Fixer's fee for Frank 'The Snipe' Cushnahan over NAMA portfolio

Fixer’s fee for Frank ‘The Snipe’ Cushnahan over NAMA portfolio

THE chairman of NAMA has made a complaint to the Irish Republic’s ethics watchdog about a former member of the agency’s Northern Ireland advisory committee.

Frank Daly made the complaint against Frank ‘The Snipe’ Cushnahan who is at the centre of controversy surrounding Nama’s single largest property deal known as Project Eagle.

The property portfolio was sold to US investment giant Cerberus at a massive knock down price.

Frank Daly has written to the Standards in Public Office Commission formally complaining about Mr Cushnahan, saying he may have breached the Ethics in Public Office Act.

A spokesman for NAMA added: “The complaint does not relate to the sale of Project Eagle to Cerberus.

“It relates purely to Section 17 of the Ethics in Public Office Act and whether Mr Cushnahan made all required disclosures whilst a member of the NI Advisory Committee of NAMA”.

Project Eagle has been dogged by controversy after £7m linked to it was found in an Isle of Man bank account.

Investigations have been launched by the UK’s National Crime Agency, the US Department of Justice’s Securities and Exchange Commission as well as a parliamentary inquiry in Belfast.

SIPO has also confirmed that it has received a complaint from NAMA in relation to Mr Cushnahan and is considering it.

InMay, Frank Cushnahan CBE and Ronnie Hanna, both key figures at the centre of the Nama sale, were arrested by the NCA at their homes in Holywood, Co Down.

Following almost 24 hours of questioning, both men were released on police bail pending further inquiries.

Political watchdogs on both sides of the border are also examining the Nama sale – the north’s biggest ever property deal.

Last summer Nama told a Dáil committee that solicitor Ian Coulter was to share in a three-way split of £15m with Brown Rudnick and Frank Cushnahan if an earlier abandoned bid to purchase the northern Nama portfolio had gone ahead.

In March this year, Frank Cushnahan was secretly recorded by BBC Spotlight admitting that he was in line for money in an off shore account as part of the £1.3 billion sale of Nama’s Northern Ireland loans.

As BBC Spotlight was about to air a follow up to the programme, the NCA arrested former banker Cushanhan at his plush My Lady’s Mile home in the leafy garrison town of Holywood and also Ronnie Hanna.

The arrests was seen by observers as a move by NCA to prevent the programme being aired and making fresh revelations about Nama’ Project Eagle fire sale’.

BBC lawyers ruled that the programme would not go ahead as it could be prejudicial to any future legal proceedings.

Spotlight reporter Mandy Macauley previously revealed that at that meeting where Mr Cushnahan made the admission a developer whose loans were held by Nama said that he had been phoned by Gareth Robinson, the then First Minister Peter Robinson’s son, and told to go to Mr Cushnahan’s office where he contacted a senior Nama executive on his behalf.

Peter Robinson quizzed at Stormont committee over the £1.2 billion Nama deal

Peter Robinson quizzed at Stormont committee over the £1.2 billion Nama deal

Mr Cushnahan was covertly recorded during a meeting with accountant David Grey and developer John Miskelly in Belfast’s Malmaison hotel.

During the meeting, Mr Cushnahan referred to himself “working on the Cerberus thing….and basically all the work was done by me and him [Coulter].”

Referring to the bid by another major US investment firm, Pimco, to buy the loans (which Nama blocked after being told of Mr Cushnahan was in line for money as part of the deal), he said he did “all the same thing and the work which was done…that went forward through Ian only to Brown Rudkin [sic] who then obviously gave the information to Cerberus to make the bid”.

Then, referring to Mr Coulter who was the managing partner of Tughan’s law firm in Belfast at the time of the deal, he alluded to Mr Coulter’s decision to move millions of pounds from the Cerberus-Nama deal into an Isle of Man bank account.

Mr Cushnahan said: “He actually moved six million of it into an escrow [temporary] account.”

Mr Grey asked: “Do you know his biggest mistake? He put it in an account in his own name.”

Mr Cushnahan replied: “He did that because he then was able to say to them ‘there’s this. Cushnahan’s done all this work, therefore, he’s entitled to his fee”.

At the meeting, Mr Miskelly said to Mr Cushnahan: “You remember when Gareth Robinson phoned me that morning and told me to go to your office – and you phoned Ronnie [Ronnie Hanna, then a senior executive in Nama]?”

Mr Miskelly told the programme that the recording of him was accurate, including his belief that Gareth Robinson, Mr Cushnahan and Mr Hanna protected him from having his “lights put out” by Nama.

Mr Miskelly has now made a complaint to US financial watchdog The Securities and Exchange Commission.

Last year, even after serious questions about his involvement in the Nama-Cerberus deal had been raised, Mr Cushnahan and his fellow Nama deal fixer, senior lawyer Ian Coulter, were described by the then DUP leader as friends of his and “pillars of the establishment”

Last September, Mr Cushnahan’s solicitor wrote to Stormont’s Finance Committee to say that “most importantly, our client has never had any meetings, dealings, correspondence or contact of any kind with the New York investment firm Cerberus, or any Cerberus representatives”.

In a statement to the BBC, Cushnahan said that over several years he had gathered evidence and records of his business meetings which he claims implicates others in financial misconduct, insider trading, and other corrupt practices.

He said: “I realised that, in view of the continual suppression of my complaints to financial institutions, that this would be the only way to expose their financial misconduct and their corrupt dealings.

“All payments made by me to any persons during this period are fully accounted for.

“I have also reported financial misconduct to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in relation to the Project Eagle sale.

“My complaint to the SEC relates to insider trading and the bribery of foreign officials. I have initiated the whistleblower procedures with the SEC.

“I have consistently truthfully raised what I consider to be criminality and financial misconduct with the relevant authorities.

“In view of the ongoing investigation of my criminal complaints and in the interest of integrity of the judicial process I do not thing it is appropriate for me to make any further public comment on these matters.”

Mr Cushnahan said that he couldn’t comment because of the ongoing criminal investigation into the deal, which is being conducted by the National Crime Agency.

At Stormont’s Nama inquiry, Mr Bryson alleged in September that Mr Coulter was among five men set to share in a “success fee” linked to the sale.

The other four were said to be First Minister Peter Robinson, accountant David Watters, developer Andrew Creighton and ex-Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan.

All five have dismissed the allegations and strongly denied any wrongdoing.

The NCA investigation into the Nama ‘fire sale’ is ongoing.

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