06/09/2016 Spotlight


06/09/2016

Hard-hitting investigations. Mandy McAuley uncovers secret recordings that expose corruption around Nama's billion-pound Northern Ireland property deal.


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Transcript


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A warning that this programme contains strong language.

:00:19.:00:33.

A summer's day in Belfast. A man who was once one of the richest people

:00:34.:00:41.

in Northern Ireland has left his hospital bed for a meeting. He is

:00:42.:00:46.

about to secretly record it. This is the actual conversation he recorded.

:00:47.:01:18.

If the location of the meeting was unusual, the start of it was utterly

:01:19.:01:26.

remarkable. Property developer John Miskelly was handing over a bag full

:01:27.:01:27.

of cash. ?40,000, paid to a man promising to

:01:28.:01:49.

use his "Insider status" to ease the businessman's financial problems. A

:01:50.:01:52.

payment that depended on utter secrecy.

:01:53.:02:09.

This is the man taking the cash - Frank Cushnahan - a man with a

:02:10.:02:17.

formidable reputation in Northern Ireland business and banking

:02:18.:02:23.

circles. Frank Cushnahan played a hidden role in the biggest property

:02:24.:02:29.

transaction yet seen in Northern Ireland. Role Spotlight revealed

:02:30.:02:32.

when we first investigated the deal six months ago. Almost 900

:02:33.:02:40.

properties over ?1 billion. I'm not a single for sale sign anywhere. --

:02:41.:02:47.

and not. Cushnahan had an astonishing presence throughout that

:02:48.:02:52.

deal. He was advising the sellers, the buyers and property developers

:02:53.:02:57.

who benefited from the sale. While we were making that first programme,

:02:58.:03:02.

Cushnahan denied that he sought or received any fixers' fees from the

:03:03.:03:07.

transaction. But he already admitted he was in line for exactly that kind

:03:08.:03:12.

of payment when he was secretly recorded, speaking about himself in

:03:13.:03:13.

the third person. What Frank Cushnahan didn't know at

:03:14.:03:29.

that time was that there were more recordings referring to more secret

:03:30.:03:31.

cash and secret connections. What makes the content of these

:03:32.:03:43.

recordings even more shocking is that Frank Cushnahan -- Frank

:03:44.:03:53.

Cushnahan's high-level connections. This is a sign of Frank Cushnahan

:03:54.:03:58.

standing in Belfast. When he stepped down as chairman of the harboured

:03:59.:04:01.

commission as a decade ago, his portrait was painted right at the

:04:02.:04:06.

very heart of this huge area he presided over. An area that includes

:04:07.:04:18.

Cushnahan Quay. So what was a man with such sterling credentials doing

:04:19.:04:25.

a bag of money in a car park? Of course, Frank Cushnahan didn't know

:04:26.:04:29.

he was bleeding -- being secretly recorded by Frank Miss Kelly, and by

:04:30.:04:34.

his own account he couldn't resist being the deal -- John Miskelly. And

:04:35.:04:35.

he couldn't resist doing the deal. One of his lawyers told Spotlight

:04:36.:05:09.

Cushnahan has been a trusted sounding board for senior executive

:05:10.:05:15.

ministers over many years. Certainly DUP ministers spoke highly of him

:05:16.:05:18.

during Stormont committee meetings last year. Good morning, First

:05:19.:05:27.

Minister. Look, I've made it clear publicly that I've been friendly

:05:28.:05:30.

with Frank for many years. Good afternoon. I thought that he was

:05:31.:05:39.

pugnacious but I learned to respect him and I still do and still count

:05:40.:05:49.

him as a friend. Former Finance Minister Sammy Wilson didn't just

:05:50.:05:53.

respect Frank Cushnahan, he nominated him to be an advisor to

:05:54.:05:59.

Ireland's bad bank, the National Asset Management Agency, known as

:06:00.:06:04.

Nama. Created by the Dublin government in

:06:05.:06:09.

response to the financial crash in 2009, Nama rescued Irish banks by

:06:10.:06:14.

taking over 70 billion euros in bad loans. The crash had put millions of

:06:15.:06:21.

people around the world into a financial hole called negative

:06:22.:06:25.

equity. They owed more money for their homes than those houses or

:06:26.:06:29.

flats were now worth. Many ended up losing their homes as a result. But

:06:30.:06:35.

property developers were on a completely different scale of debt.

