Frank Cushnahan has been secretly recorded by the BBC admitting that he was in line for money in an off shore account as part of the £1.3 billion sale of Nama’s Northern Ireland loans.
Contrary to what has publicly been claimed until now by Mr Cushnahan, Nama and US fund Cerberus which bought the loans, the well-connected veteran business figure was recorded by BBC Spotlight admitting that he had been in line for some of the millions in fees as part of the deal.
Spotlight also revealed that at that meeting where Mr Cushnahan made the admission a developer whose loans were held by Nama said that he had been phoned by the then First Minister Peter Robinson’s son, Gareth Robinson, and told to got to Mr Cushnahan’s office where he contacted a senior Nama executive on his behalf.
Last year, even after serious questions about his involvement in the Nama-Cerberus deal had been raised, Mr Cushnahan and his fellow Nama deal fixer, senior lawyer Ian Coulter, were described by the then DUP leader as friends of his and “pillars of the establishment”
Last September, Mr Cushnahan’s solicitor wrote to Stormont’s Finance Committee to say that “most importantly, our client has never had any meetings, dealings, correspondence or contact of any kind with the New York investment firm Cerberus, or any Cerberus representatives”.
Mr Cushnahan was covertly recorded by the BBC during a meeting with accountant David Grey and developer John Miskelly in Belfast’s Malmaison hotel.
During the meeting, Mr Cushnahan referred to himself “working on the Cerberus thing....and basically all the work was done by me and him [Coulter].”
Referring to the bid by another major US investment firm, Pimco, to buy the loans (which Nama blocked after being told of Mr Cushnahan was in line for money as part of the deal), he said he did “all the same thing and the work which was done...that went forward through Ian only to Brown Rudkin [sic] who then obviously gave the information to Cerberus to make the bid”.
Then, referring to Mr Coulter who was the managing partner of Tughan’s law firm in Belfast at the time of the deal, he alluded to Mr Coulter’s decision to move millions of pounds from the Cerberus-Nama deal into an Isle of Man bank account.
Mr Cushnahan said: “He actually moved six million of it into an escrow [temporary] account.”
Mr Grey asked: “Do you know his biggest mistake? He put it in an account in his own name.”
Mr Cushnahan replied: “He did that because he then was able to say to them ‘there’s this. Cushnahan’s done all this work, therefore, he’s entitled to his fee”.
At the meeting, Mr Miskelly said to Mr Cushnahan: “You remember when Gareth Robinson phoned me that morning and told me to go to your office - and you phoned Ronnie [Ronnie Hanna, then a senior executive in Nama]?”
Mr Miskelly told the programme that the recording of him was accurate, including his belief that Gareth Robinson, Mr Cushnahan and Mr Hanna protected him from having his “lights put out” by Nama.
Mr Miskelly has now made a complaint to US financial watchdog The Securities and Exchange Commission.
In a statement to the BBC on Sunday, he said that over several years he had gathered evidence and records of his business meetings which he claims implicates others in financial misconduct, insider trading, and other corrupt practices.
He said: “I realised that, in view of the continual suppression of my complaints to financial institutions, that this would be the only way to expose their financial misconduct and their corrupt dealings.
“All payments made by me to any persons during this period are fully accounted for.
“I have also reported financial misconduct to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in relation to the Project Eagle sale.
“My complaint to the SEC relates to insider trading and the bribery of foreign officials. I have initiated the whistleblower procedures with the SEC.
“I have consistently truthfully raised what I consider to be criminality and financial misconduct with the relevant authorities.
“In view of the ongoing investigation of my criminal complaints and in the interest of integrity of the judicial process I do not thing it is appropriate for me to make any further public comment on these matters.”
Neither Gareth Robinson nor Tughans responded to the BBC’s questions.
Former DUP finance minister Sammy Wilson, who appointed Mr Cushnahan to the Nama advisory board, attacked the broadcaster behind the year-long investigation, describing it as the “sensation seeking biased BBC”.
Peter Robinson said that ministers had never backed any company which was bidding for Nama’s loans and said that “which firm succeeded was unimportant to us”.
Mr Cushnahan said that he couldn’t comment because of the ongoing criminal investigation into the deal, which is being conducted by the National Crime Agency.