Spotlight NAMA investigation finds Cushnahan playing both ends off the middle…

Mandy McAuley’s Spotlight documentary on Monday is well worth watching in full. It does an excellent job of decyphering some of the Chinese whispers that have been running since independent TD Mick Wallace set a number of hares running last July.

But for me this is the absolutely critical passage in the documentary…

Most of the critical evidence appears to relate to the failed sale of the portfolio to PIMCO. The sale failed when NAMA learned that its advisor Frank Cushnahan was in line for a £5 million finders fee.

What Monday’s programme clarifies is that Cushnahan – knowing that Robinson and Wilson had changed their minds on the dangers of a fire sale – not only set up the deal with PIMCO but that he was also liaising with debtors for writing the debtor’s charter memo.

Since his role with the Executive and NAMA was advisory, it is far from clear that Mr Cushnahan has broken any law. But the interview with Brian Rowntree does make it clear that Cushnahan failed to declare his own interest on NAMA’s advisory committee.

That is certainly enough to put an end to his career as an advisor, or ‘Guru’ as Peter Robinson put it.

One disgruntled builder John Miskelly has referred the matter to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) who will no doubt take a forensic (black and white) interest in how the details of the deal was settled particularly in regard any write-offs to debtors guarantees.

As noted back in July, this is not the only case of wealthy individuals in the private sector running rings round a slow-witted public administration. The enormous benefits arising put the controversy of MP/MLA’s expenses into perspective…

Despite allusions within the programme to Red Sky, and a recommendation by Robinson’s son that a builder in trouble should speak to Cushnahan there is, as yet, no smoking gun on the politician connection raised in Wallace’s original Dail speech.

Nor does it seem, as Wallace originally suggested, that Brian Rowntree was in the loop on any of Cushnahan’s dealings.

Gerry Adams has called for another investigation. But since the last one on Stormont was so inconclusive, it might be wiser to wait until the SEC and others have discovered the legal or otherwise nature of these dealings before risking the firing of another useless blank.

The public appointments process in Northern Ireland remains a largely closed affair which gives it the potential to become a private playground for a small but powerful group of businessmen. Whistleblowers, for instance, need not apply.

Since Stormont has no real investigatory powers any remit for an investigation should seek a broader overview of the probity and use of private sector consultants in significant dealings between the public and private sector.

Thoughts not a hundred miles away from where we were when this all of this began…

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  • the rich get richer

    I’d say that you have had comprehensive Legal advice on this one.

    That must be why it took so long to get a thread up.

  • ted hagan

    Not only does it raise questions over Cushnahan’s goings-on but also the credibility of NAMA and its scrutiny, which should be investigated. NAMA comes across as a joke, to be quite honest, and has cost the taxpayer a fortune.

  • Robin Keogh

    Correct me if I am wrong Mick but did you not dismiss Wallace’s concerns and accusations at some point in the past?

  • ted hagan

    indeed. It was fine work by the BBC.

  • chrisjones2

    So thats one side of the story …..now who was due a share of the £7 million

  • mickfealty

    I was disquieted by most of what Mick said at the time. His dragging of Mr Rowntree into this now begins to look both thuggish and utterly unqualified.

    I never doubted that there was smoke, that’s why I included the Slugger report from July in which I outlined what I felt was the issue here.

    You’ll find those contemporary concerns of mine align with Spotlight’s discoveries much more than Mick’s initial privileged statement to the Dail.

  • mickfealty

    That one is for another time methinks Chris. What much of the commentary here misses is the singular importance of protecting public assets from undue manipulation by a small number of private sector players.

    It’s a particularly important issue within the kind of tiny market that NI constitutes.

  • Granni Trixie

    And there’s more – many dismissed what they heard because much of it was on Jamie Brysons blog. At the time I believe I noted that his blog seemed informed by a well informed source and sounded credible. I have heard rumours as to who this informant is and if true,it’s dynamite.

  • Granni Trixie

    Jamie was there first. Credit where credits due.

  • mickfealty

    Don’t get blinded by the controversy, and don’t forget to read the detail Granni. The air is loud around this story with the grinding of axes.

    Applauding rumours – without the evidence to underpin it – is a dangerous game.

  • mickfealty

    FFS Granni. There is no comparison.

  • Granni Trixie

    I am not comparing – just saying his blog seemed well informed then and with hindsight.

  • Brendan Heading

    Jamie simply published the material he was handed. The person we want to thank is the individual who collated the information that Bryson published, not Bryson himself.