:06:36.:06:40.

They owed a vast amounts of money on buildings and land with no hope of

:06:41.:06:46.

getting the money back. Their homes might also have been

:06:47.:06:50.

under threat, but the greater danger was to the very banks they borrowed

:06:51.:06:55.

from. As Nama's chief executive indicated last year. Lending appears

:06:56.:07:03.

to have been particularly risky. Five Irish banks advanced 1.5

:07:04.:07:11.

sterling to property that was subsequently lost -- that

:07:12.:07:15.

subsequently lost over two thirds of its value. Nama, funded by the Irish

:07:16.:07:19.

taxpayer, stepped in to take over the property developers' bad debts.

:07:20.:07:25.

There was one important restriction on the developers. They were not

:07:26.:07:29.

allowed to buy their properties back from Nama for anything less than the

:07:30.:07:35.

total amount they owed, and in most cases, that was completely

:07:36.:07:38.

unfeasible. The only way it would be possible

:07:39.:07:43.

for developers to get properties back would be if a fund took over

:07:44.:07:49.

the Nama loans and did what Nama was prevented from doing - settling for

:07:50.:07:53.

less than the full amount owed. Two years ago, that is what happened.

:07:54.:07:57.

All the Northern Ireland loans were bought from Nama by a massive

:07:58.:08:02.

American financial company. And they began refinancing some of the

:08:03.:08:06.

developers, in other words, selling their properties back to them for

:08:07.:08:12.

less than they originally owed. But last year, the UK's National

:08:13.:08:16.

Crime Agency and American investigators began looking into

:08:17.:08:21.

aspects of that sale, including Frank Cushnahan's intricate and

:08:22.:08:25.

sometime hidden relationships with the buyers, sellers and developers.

:08:26.:08:33.

As we will see later in the programme, those investigations led

:08:34.:08:37.

Frank Cushnahan to embark on a major cover-up, an attempt to hide his

:08:38.:08:40.

tracks that was also secretly recorded.

:08:41.:08:54.

Frank Cushnahan had spent three and a half years advising Nama about

:08:55.:09:00.

their Northern Ireland loan portfolio, a position he had been

:09:01.:09:05.

given because of his connections. I appointed him because of his

:09:06.:09:09.

interests. I mean, that's the base on which I chose him. That I knew

:09:10.:09:13.

that he had interests in banking, I knew he had contacts in the world of

:09:14.:09:17.

finance, I knew he had interest in the property market, and therefore

:09:18.:09:23.

that gave him a knowledge which I believed he could then take to the

:09:24.:09:27.

advisory committee in Nama and use for the good of Northern Ireland.

:09:28.:09:32.

But Nama also lead Cushnahan to the man who would hand him a bag of

:09:33.:09:38.

money and record his secrets, a mysterious and publicity-Shi'ite

:09:39.:09:41.

County Down businessman named John Miskelly. -- publicity shy. John

:09:42.:09:50.

Miskelly was a hugely successful property developer. At one time he

:09:51.:09:55.

was in The Sunday Times rich list with a fortune of millions. He was a

:09:56.:10:04.

bidder for Liverpool Football Club. But Miskelly's fortunes took a

:10:05.:10:09.

downturn. He began suffering serious health problems that saw him

:10:10.:10:13.

routinely hospitalised in the financial crash saw the property end

:10:14.:10:17.

of his empire crumble. Buildings he owned, including town square in

:10:18.:10:22.

Belfast, were suddenly worth far less than what he owed the banks.

:10:23.:10:29.

With corporate debts close to ?100 million, which Miskelly's properties

:10:30.:10:36.

were absorbed by Nama. -- Miskelly's properties. Despite his spectacular

:10:37.:10:42.

climb and fall, John Miskelly has been an elusive figure. You hear his

:10:43.:10:47.

name but he is nearly impossible to track down. That's why he's such an

:10:48.:10:52.

intriguing figure. Because he has such power and such wealth, but

:10:53.:10:56.

nobody knows really who this guy is and you can't even get a photograph

:10:57.:11:00.

of him. These pictures, secretly recorded by Spotlight last year

:11:01.:11:04.

during the meeting with Frank Cushnahan, are among the few images

:11:05.:11:14.

of Miskelly that are known to exist. Because their respective profiles

:11:15.:11:18.

were so low, Cushnahan and Miskelly knew very little about each other

:11:19.:11:21.

when they met outside the City Hospital four years ago. But it

:11:22.:11:27.

seems they both trusted the judgment of the man who introduced them.

