Northern Ireland

Nama inquiry: Peter Robinson rejects Bryson payment claim

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Media captionJamie Bryson alleged at Stormont's Finance Committee that Peter Robinson was to receive payment as a result of the Nama NI deal

Northern Ireland's first minister has rejected an allegation that he was to receive a payment upon completion of NI's biggest property deal.

DUP leader Peter Robinson said the claims were "scurrilous and unfounded", and without "one iota of evidence".

The £1.2bn sale was of property loans to US firm Cerberus by Nama - the Republic of Ireland's "bad bank".

The claims were made at Stormont's finance committee by loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson.

Mr Bryson said the other beneficiaries were to be solicitor Ian Coulter, accountant David Watters, ex-Nama advisor Frank Cushnahan and developer Andrew Creighton.

He told the committee that the money was paid into an Isle of Man bank account controlled by Mr Coulter.

'Pantomime'

In a statement, Mr Robinson said: "I repeat, I neither received, expected to receive, sought, nor was I offered a single penny as a result of the Nama sale.

"The allegations made today lack credibility and can have no evidential basis. The scripted performance was little short of pantomime. It is outrageous that such scurrilous and unfounded allegations can be made without providing one iota of evidence.

"I am happy to appear before the committee."

Nama: The key figures and background you need to know

Timeline of Nama's NI property deal

When asked for a response to Mr Bryson's allegations, a spokesman for Mr Watters and Mr Creighton said there would be "no comment at this time".

A spokeswoman for Mr Coulter re-issued a statement from July when he said no politician was to benefit from the deal, while Mr Cushnahan has previously stated that he never had "any meetings, dealings, correspondence or contact" with Cerberus or any of its representatives.

Analysis: BBC NI Economics and Business Editor John Campbell

The allegation that Northern Ireland's first minister was to receive a payment is explosive.

But Jamie Bryson did not provide the inquiry with documentary evidence to back that claim.

He said there were documents that will support his allegations but they are held by the National Crime Agency.

Mr Bryson has provided the committee with a dossier that contains material such as company accounts - but it doesn't appear to contain a smoking gun.

Image caption Peter Robinson said in July that no-one in his family or party hoped to benefit by "one penny" from the sale

In July, a politician in the Irish parliament alleged that £7m was to be channelled to a bank account that was "reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician".

That has led to a number of inquiries, including a criminal investigation led by the National Crime Agency.

Political analysis: Mark Devenport, political editor

Today on the Stormont estate, representatives of Northern Ireland's five main parties were working to try to chart a way out of the current political crisis.

But in Room 30, at the rear of Parliament Buildings, there was no evidence of a ceasefire in the conflict between the politicians.

Sinn Féin's deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, denied any responsibility for the handling of the sale of Nama's northern portfolio and pointed a finger in the direction of first minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson.

When it came to Jamie Bryson's evidence, DUP MLAs were keen to keep it behind closed doors. But they were outvoted.

Theoretically the Nama inquiry is on a separate track to the talks trying to resolve the latest political stalemate.

But it's hard to imagine the drama played out in Committee Room 30 not having an adverse impact on the already strained relationship between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

The BBC has established that money in an Isle of Man bank account was intended to facilitate payments to deal-fixers.

The money was in an account controlled by Ian Coulter, a former managing partner at Belfast law firm Tughans's.

He left the company in January and has said the money was fees for work he did on the deal.

'Scrutiny'

Mr Coulter said in a statement in July that no politician, nor any relative of any politician, was ever to receive any money from the deal.

He added that the cash was moved to the Isle of Man for "a complex, commercially and legally-sensitive" reason.

The money was retrieved by the firm, which reported the transaction to the Law Society.

Cerberus, which bought the loans from Nama, has denied that any improper or illegal payments were made on its behalf.

Nama says the sales process was "robust, competitive and secured the best outcome for the Irish taxpayer".

Who is Jamie Bryson?

Image copyright Pacemaker

Jamie Bryson first came to public prominence during loyalist protests against Belfast City Council's decision in December 2012 to limit the number of days that the union flag flies from the city hall. It had previously been flown all year round.

Some of the demonstrations resulted in violence.

Earlier this year, Mr Bryson was found guilty of taking part in unlawful public processions as part of the widespread demonstrations. He received a six-month suspended sentence.

Although he was not involved in violence, a judge said the unlawful marches caused disorder at a "very tense and sensitive time".

He previously stood as an independent candidate in the 2011 local government election, receiving 167 votes in North Down.

Earlier on Wednesday, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told the committee there were "very serious questions" about what capacity Mr Robinson was acting in with regard to the Nama loan sale.

The Sinn Féin assembly member said he was not told about meetings and contacts between Nama, bidders for its NI portfolio and DUP ministers.

Image caption Jamie Bryson appeared before the committee after Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness gave evidence

After Wednesday's hearing, Stormont finance committee chairman Daithí McKay of Sinn Féin said it was "important that openness and transparency are maintained during the inquiry".

The committee's deputy chairman, Dominic Bradley of the SDLP, said Mr Robinson must appear before the inquiry "to submit himself to the scrutiny".

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