Wednesday 13 December 2017

Frank Cushnahan denies conflict of interest in letter to Nama chair

Businessman says Nama, not he, benefited from his role at agency

Frank Cushnahan has denied any wrongdoing
Frank Cushnahan has denied any wrongdoing

Gavin McLoughlin and Ronald Quinlan

Embattled businessman Frank Cushnahan's lawyer wrote to Nama chairman Frank Daly on January 25 last, strongly denying any conflicts of interest between Cushnahan's role on the agency's Northern Ireland advisory committee (NIAC) and Cushnahan's own business interests.

The letter says any record suggesting that Cushnahan was a shareholder in the Graham group of companies, which had loans transferred to Nama, was "the result of the failure of the Graham Group of companies to have our client removed as a named shareholder from the relevant company register".

The letter, from John J Rice and Company, says Cushnahan believed that he had relinquished his shareholding before being appointed to the NIAC.

"Our client wishes to make clear that he never had any conflict of interest at any time during his service as a member of the Northern Ireland advisory committee of Nama."

Earlier this week, Nama made a complaint to the public standards watchdog about Cushnahan. The complaint to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) alleged that Cushnahan had breached the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995, with one arm of it relating to Cushnahan's shareholdings.

A Nama spokesman told the Sunday Independent: "All board and committee members are subject to the Ethics in Public Office Act and SIPO applies to them. Members were advised of their obligations pursuant to the Ethics in Public Office Act as part of the compliance induction process following their appointment."

Cushnahan's representative, Paul Tweed of Johnsons Solicitors, said Cushnahan was expected to mount a robust defence to the complaint.

"Our client undertook his advisory role with the Northern Ireland advisory committee of Nama for what was an honorarium of €5,000 per annum. At no time did he ever seek or make any claim for expenses," the letter from John J Rice and Company reads.

"Although our client did make appropriate disclosures upon his appointment and consistently thereafter, the reality is that none of the individual cases affecting clients of our client were ever discussed at the Northern Ireland advisory committee.

"He was not there to acquire sensitive information that he could then apply for his own personal benefit... the beneficiary of our client's membership of the committee was Nama, not our client."

Cushnahan made headlines this week after the BBC aired a television programme in which he appeared to say that he was to be paid a "fixer's fee" in connection to a sale of Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio.

He has always denied any wrongdoing in relation to his dealings with Nama.

Tweed told the Sunday Independent that he was "exploring the various legal options" in relation to the BBC broadcast on his client's behalf.

Sunday Indo Business

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