:11:28.:11:32.

Gareth Robinson. The son of former First Minister Peter Robinson.

:11:33.:11:37.

I didn't even know... There is no suggestion Gareth

:11:38.:12:19.

Robinson was aware of the ?40,000 payment or had any role in it. But

:12:20.:12:24.

in contact that lasted over the next four years, that wasn't the last

:12:25.:12:29.

time his name would come up in conversation between Miskelly and

:12:30.:12:34.

Cushnahan. John Miskelly has told Spotlight he

:12:35.:12:38.

has been recording business meetings for years. He said he started after

:12:39.:12:43.

he believed he was defrauded in a property transaction. What he ended

:12:44.:12:49.

up capturing was corrupt behaviour by the individual at the heart of

:12:50.:12:54.

the biggest property transaction in Northern Ireland's history. Frank

:12:55.:12:55.

Cushnahan. We played some of those recordings

:12:56.:13:07.

to financial journalist Ian Fraser. The author of a book about the

:13:08.:13:11.

collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland, he is well acquainted with

:13:12.:13:14.

some of Britain's biggest financial scandals.

:13:15.:13:33.

It is extraordinary that it has been captured on tape. It is amazing.

:13:34.:13:39.

This is like dynamite, it is totally corrupt. Have you ever come across

:13:40.:13:46.

anything like this before? In 25 years as a financial journalist, I

:13:47.:13:50.

have never heard a tape like this. I have been involved with stories

:13:51.:13:54.

where there are allegations of bribes and brown envelopes, but I

:13:55.:13:57.

have never had it as blatant as this. John Miskelly says he started

:13:58.:14:02.

making his recordings because he wanted to expose wrongdoing. He says

:14:03.:14:11.

he told the PSNI about Frank Cushnahan in 2014. We know he's now

:14:12.:14:19.

handed some of his recordings over to the National Crime Agency and

:14:20.:14:25.

America's Securities and Exchange Commission. John Miskelly is in many

:14:26.:14:30.

ways the ghost at the banquet of this piece. He seems to have amassed

:14:31.:14:36.

a huge amount of information, information he now seems to be

:14:37.:14:39.

willing to share with the authorities not only in written but

:14:40.:14:46.

also in the United States. Miskelly says he has more material that he

:14:47.:14:50.

has not supplied the spotlight, so we can't know the entirety of what

:14:51.:14:54.

he has recorded, and he has not answered many of our questions about

:14:55.:14:59.

what is exposed by these recordings, including aspects of his own

:15:00.:15:04.

behaviour, questions like why he waited, in some cases several years,

:15:05.:15:09.

to release the tapes. Was it because Cushnahan didn't deliver what he was

:15:10.:15:14.

paid ?40,000 for in the car park? There is no doubt that payment was

:15:15.:15:21.

improper. As a member of Nama's Northern Ireland advisory committee,

:15:22.:15:24.

Frank Cushnahan should have told Nama about any dealings with John

:15:25.:15:28.

Miskelly, never mind secretly accepting ?40,000 in cash from him.

:15:29.:15:37.

The question is, what was that ?40,000 cash payments opposed by?

:15:38.:15:42.

According to what Cushnahan says in the recording, he was going to help

:15:43.:15:46.

John Miskelly escape from Nama, something that would EA breach of

:15:47.:15:51.

the law in the Republic. As we know, Irish Lord prevented developers like

:15:52.:16:02.

-- Irish law prevented developers like a Miskelly from buying out of

:16:03.:16:05.

their contracts getting others to do it for them. If any of your loans

:16:06.:16:12.

are in default with Nama, no one acting on your behalf, no trustee or

:16:13.:16:16.

agent can purchase those on your behalf. But that is exactly what

:16:17.:16:21.

Frank Cushnahan proposed, extracting Miss -- Miskelly from Nama by having

:16:22.:16:31.

his loans bought by a third party. It admits Miskelly would get control

:16:32.:16:34.

of his property back for less than what he owed the Irish taxpayer.

:16:35.:16:42.

