Wednesday 17 January 2018

Ex-Nama adviser claims recording of his telephone calls was illegal

Frank Cushnahan: ‘didn’t know his calls were being recorded’
Frank Cushnahan: ‘didn’t know his calls were being recorded’
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The former Nama adviser at the centre of the controversy over the sale of the agency's northern loan portfolio has claimed the recording of his phone calls was illegal.

Businessman Frank Cushnahan was responding to revelations at a parliamentary inquiry that thousands of conversations he had with bankers, solicitors and politicians had been taped.

Developer and bookmaker Gareth Graham, a former business associate of Mr Cushnahan, is planning to hand the recordings over to police investigating allegations of corruption surrounding the €1.6bn sale of the Project Eagle portfolio.

Although the recordings pre-date the sale, Mr Graham claimed that they demonstrated "an ingrained culture of inappropriate and quite possibly illegal business conduct". The calls were recorded at premises owned by Sean Graham bookmakers in Belfast between 2005 and 2008, when Mr Cushnahan was a director of the business.

A fortnight ago, Mr Graham testified at Stormont's Committee on Finance and Personnel that calls into and out of the business were recorded for regulatory reasons and that this was known to staff.

However, in a letter to the committee, solicitors acting for Mr Cushnahan said he was "alarmed" by Mr Graham's evidence, that the recording of the calls was illegal and had been done without Mr Cushnahan's knowledge.

"At no time was Mr Cushnahan ever informed that his telephone calls would be recorded," said the letter from Belfast law firm John J Rice and Co. It adds: "Many of these calls deal with aspects of Mr Cushnahan's professional and personal life."

The law firm said Mr Graham had "no proprietary right to the tapes or their content" and had not sought their client's permission to divulge their content.

At the committee, Mr Graham said he believed Mr Cushnahan had set about trying to sell the business so he could cash in on a 5pc shareholding.

He alleged that Mr Cushnahan held on to the shares after the loans of some companies in the group had been placed in Nama but failed to disclose this when he was appointed to the agency's Northern Ireland Advisory Committee in 2010.

However, the letter maintains that Mr Cushnahan gave up the shareholding when he resigned as a director of the Graham group in 2008 and that no conflict of interest arose.

Mr Graham also claimed that Mr Cushnahan's "malevolent influence" led to loans that his companies had with Bank of Ireland being moved into Nama.

But Mr Cushnahan's solicitors rejected this. Their letter said there had been no falling out with the Graham family when Mr Cushnahan left and that he was never involved in deciding which loans should be placed in Nama.

Mr Cushnahan became a central figure in the Project Eagle controversy after it emerged that he had stood to earn £5m (€6.8m) in fees from US investment firm Pimco, if it was successful in its bid to acquire the portfolio.

However, Pimco voluntarily withdrew from the bidding after Nama had raised concerns about the proposed fee.

Irish Independent

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