Saturday 16 December 2017

Cushnahan: 'I asked NI First Minister's son to help buyers of Nama assets to get visas'

Former Nama adviser asked Peter Robinson's son, Gareth, to assist with visa applications for potential Chinese investors, writes Ronald Quinlan

Frank Cushnahan
Frank Cushnahan
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Nama's former Northern Ireland advisor, Frank Cushnahan, claimed in 2012 that he had approached the son of the then Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson for assistance in progressing the visa applications of wealthy Chinese investors who were prepared to spend at least £1bn on Nama's Northern Ireland assets.

Cushnahan made the claim in an email to Bangkok-based businessman Barry Lloyd on February 1, 2012 in the course of correspondence relating to their efforts to attract international buyers for Nama's Northern portfolio.

Having informed Lloyd that he was "progressing the possibility of entrance visas" for the potential Chinese investors, Cushnahan wrote: "I have approached Gareth Robinson, the son of the First Minister, to research and compile the application(s)… Could you let me have an update on what, if any, progress you have made?"

Asked for comment on Cushnahan's claims in relation to his involvement in preparing the proposed visa applications, Gareth Robinson said: "As the [UK] NCA (National Crime Agency) are investigating the matter I have been making no comment on Nama matters."

The email in which Robinson's name is referred to, is just one of a number of exhibits included in an affidavit sworn by Barry Lloyd at the offices of a leading Dublin solicitor three weeks ago, in which he sets out in some detail his discussions and interactions with Cushnahan from December 14, 2010 onwards in relation to the potential sale of Nama assets in Northern Ireland.

Today, Cushnahan remains at the centre of the ongoing controversy surrounding Nama's eventual sale in April 2014 of its Northern Ireland loan book for £1.2bn to US private equity giant Cerberus.

While Cushnahan has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to the 'Project Eagle' deal, the circumstances surrounding the transaction remain the subject of investigations by the UK's National Crime Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US.

The sale has also been examined by the Dail's Public Accounts Committee, with a report on the matter due to published shortly, and by Stormont's Finance Committee.

Contacted for comment, Cushnahan's solicitor, Paul Tweed, said: "My client stands firmly over his earlier statement particularly in relation to lack of context of this latest release to the media.

"The significance behind this gradual drip feed of emails is not lost on him."

Previously, the businessman and former member of Nama's Northern Ireland Advisory Committee had said he had no comment to make "on these or other selective communications relating to legitimate business discussions, which he was satisfied had been bona fide and lawful".

On the matter of an alleged fee which would have been payable to Cushnahan in the event that he and Lloyd had secured buyers in China for Nama's Northern Ireland assets, Tweed said his client knew nothing of this proposed arrangement.

Cushnahan has previously confirmed to this newspaper, however, that he had been involved in efforts to secure Chinese buyers for Nama's assets while serving on the Nama's Northern Ireland advisory committee.

In a statement on the matter released to the Sunday Independent, the businessman's solicitor stressed that "had any commercial agreement been reached with the Chinese or any other potential purchaser, then my client would have made a full disclosure to Nama".

Referring to Cushnahan's involvement in efforts to find buyers for Nama's assets, his solicitor added: "My client had no reason to believe that he was not entitled to encourage the interest of potential buyers and long-term investors from overseas.

"I have categoric instructions that any discussions would have related to not only Nama debt but would also have involved other institutional assets, this forming the core basis of Mr Cushnahan's business and expertise over the years."

Sunday Indo Business

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