Cushnahan even cited the law he was intending to circumvent, section 172

:16:43.:16:45.

of the Nama act. So, if a Nama committee member

:16:46.:17:14.

attempted to help the developer buy-back assets from Nama using a

:17:15.:17:22.

third-party, how series would be? It would be very serious for a whole

:17:23.:17:26.

host of reasons. It would be wrong because there would be a huge

:17:27.:17:32.

conflict-of-interest with assisting a developer in any way, but also the

:17:33.:17:36.

use of a third party doesn't change the fact that it would be a breach

:17:37.:17:43.

of the Nama act. After taking John Miskelly's money, Frank Cushnahan

:17:44.:17:46.

made an extraordinary claim about why his plan would work. He claims

:17:47.:17:51.

he could influence a senior executive insight Nama. Spotlight

:17:52.:17:58.

has spent more than a year investigating this story, and in

:17:59.:18:03.

that time, it has become clear to us that Frank Cushnahan is not a man

:18:04.:18:08.

who always tells the truth. He saturated to John Miskelly --

:18:09.:18:15.

exaggerated, he hid his financial interest and he attempted to mislead

:18:16.:18:21.

our investigation. So what he says next on the recording may well be an

:18:22.:18:25.

invention, but if it were true, it would raise significant issues for

:18:26.:18:29.

Nama about the integrity of its Northern Ireland operations.

:18:30.:18:36.

Cushnahan's big claim is that he has access to this man, Ronnie Hanna,

:18:37.:18:41.

one of Nama's most senior executives. Cler Mac John Miskelly

:18:42.:18:53.

knew that Ronnie Hanna, who comes from Northern Ireland, was Nama's

:18:54.:18:58.

head of asset recovery. Part of his job was to ensure debt is paid back

:18:59.:19:01.

as much as possible. He was one of the top senior

:19:02.:19:16.

executives at Nama, and he sat in a very senior position, which would

:19:17.:19:19.

have given him over cited a crucial aspect of Nama. Frank Cushnahan's

:19:20.:19:24.

claims are not direct evidence of any wrongdoing, and Ronnie Hanna

:19:25.:19:29.

vehemently denies that he and Cushnahan were thick as thieves, or

:19:30.:19:33.

that he had any improper dealings with Cushnahan. But assuming Ronnie

:19:34.:19:39.

Hanna didn't know it, Frank Cushnahan was making promises on his

:19:40.:19:43.

behalf, telling John Miskelly that his access to him would help him get

:19:44.:19:47.

his property portfolio back. Frank Cushnahan may well have made

:19:48.:20:12.

up these extraordinary claims about what he could do with Ronnie Hanna's

:20:13.:20:17.

help just to get ?40,000 out of John Miskelly. And it's important to

:20:18.:20:21.

remember that ultimately he didn't do what he said he would. His plan

:20:22.:20:28.

to extract John Miskelly from Nama didn't work, but there is evidence

:20:29.:20:33.

that he did try to get Miskelly out, and this is it.

:20:34.:20:38.

John Miskelly says Frank Cushnahan wrote this note, a report on his

:20:39.:20:50.

Nama properties shortly after he paid Cushnahan ?40,000. We have

:20:51.:20:54.

asked Cushnahan about this note and shown a copy to his lawyers. He has

:20:55.:20:58.

not responded to our questions about it. What is significant about this

:20:59.:21:05.

document is that it contains what appears to be secret information.

:21:06.:21:11.

The value Nama attached to each of John Miskelly's properties. Nama has

:21:12.:21:20.

said repeatedly that in his role as an adviser, Frank Cushnahan had no

:21:21.:21:22.

access to information about individual debtors like John

:21:23.:21:28.

Miskelly. But if these numbers are what this note says they are, they

:21:29.:21:32.

are among Nama's most closely guarded secrets. We have shown these

:21:33.:21:37.

figures to Nama, and asked them twice if it is the same information

:21:38.:21:42.

held by them. They have refused to confirm or deny it. Why is the value

:21:43.:21:49.

that Nama puts on properties or assets so important? Nama guard so

:21:50.:21:54.

jealously because if that information gets out, a bidder

:21:55.:21:57.

effectively knows what Nama's price point is and where they will sell.

:21:58.:22:00.

They know exactly how to price their bid.

:22:01.:22:06.

