government and the business activities of his son, Gareth.

Mr Robinson said that his son, who runs a PR firm called Verbatim Communications, had been the target of a "witch hunt" by those trying to get at the first minister.

Image caption This will be the NCA's first major investigation since it began operating in Northern Ireland in May

The first minister said he had enjoyed a good relationship with both Ian Coulter, the former partner at Tughans legal firm and Frank Cushnahan, a former member of Nama's northern advisory committee.

It is understood Mr Coulter controlled an Isle of Man account central to the latest NCA investigation, whilst Mr Cushnahan was named in an Irish parliament (Dáil) committee on Thursday as a potential beneficiary of a £5m fixer fee related to the aborted sale of Nama properties to Pimco.

'Significant supporter'

The DUP leader warned against "rushing to make villains out of people".

Asked, if in retrospect, he regretted Sammy Wilson's appointment of Mr Cushnahan to the Nama advisory committee he described the businessman as a "significant player and significant supporter of the executive".

Mr Robinson welcomed the NCA-led investigation of the affair as preferable to sensationalist stories.

He indicated he would cooperate fully with the investigation.

Image caption Nama sold its Northern Ireland property portfolio to US investment firm Cerberus last year

The National Crime Agency (NCA) opened its investigation into the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland property portfolio on Friday.

Investigators from the agency met senior PSNI detectives and Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr, the officer in charge of crime operations, in Belfast.

It is understood they discussed how the inquiry will be taken forward, and what support the PSNI will provide.

The NCA is now expected to begin the process of securing relevant documents and electronic material.

It was announced on Thursday that the NCA would lead the investigation into the sale of Nama's NI property portfolio.

Complexity

It will also investigate claims about money contained in an Isle of Man bank account.

It is understood the PSNI asked the NCA to take the lead because of the complexity and scale of the investigation.

It is the NCA's first major investigation since it began operating in Northern Ireland in May.

The National Assets Management Agency (Nama) is the Republic of Ireland's "bad bank", set up to deal with toxic loans during the Irish banking crisis, and the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio is known as Project Eagle.

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