  • mickfealty

    Hmmmm…

  • Granni Trixie

    He stuck to his guns even when under extreme pressure and laughed out of court. Courageous or foolish? the former for me.

  • chrisjones2

    I agree …and perhaps the more important side of the deal

  • chrisjones2

    …but who was Jamie’s Deep Throat and why? Some of it was very detailed and clearly showed long term knowledge

  • Brendan Heading

    Yes, because he’s got nothing to lose.

    And no, he doesn’t stick to his guns. He said he wanted to run for election back in 2014. Then he backed out. Now he’s back again. He was involved in the flag protests, now he’s backed away from them. He makes fake legal threats and never follows through. At one point he even pretended to be a lawyer.

    Bryson is a Walter Mitty figure who jumps on whatever bandwagon is going and appears on any TV or radio show that will give him an audience.

  • mickfealty

    Nope. Just didn’t have time to pull it all together any sooner.

  • mickfealty

    Ball people. This is getting petty and off the point!!!

  • Brendan Heading

    I think motivations are relevant Mick, but I hear ya.

  • aquifer

    Selling the NAMA bad loan book to one very rich company was possibly a way to avoid a local property crash and further damage to Banks’ balance sheets and lending capacity, as with one fat purchaser there would not be multiple owners competing to sell to get their money out fast. Will have put up house prices though.

  • notimetoshine

    It really was an excellent programme one of the best I’ve seen on BBC for a long time.

    In one way I can understand what certain members of the executive were doing, “going behind the back” of NAMA as it were, because there were real and genuine concerns about what such a large sale of assets in a such a small and currently fragile economy like NI could do. Arguably as good a deal for NI as possible under the circumstances if not for the Republic and NAMA.

    However as the programme highlighted the manner in which all this was conducted was questionable and there are certainly questions around ethics to be answered. It also does indicate some potentially uncomfortable closeness between the upper echelons of business in NI and politicians, inadvertent as it may have been. I don’t think we are at the stage of ‘cute hoorism’ which has abounded in the Republic but certainly questions to be answered.

    In the long run the waiver of the personal guarantees in that debtors charter is something that is concerning if only for political expidency in the South. It wouldn’t do for the southern electorate to see developers being let off the hook, considering the continued public derision for the developers and their financiers. Not an issue for the North, if it is the southern tax payer who is left out of pocket.

  • notimetoshine

    Agree with you there, not so good for the south potentially but I suppose the local economy does have to come first.

  • Robin Keogh

    And maybe Bryson has learned from his silly mess ups. Maybe he is trying to become more pragmatic and realist. If everybody who has once been called a fool hid in a shed, our parkiamentary chambers would be empty.

  • mickfealty

    It’s a subject that’s often more fit for mind readers too..

  • chrisjones2

    There is also the issue that some of what Mick said is wrong and some may be wrong

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Mick, there are at least two ways that “without the evidence to underpin it” may come about. There may be no evidence at all, because it did not exist, or there may be no evidence at all because it is in the interests of engeged parties to ensure that such evidence does not surface. And the recent Omagh Bombing debacle shows just how difficult anything is to pinpoint even where some evidence exists. While I was in media living in London rumours abounded about certain political and media figures, many very convincingly told by insiders. Of the long list I could make, only Saville and Cyril Smith have been strongly outed. Simply because no solid evidence can be deployed, it is not a proof of innocense, any more than a court verdict can be. It is simply a proof that no such evidence can be accessed.

    I’m keenly aware of the legal issues on any finger pointing without evidence, and of the sensitive line Slugger must tread to avoid defamation suits. Such sensitivities ensured that as long as Saville lived any abused person went in fear of his lawyers, something both they and any other accuser at the BBC discovered just as soon as they breathed a word about what was clearly going on.

    I even almost wonder if the choice of Bryson as a source to desseminate leaks is itself a method of discrediting those very leaks, but I’m reluctant to stray into such areas of conspiricy theory.

  • the rich get richer

    Is that as serious as playing the Middle Off Both Ends ? !

    Hopefully some one Sings Like a Canary.

    Funnily enough ! It appears to be harder to get Super Grass’s/Touts against the Establishment both North and South in Ireland !

    Is the North/South Establishment already a Fully Functioning All-Ireland Edifice ? !

  • Gingray

    I can reveal it was …. Mick Fealty!