Inside information about pricing goes against the normal rules of the

:22:07.:22:14.

marketplace. Knowing the seller's bottom-line puts the buyer at an

:22:15.:22:21.

advantage. I would really like one of these beautiful boxes, gorgeous.

:22:22.:22:26.

This is Boxwood, Rosewood, this one is mahogany. How much are you

:22:27.:22:34.

looking for this? About ?25 each. How much did you pay for it? I

:22:35.:22:44.

probably paid about ?17. Would you give it to me for 15? Give it if a

:22:45.:22:49.

less than you bought it. That's reasonable. How can that be

:22:50.:22:53.

reasonable? We have to make some profit. I will give it due for 20

:22:54.:23:01.

quid. I think you should give it to me for 15!

:23:02.:23:08.

Nama transactions routinely stretch into millions and even billions.

:23:09.:23:12.

Which is why Nama pricing is supposed to be carefully guarded.

:23:13.:23:20.

It's actually against the law in the Republic to share information from

:23:21.:23:29.

inside Nama. Earlier this year, a former Nama official was convicted

:23:30.:23:31.

of distributing the same type of information. The judge said Ende

:23:32.:23:39.

Farrell only escapes jail because he hadn't gained financially from the

:23:40.:23:43.

leak. A second former official is awaiting trial on similar charges.

:23:44.:23:48.

If a Nama committee member was found to be in possession or of leaking

:23:49.:24:05.

valuations, of a debtor that was unknown to Nama, what would be the

:24:06.:24:13.

indication there? They shouldn't have any sort of conflict of

:24:14.:24:17.

interest like that, but in general, any disclosure of sensitive Nama

:24:18.:24:23.

information is a serious offence. But it is only a serious offence in

:24:24.:24:26.

the Republic. It is a matter that appears to be beyond the remit of

:24:27.:24:30.

the National Crime Agency's current investigation. John McGinn

:24:31.:24:45.

McGuinness now heads the finance committee. Both bodies that those

:24:46.:24:52.

who scrutinise Nama. He has already heard much evidence about Nama's

:24:53.:25:00.

Northern Ireland seal. Quite frankly, it does stink a bit, and I

:25:01.:25:08.

would be deeply concerned about it. We showed him the handwritten note.

:25:09.:25:13.

This is a noted that appears to detail the Nama valuations or the

:25:14.:25:20.

values Nama have placed on John Miskelly's... The properties he has

:25:21.:25:27.

within Nama. It is not just sensitive information, it is

:25:28.:25:31.

commercially sensitive, information that should not have been exchanged

:25:32.:25:36.

with another party unless it was with the full authority of Nama.

:25:37.:25:41.

That does not seem to be the case that Nama gave the authority to

:25:42.:25:46.

release this information, therefore it is a breach, it is the law being

:25:47.:25:53.

broken by an individual. It is not a breach in Northern Ireland. It is

:25:54.:25:57.

not something that the MCA will probably look at. So does business

:25:58.:26:05.

rate further investigation? That is the difficulty here, it is always

:26:06.:26:09.

the difficulty that there are two jurisdictions, but this is so

:26:10.:26:13.

serious, if it is true, and investigation must be carried out by

:26:14.:26:20.

Nama. An explanation must be given by Nama relative to the valuations

:26:21.:26:26.

and this note. Otherwise, what's happening is doubt is being created

:26:27.:26:33.

in the minds of the public of South of Ireland and North of Ireland, and

:26:34.:26:41.

no real answers are being given. So, where did the information come from?

:26:42.:26:46.

There are three main possibilities. These figures may have been Frank

:26:47.:26:51.

Cushnahan's best guesses, or he got them from John Miskelly. Or he was

:26:52.:26:56.

given them directly by someone inside Nama. There were hints about

:26:57.:27:02.

the origins of the information in the City Hospital conversation a

:27:03.:27:03.

month before the note was written. Ronnie Hanna, who left Nama two

:27:04.:27:49.

years ago, has denied absolutely supplying any confidential

:27:50.:27:56.

information to Frank Cushnahan. He said he could not answer further

:27:57.:28:01.

questions because of the ongoing MCA investigation, and because he has a

:28:02.:28:03.

duty of confidentiality to his former employers. Even if the

:28:04.:28:08.

information did originate from inside Nama, it is clear from the

:28:09.:28:12.

prosecutions in the Republic that it could have come from a number of

:28:13.:28:17.

possible sources. We've asked Frank Cushnahan about it. He said he

:28:18.:28:21.

served on the Nama advisory committee to help Northern Ireland,

:28:22.:28:26.

not to acquire sensitive information that he could apply for his own

:28:27.:28:31.

personal benefit. So, could this information have come from John

:28:32.:28:34.

