Peter Robinson has categorically denied a dramatic public accusation that he stood to benefit from the £7 million moved to an offshore bank account as part of the NAMA-Cerberus deal.
The DUP leader responded to rebut an allegation by the loyalist blogger and former flag protester Jamie Bryson that the money was earmarked for five individuals, of whom he was one.
Appearing before the Assembly’s NAMA inquiry, the north Down man, who has been making a series of online allegations for two months, alleged that the other four individuals were solicitor Ian Coulter, former NAMA adviser and businessman Frank Cushnahan, developer Andrew Creighton and accountant David Watters.
Mr Bryson did not produce evidence to support his allegation but claimed to have seen a document which was removed from Tughans law firm which contains the five names.
He said the document is now with the National Crime Agency.
Responding to the allegations in a statement yesterday afternoon, Mr Robinson said: “I repeat, I neither received, expected to receive, sought, nor was I offered a single penny as a result of the NAMA sale.”
Mr Bryson, who deliberately repeated his allegations online after appearing at the committee so that he is not covered by Parliamentary privilege, responded to the DUP leader by challenging him to launch libel proceedings against him.
The committee also heard allegations from Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness that he had not been informed – either by the DUP or by the Dublin government – of key developments and meetings relating to the sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland loans.
Mr McGuinness said that Mr Robinson’s actions around the NAMA deal “raise very serious questions as to what capacity the first minister was acting”.
Mr McGuinness said that Mr Coulter and Mr Cushnahan are key to the NAMA controversy.
He said “they’re no friends of mine” but added that they are close to the DUP.
In one testy exchange with the DUP’s Jim Wells, Mr McGuinness was told: “I ask the questions; you do the answering...I’m not here to help your case.”
DUP MLAs had attempted to have Mr Bryson’s evidence heard in closed session.
Despite the DUP’s boycott of Assembly business as part of its attempt to show that it’s not “business as usual” at Stormont in the wake of the murder of Kevin McGuigan, there was a full turnout of DUP MLAs at the committee.
The DUP proposal to hear Mr Bryson with the public excluded was supported by independent MLA John McCallister, but they were outvoted by Sinn Fein, the SDLP, Alliance Party and UUP.
Mr Bryson also said that Mr Robinson’s son Gareth worked as lobbyist for Lagan Homes at a time when the then DUP finance minister Sammy Wilson “took keen interest” in Lagan’s Millmount development in Dundonald which was in NAMA. Mr Bryson claimed that leading developer Paddy Kearney, a friend of the DUP leader, is about to buy the Millmount development.
In a torrent of information and allegations which MLAs found difficult to comprehend, Mr Bryson also queried whether Fortress Capital, which had been bidding for the NAMA loans, had been a “stalking horse” for Cerberus.
Committee chairman Daithi McKay said at the end of Mr Bryson’s evidence that it had been “very useful” and underlined the importance of Mr Robinson appearing before the committee.