Wednesday 21 February 2018

McKillen deleted texts because of fears phone had been hacked

Shane Hickey in London

PROPERTY investor Paddy McKillen has admitted deleting hundreds of text messages but insisted he only did it because he was concerned his mobile phone was being hacked by parties close to the Barclay brothers.

The hacking claims were heard in a London court yesterday, where it also emerged that Mr McKillen asked former British prime minister Tony Blair for help in dealing with NAMA when it moved to take over the debt of a company which owns three London hotels.

Mr McKillen is now suing David and Frederick Barclay over their attempts to take over Coroin, the holding company that ultimate owns the upmarket Claridges, The Connaught and the Berkeley hotels.

Mr McKillen owns 36pc of the £1bn (€1.24bn) company while the Barclays have 64pc, having acquired the debt secured on financier Derek Quinlan's shareholding from NAMA.

The developer yesterday denied the deleted texts had anything to do with a proposed Qatari refinancing of the debt and said he was fearful that parties close to the Barclays were trying to hack his phone.

He admitted that he had no evidence to support his accusation, but said that private detectives had previously sourced his US social security number. "There is nothing these people will not do," he added.

Former UK premier Mr Blair was described as an "honest broker" who acted to smooth a deal with the Belfast-born businessman and a Qatari syndicate.

Mr McKillen said he has known Mr Blair for six years, first meeting him at the World Economic Forum in Davos and having had two subsequent meetings. One meeting in 2010 was about NAMA and the possibility of it taking over debt in the hotel group.

"His (Tony Blair's) advice was that he would think about any ideas that would be helpful to the company regarding the NAMA transfer. That was it," Mr McKillen said.

Mr Blair runs a consultancy firm called Tony Blair Associates which offers advice on economic and political issues.

Asked if he was seeking Mr Blair's assistance in trying to lobby influential people, Mr McKillen said he was asking for the firm's advice. An email from Tony Blair Associates referenced Lord Myners, the then-UK financial services secretary, and Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair's former chief of staff.

"If Lord Myners is able to take this forward, then Jonathan is more than happy to work with you on ensuring that they (the issues) are communicated to the right people," the email read.

Asked whether the issue had been passed on to the Department of Finance in Dublin, he said: "It could have been". Mr McKillen said he did not follow up on the message. "As far as I was concerned it died there," he said.

Irish Independent

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