Miskelly in the first place? Document refers to one of his former

:28:35.:28:39.

employees knowing Nama's approved selling price for one property. And

:28:40.:28:44.

Miskelly seems to say in the recording that he already has access

:28:45.:28:46.

to some confidential information. But John Miskelly has told us the

:28:47.:29:03.

?60 million was a number already in the public domain. He insists the

:29:04.:29:08.

figures purporting to be Nama valuations in the document were new

:29:09.:29:14.

to him. Nama has refused to discuss what

:29:15.:29:19.

appears to be a leak, but if Frank Cushnahan had actual insider

:29:20.:29:23.

information from the agency, that would have significant implications

:29:24.:29:28.

for Nama and the Irish government. If evidence of more leaks, or more

:29:29.:29:35.

breaches occur, how serious would that be for Nama? Very serious,

:29:36.:29:39.

extremely serious. A breach of the law. Those are criminal acts and it

:29:40.:29:46.

would be extremely serious. It could also run against the grain of the

:29:47.:29:53.

story that Nama has told time and again to committees and elsewhere,

:29:54.:30:00.

that they run a very tight ship. Two years ago, with very little advance

:30:01.:30:04.

notice, Nama suddenly pulled out of Northern Ireland.

:30:05.:30:14.

REPORTER: Widdecombe was on breaking news. US investment fund has bought

:30:15.:30:19.

the entire... -- we begin with breaking news.

:30:20.:30:24.

It was bought by a massive American fund called Cerberus. The seal was

:30:25.:30:32.

named Project Eagle. The price was over ?1 billion, which represented a

:30:33.:30:36.

loss for the Irish taxpayer but was declared a win for Northern Ireland.

:30:37.:30:44.

The seal unlocked things for the heavily indebted developers, now

:30:45.:30:48.

given the chance to regain control of their properties. Freed from

:30:49.:30:52.

Nama, one Northern Ireland developer managed to wipe away debts of ?250

:30:53.:30:59.

million. Not John Miskelly. Frank Cushnahan's

:31:00.:31:04.

escape plan had come to nothing. And Cerberus sold his properties onto

:31:05.:31:08.

someone else. He is still involved in legal action against the American

:31:09.:31:13.

company. At the time, Project Eagle -- at the

:31:14.:31:19.

time Project Eagle was announced, few people knew Frank Cushnahan's

:31:20.:31:23.

role. By the time of the seal, you had resigned from the committee,

:31:24.:31:29.

referring to family priorities. But almost two years earlier he had

:31:30.:31:33.

already outlined to John Miskelly how he would use his insider status

:31:34.:31:41.

to set up the entire seal. Cushnahan's big plan was effectively

:31:42.:31:46.

what happened. He said he wanted to use a giant American fund to get all

:31:47.:31:50.

of Northern Ireland's developers out of Nama.

:31:51.:31:55.

At that stage, he said he was already talking to potential

:31:56.:31:56.

American buyers. And he said the plan had a political

:31:57.:32:25.

component. The intervention of DUP ministers, including one who counted

:32:26.:32:29.

himself among Cushnahan's loyal friends. The then Finance Minister

:32:30.:32:31.

Sammy Wilson. Cushnahan thought Nama might be

:32:32.:32:45.

willing to sell the Northern Ireland portfolio. And he believed political

:32:46.:32:50.

pressure could cut the price. As he told Miskelly, if the Americans

:32:51.:32:55.

could get a bargain, they would sell properties back to the developers at

:32:56.:32:58.

a lower price, and, in his words, that would leave the developers

:32:59.:33:02.

smelling of roses. It's clear there was a political

:33:03.:33:45.

contest here. Do you think he's bluffing about the amount of

:33:46.:33:49.

influence he had? With the Finance Minister working behind-the-scenes

:33:50.:33:54.

in 2012? Is very hard to tell, but from some of the remarks, he

:33:55.:33:58.

genuinely seems to believe he can manipulate things to suit his own

:33:59.:33:59.

ends. As a paid Nama advisor, Frank

:34:00.:34:30.