  • mickfealty

    FYI, this just in from Michael McGrath, FF’s Finance spokesperson…

    “In relation to the previous investigation undertaken by the Stormont Assembly, NAMA took the approach that it was not legally answerable to any inquiry set up outside the jurisdiction. Michael Noonan declined to instruct NAMA to provide oral evidence before the Stormont committee. This is no longer a tenable position. It is vital all that relevant information is provided at the earliest opportunity.

    “A question also arises as to whether the individual named in the programme fulfilled all of his obligations in relation to the annual statutory declaration made by NAMA employees and board members. While the focus of any investigation is likely to centre on activities that took place outside the jurisdiction, this issue of the annual declaration must be addressed by the authorities here,”

  • mickfealty

    Boys, be very bloody careful. There’s proper fear of the law, and then there’s failure to investigate. Then there’s just plain old self indulgence. Please do not confuse them all.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Point taken, Mick.

  • Granni Trixie

    Blame the messenger?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Come on Granni, what is Bryson’s message and what is his agenda? The truth doesn’t feature as particularly high on his priorities. That’s not to say that this story isn’t malodorous.

  • chrisjones2

    ….sounds high minded but what is the enforcement mechanism? Is there one?

  • chrisjones2

    Nice well meaning people who, on the face of it, seemed to have been screwed over ………. along with the Irish people

    Very useful that the bidder pitched just £100k over the (secret) reserve. What excellent judgement

  • mickfealty

    Short answer: no.

  • mickfealty

    Can we leave the rest to the proper authorities now?

  • Gopher

    I would be looking at whoever was at the filmed meeting. It appears that the font of all knowledge is someone who lost out, somebody that was too over extended to save. Its hardly great work from the BBC they are just facilitating another one of the the bad guys. The first and foremost question is how 7.5 million can leap the Irish sea to the Isle of Man and the there is no criminal charges. The interesting revelation from spotlight for me was not a disgruntled property investor using everyone from Jamie to the BBC it is how corrupt our legal system is. Ford has been really weak on this.

  • murdockp

    The NI Assembly were simply afraid of ending up with the wrong buyers as NAMA had made some absolute howlers since it was formed. Look at Battersea Power station was sold for too low a price.

    The last thing that NI needed was a buyer who moved in on developers as the whole commercial property sector would have collapsed.

    To try and have meetings to line up potential buyers without NAMA consent seems very sensible to me, for example telling a new buyer that there would be strong political support for commercial development land within the portfolio could be the difference between some one deciding to bid for the portfolio and some one not bidding.

    However the issue of fees raises a lot of questions that remain unanswered. When the facts are eventually drawn out of this, I would hope the SFO look closely at whether Section 7(1)(b) of the Bribery Act 2010 is relevant here, however until all the facts are known, any thing mooted is pure speculation and all parties have to be considered innocent until the various investigations are complete.
    This has to be stated quite firmly on all these posts by all of you as you need to be reminded that you could be legally accountable for any speculative comments you make. This affair is very different to anything that has gone before.

  • Gopher

    Its not rocket science why Jamie and Mick Wallace are being used, you want it out there they will put it out. Its no mystery to anyone the way people here are wired.

    Nope Seaan, the way the deflection will work is you find a scapegoat for the system, a dead one like your Saville or Smith are always good, live highly paid footballers are the next best thing, unfortunately for the system all our goats are still alive and don’t play for premiership clubs and there is not even a sign of dementia amongst them. You see the problem is now everybody knows where everyone else’s dead are buried so you have a mutually supporting edifice around NAMA so you need a good goat. Believe me night and day everyone involved is trying to find some really corrupt goat not involved in Nama to sacrifice to the post Saville BBC Minotaur. Then they can call an enquiry into the goat, put in safe guards so nobody else can be as bad as the goat and come out the other end as pure as the driven snow.

    That is the way its worked since the dawn of time

  • notimetoshine

    Agree with you re consulting NAMA. They may have had different priorities and at the end of the day what’s best for the local economy has to take precedence whatever difficulties it might present NAMA with.

    Though if that programme is right and the developers get let off their personal guarantees well that could leave a very bad taste in the mouth of many.

    I suppose it all boils down to an agency of (lets face it) another sovereign nation having an undue and potentially detrimental effect on a region of a another nations economy. It was never going to end well I would have thought.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Good to find us in almost perfect agreement Gopher. I have a lot of first hand experience of the variants of this “methodology” from my years in the media.