Northern Ireland

Nama deal: Peter Robinson tells inquiry personal benefit claims 'outrageous'

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Media captionPeter Robinson was called to give evidence to a Stormont inquiry investigating the £1.24bn sale.

Northern Ireland's first minister has told a parliamentary inquiry it is "outrageous" to allege he was to benefit from a £1.24bn property deal.

Peter Robinson is appearing before Stormont's finance committee.

It had previously heard he was set to benefit from a "success fee" after Northern Ireland's biggest ever property deal.

Mr Robinson said the allegation from a political blogger was "groundless" and made "without a shred of evidence".

Robinson defends Cushanhan Nama role

Nama deal: The key figures and background you need to know

Timeline of Nama's Northern Ireland property deal

The deal concerned the Republic of Ireland's state-owned so-called 'bad bank', the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

It had been set up to take control of property loans made by the country's banks before the property crash in 2008.

Last year, Nama sold its entire portfolio of Northern Ireland loans to US investment firm Cerberus.

Motivated

Mr Robinson outlined to the committee on Wednesday his contacts with Cerberus and another investment fund, Pimco, that was interested in buying the portfolio.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Mr Robinson said he was "motivated by what was in the best interests of our economy"

He said the deal to sell the portfolio was necessary to help stimulate the Northern Ireland economy as it would allow fresh investment in properties.

Mr Robinson, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said he "neither received, expected to receive, sought, nor was I offered a single penny" as a result of the sale.

"Any and all efforts that I made were motivated by what was in the best interests of our economy," he added.

"It would have been a dereliction of my duty not to seek to protect the position of Northern Ireland."

He also said that Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was "kept informed throughout the process".

Mr McGuinness had told the committee he was not informed about meetings and contacts between Nama, bidders for the portfolio and DUP ministers.

In his evidence last month, he said it was "totally, absolutely misleading" for the DUP to say he was being kept informed about the Pimco bid.

Partner

Mr Robinson said his first meeting with a potential buyer of the portfolio in May 2013 may have been set up by Frank Cushnahan and Ian Coulter.

Image caption Nama sold its Northern Ireland loan book in an auction process to US firm Cerberus for £1.24bn

Mr Cushnahan was at the time an advisor to Nama, sitting on its Northern Ireland committee.

Ian Coulter was managing partner of the Belfast law firm Tughans.

Mr Robinson said he knew both men and described them as "motivated by the interests of Northern Ireland".

He added that he saw no evidence of a conflict of interest in Mr Cushnahan's role.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) is conducting a criminal investigation into the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loans.

Mr Robinson told the committee he is happy to co-operate with the NCA probe and welcomed the police investigation.

Blogger

Independent politician Mick Wallace alleged in the Irish parliament in July that in the wake of the Nama deal £7m was moved through a Belfast solicitors firm to an Isle of Man bank account for the benefit of a politician or political party.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Jamie Bryson alleged that Mr Robinson was one of five men set to share a £7m "success fee"

Last month, blogger Jamie Bryson alleged that Mr Robinson was one of five men who was to share the £7m.

But neither Mr Bryson or Mr Wallace has produced any evidence to show that any politician was to receive money.

It has been established that Cerberus indirectly paid a success fee of £7.5m to Tughans.

The bulk of that money was then moved to an Isle of Man account under the control Mr Coulter.

That caused a major dispute between Mr Coulter and the other Tughans partners.

The money was moved back from the Isle of Man, Mr Coulter left the firm, and the Law Society of Northern Ireland launched an investigation.

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