Cushnahan should have told Nama about any contacts he had concerning

:34:31.:34:35.

Nama business. That Nama says he didn't tell the agency he was

:34:36.:34:40.

recruiting American investors. In fact, it now seems Cushnahan

:34:41.:34:43.

contacted every single bidder for the Project Eagle portfolio without

:34:44.:34:50.

Nama's knowledge. One of them was prepared to pay Cushnahan ?5

:34:51.:34:51.

million. Of course, Cushnahan's plan to leave

:34:52.:35:03.

developers smelling of roses also involved bringing politics into the

:35:04.:35:08.

marketplace. He told John Miskelly he wanted executive ministers to

:35:09.:35:15.

drive the price down. I absolutely love this vintage ring. Good, good.

:35:16.:35:25.

It's mocked at ?32. How much did you pay for it? I can't tell you that!

:35:26.:35:29.

I'll pay you less than you paid for it. You're not paying me less than

:35:30.:35:36.

you paid -- than I paid for it! Frank Cushnahan seem to think

:35:37.:35:38.

politics would change the way the market works. Frank Cushnahan wanted

:35:39.:35:47.

to Sammy Wilson and Peter Robinson to ask the Dublin government to cut

:35:48.:35:51.

the price of Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio.

:35:52.:36:13.

A discount from Dublin. That was Frank Cushnahan's plan. The question

:36:14.:36:18.

is, did it work? The portfolio was sold at a loss.

:36:19.:36:33.

And we know that when the first offer for the Nama package came

:36:34.:36:38.

forward, Peter Robinson has asked the Dublin Finance Minister what

:36:39.:36:41.

could be done to protect the Northern Ireland economy. But the

:36:42.:36:45.

Irish government and Peter Robinson have told us there was never any

:36:46.:36:49.

discussion about a discount in their talks about the Northern Ireland

:36:50.:36:55.

seal. Mr Robinson told us the suggestion of a discount was

:36:56.:36:59.

miserable and we were only using his name to create interest in this

:37:00.:37:04.

programme. We also asked Sammy Wilson about Frank Cushnahan's

:37:05.:37:09.

claimed that he was working behind-the-scenes to sell the Nama

:37:10.:37:13.

portfolio. He did not respond to our question. Nama insists it got the

:37:14.:37:19.

best price possible. After listening to Cushnahan on the recording,

:37:20.:37:24.

finance committee chairman John McGuinness isn't so sure. It was

:37:25.:37:28.

sold for substantially less than what I would have anticipated that

:37:29.:37:35.

it was worth. It's clear from what was being said on your tape that an

:37:36.:37:40.

arrangement was being made to use the political system to stop the

:37:41.:37:46.

sale of Project Eagle for the benefit of a small number of people.

:37:47.:37:51.

Essentially it would appear to me that Mr Cushnahan was using the

:37:52.:37:55.

political system and the economy of Northern Ireland to get that

:37:56.:37:59.

discount, and whether people knew his intentions or not, he obviously

:38:00.:38:05.

had it well worked out, a plan, to achieve what he wanted. This throws

:38:06.:38:10.

a whole new light on it and I think it goes back to both governments to

:38:11.:38:18.

take action on it. The Sinn Fein TD is currently a member of the Public

:38:19.:38:22.

Accounts Committee in Dublin and has also questioned Nama about the sale.

:38:23.:38:28.

What is absolutely certain is that we saw a web of relationships

:38:29.:38:33.

between a small number of people within Nama and associated with

:38:34.:38:39.

Nama, and associated with the Project Eagle portfolio, and to

:38:40.:38:43.

anybody looking at that turn of events, you would question, for

:38:44.:38:47.

somebody being played for a full? Was somebody willingly played as a

:38:48.:38:51.

full? And what exactly were the dynamics? -- is a fool? I don't

:38:52.:38:59.

believe we have all of it yet. Spotlight has been given an account

:39:00.:39:03.

of another meeting between John Miskelly and Frank Cushnahan and

:39:04.:39:10.

another secret payment. In early 2013, as flat protesters marched in

:39:11.:39:14.

Belfast city centre, Cushnahan and Miskelly met in Tughans' law firm.

:39:15.:39:22.

