A property developer has rejected allegations of corruption linked to the controversial sale of Nama’s assets in Northern Ireland as “garbage” akin to “graffiti on the wall”.
Paddy Kearney launched a stinging attack on his accusers as he gave evidence to the Stormont committee investigating the £1.2 billion sale of Nama’s northern portfolio to US investment firm Cerberus.
Nama is the so-called “bad bank” set up by the Irish government during the financial crisis to buy high-value loans off the books of bailed out banks.
The huge deal involving the eventual sell-on of Nama’s assets in Northern Ireland was thrust into the spotlight in the summer when outspoken Independent TD Mick Wallace used parliamentary privilege in the Dail to make allegations of a political pay-off.
He claimed £7 million in an Isle of Man bank account was “reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or political party”.
Political watchdogs on both sides of the border are examining the circumstances surrounding the Nama sale while the National Crime Agency (NCA) has also launched a criminal investigation.
All parties involved in the deal, which was called Project Eagle, have denied wrongdoing.
Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, who gave evidence before the Stormont finance committee inquiry last month, has also made a series of explosive claims about the sale, alleging corrupt conduct by First Minister Peter Robinson and a number of senior business, property and legal figures in Northern Ireland. All have denied the claims.
Among his claims, Mr Bryson alleged that Mr Robinson exerted undue influence to secure a favourable “sweetheart deal” for Mr Kearney when he moved to refinance his Nama-controlled loans when they were bought by Cerberus.
Mr Kearney told the committee on Wednesday he had been the victim of “unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations” and “unwarranted personal attacks”.
“Past testimony I refer to alleged I was somehow involved with others in manipulating in a criminal and corrupt manner the sale and purchase of the Northern Ireland Nama loan book resulting in what has been termed a sweetheart deal for myself and my company from Cerberus,” he said.
“These allegations are totally unfounded and unsubstantiated.
“I can categorically state I did not receive any preferential treatment from Cerberus or Nama in any shape or form.”
Mr Kearney was scathing about Nama and how it handled his loans, claiming they tried to “intimidate, frighten and bribe” him to hand over control of his company.
He said he approached Mr Robinson only to ask him to write to senior Nama figures to ask for a face-to-face meeting to discuss his case.
The developer, who is one of the so-called Maple 10 who bought shares in the troubled Anglo Irish Bank during Ireland’s financial crash, used strong terms to accuse Nama of inflicting major damage on the property market north of the border.
“In my view and in terms of disruption of value and of progress in the property market in Northern Ireland, Nama did in three years, without firing a shot, what the terrorists couldn’t do in 50,” he said.
He added: “I want to put to bed once and for all this myth about political influence used on my behalf to secure a so-called sweetheart deal from Cerberus,” he said.
Mr Kearney continued: “I make no apology for requesting Peter Robinson’s assistance – there was nothing improper or sinister involving my contact with him, as has been alleged.”
In an apparent reference to Mr Bryson, he claimed a “puppet” was being used by “faceless individuals” who had vendettas against him.
“These people have agendas driven by envy, mal-intent, resentment and a sick need for revenge,” he said, disclosing he knew who they were.
“Given their so-called professional status these people should know better – their agendas are personal, ill-advised and I don’t believe involve any concern for the welfare of any taxpayer or member of the general public, north or south.”
He said if they had evidence they should produce it to the committee or the NCA.
“It’s time to put up or shut up – actions speak louder than words,” he said.
The developer appeared before the committee with long-term associate and friend Alan Mains.
Mr Mains, a former high ranking police officer, also denied any wrongdoing.
“We feel we had to come here to put the record straight,” he told committee members.
Earlier, the committee heard from Department of Finance Permanent Secretary David Sterling.
He insisted the department had not been aware of the alleged fee payments.
“We didn’t have any knowledge until we learnt about it in the media,” he said.