Developer calls on Peter Robinson to retract IRA slur
Published 19/01/2010 | 12:12
Peter Robinson MP has been challenged to retract allegations against a developer that were claimed in court to have been motivated by commercial rivalry.
Mr Robinson used Parliamentary privilege in February 2006 to accuse Belfast businessman Peter Curistan of a link to IRA money- laundering.
The allegation was strongly denied by Mr Curistan and subsequently dismissed by the police, a British Government department and a High Court judge.
But the DUP politician refused to withdraw his statement.
In a fresh salvo yesterday, Mr Curistan drew attention to the family-related political crisis currently facing the East Belfast MP.
He said: “I intend to mark the anniversary of Mr Robinson’s comments next month by writing to him asking him to make a full retraction and apology.
“He has been understandably complaining in recent days about hurtful, unsubstantiated allegations being aired.
“It is particularly ironic in that he was guilty of this very same thing against me, and great distress was caused to my family.”
A High Court hearing in 2007 was told Mr Curistan believed Mr Robinson had been acting as the “the voice piece of a commercial trading rival” when he made his Parliamentary comments.
The Belfast developer’s company Sheridan is well-known for its key role in the creation of the city’s flagship Odyssey centre.
The DUP MP claimed in the Commons on February 8, 2006 that Sheridan was associated with “the IRA's dirty money”.
He later sent letters to Northern Ireland Office ministers demanding action.
Mr Curistan took an unsuccessful judicial review the following year over a Government decision in late 2006 to axe his company as preferred developer for a prime riverside site.
He failed to persuade a High Court judge that the termination — by the Department for Social Development (DSD) — was linked to Mr Robinson’s comments.
During the court proceedings, the DSD’s barrister said the department viewed the money-laundering allegations as “baseless”, “ill-judged” and “unfounded”.
The lawyer said the police had been asked about the claim and had made clear there was “no basis for concern” about Sheridan. It was also revealed during the court case that a Northern Ireland Office minister had written to Mr Robinson in 2006 stating that he was “not aware of any evidence” that would call into question the source and legitimacy of the finances of Mr Curistan’s company.
Delivering his ruling in the High Court case, judge Mr Justice Gillen also described the money- laundering allegations as “baseless”. But he rejected claims by Mr Curistan’s legal team that the accusation of illegality had “poisoned” the Government’s handling of the riverside development scheme.
The judge said he had found no unfairness in this process.