Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson has rejected allegations that he was to benefit from a property deal, calling the claims “scurrilous and unfounded”.
Activist and high profile blogger Jamie Bryson told the Stormont Inquiry today that the DUP Leader was one of five people set to receive a success fee in the sale of £1.2 billion worth of assets owned by NAMA. Mr Bryson named all five of the accused beneficiaries to the public hearing.
The fee was to be paid in to an off-shore account controlled by the Belfast solicitors’ firm Tughans, Mr Bryson said.
He said: “This was a success fee that was to be paid in to a dormant Danske Bank account in the Donegal Square West branch [in Belfast] and from there it was transferred to an off-shore account.
“There were to be a number of beneficiaries to this fee and I will refer to them simply as person A, person B, person C, person D and person E.
“I can now tell this committee without fear of contradiction that person A is Mr Peter Robinson MLA, person B is [developer] Mr Andrew Creighton, person C is [accountant] Mr David Watters, person D is [former NAMA adviser] Mr Frank Cushnahan and person E is [solicitor] Ian Coulter.”
Members of Mr Robinson’s Democratic Unionist Party opposed the public hearing, challenging Mr Bryson’s evidence and protesting its public disclosure. “He [Mr Bryson] has now moved on to make extremely serious allegations and all he has is hearsay and his opinion,” said MLA Jim Wells.
In a statement released after the committee hearing, Mr Robinson repeated his denial that he was to receive a payment.
“I repeat, I neither received, expected to receive, sought, nor was I offered a single penny as a result of the NAMA sale.
The allegations made today lack credibility and can have no evidential basis. The scripted performance was little short of pantomime. It is outrageous that such scurrilous and unfounded allegations can be made without providing one iota of evidence.
I am happy to appear before the committee.”
The BBC’s Economics and Business Editor John Campbell described the allegations as “explosive” while Political Editor Mark Devenport predicted that today’s hearing would have further negative impacts on the relationship between Sinn Féin and the DUP.
Following the hearing and Mr Robinson’s denial, Jamie Bryson said he stood by his claims and challenged Mr Robinson to follow up on threats to sue him.
I wish to reiterate that I stand over all allegations made before the DFP committee today.
We have heard unambiguous denials from Peter Robinson before, along with threats to sue. It’s about time he followed through on his threat to sue. If Mr Robinson is so certain my evidence will not stand up to scrutiny then there is a clear path through the courts for Mr Robinson to initiate legal proceedings and prove my allegations as false.
I attach no weight to the predictable denials by Mr Robinson and furthermore I fully expect an onslaught to discredit me and my evidence. I am confident that when all the smoke has cleared, whenever that may be, that I will be the one who has told the truth.