It was a Saturday afternoon and Frank Cushnahan was on his way to

:39:23.:39:26.

Stormont, so the brief meeting took place in the lobby. It began much

:39:27.:39:30.

might -- much like the earlier meeting at Belfast City Hospital,

:39:31.:39:34.

with John Miskelly handing Frank Cushnahan a lot of cash.

:39:35.:39:40.

This time, it was 10,000 euros, in bundles of 20s and tens. Immediately

:39:41.:39:46.

after handing over the money, John Miskelly said the only people who

:39:47.:39:53.

know I give you money is you and me. Frank Cushnahan responded, that was

:39:54.:39:57.

all right. But the cash wasn't the only payment to the two men

:39:58.:40:02.

discussed that day. John Miskelly told Frank Cushnahan

:40:03.:40:08.

that he had paid ?5,000 at Christmas to Gareth Robinson, the First

:40:09.:40:12.

Minister's son. Spotlight understands Frank Cushnahan told

:40:13.:40:17.

Miskelly not to give Gareth Robinson any more money, and said he wasn't

:40:18.:40:19.

involved in what they were discussing. He said that he would

:40:20.:40:24.

give Robinson something out of any refinancing deal. We asked John

:40:25.:40:31.

Miskelly and Gareth Robinson about the alleged payment and their

:40:32.:40:34.

relationship. Gareth Robinson did not respond to us. John Miskelly

:40:35.:40:41.

told us he paid Gareth Robinson for public relations work. This wasn't

:40:42.:40:47.

the first time Cushnahan and Miskelly had talked about paying

:40:48.:40:53.

Gareth Robinson. When they first met at Belfast City Hospital to discuss

:40:54.:40:55.

how Miskelly could get his property back for less than he owed,

:40:56.:40:59.

Cushnahan said he would give Gareth will -- Gareth Robinson a share of

:41:00.:41:04.

the money out of that proposed extraction from Nama.

:41:05.:41:53.

Cushnahan appeared to be concerned about what Gareth Robinson would

:41:54.:41:57.

think of his contact with Miskelly. Of course, the refinancing of John

:41:58.:42:37.

Miskelly's properties never came off. And there is no evidence Gareth

:42:38.:42:41.

Robinson received any money from Frank Cushnahan. The Nama seal was

:42:42.:42:48.

the biggest property deal in Northern Ireland's history. It

:42:49.:42:54.

encompassed the loans behind almost 900 properties. At first, the seal

:42:55.:42:58.

seemed remarkably smooth on the surface. It was endorsed by

:42:59.:43:03.

practically everyone. Nama, the indebted developers and the

:43:04.:43:06.

administrations in Belfast and Dublin. But that changed last year.

:43:07.:43:14.

As we described in our last programme, Ian Coulter, a

:43:15.:43:16.

high-profile lawyer who worked with Frank Cushnahan on the seal,

:43:17.:43:21.

suddenly left his prestigious post at the top of Tughans' law firm.

:43:22.:43:26.

Tughans then reported that Ian Coulter had removed a substantial

:43:27.:43:30.

portion of a fee they got from the Nama seal. More than ?6 million had

:43:31.:43:35.

gone to an offshore account on the Isle of Man. There were big question

:43:36.:43:40.

marks over why millions of pounds from the Nama seal had been moved to

:43:41.:43:45.

the Isle of Man. The Law Society in Belfast began an investigation. And

:43:46.:43:51.

that investigation prompted Frank Cushnahan to start covering his

:43:52.:43:56.

tracks. We know Frank Cushnahan started working for John Miskelly

:43:57.:44:01.

back in 2012 because he said so right after Miskelly gave him

:44:02.:44:02.

?40,000. But that's a lie, according to Nama.

:44:03.:44:29.

They said Cushnahan never told them he was working with Miskelly or any

:44:30.:44:35.

other developer. Being paid by Nama and being paid by one of their

:44:36.:44:40.

debtors was a major conflict-of-interest. The cover-up

:44:41.:44:49.

began last year. At the same time Spotlight started to gather evidence

:44:50.:44:55.

about Frank Cushnahan's role. When we secretly filmed this meeting at a

:44:56.:44:58.

Belfast hotel between Frank Cushnahan and John Miskelly, they

:44:59.:45:03.

were joined by David Gray, an accountant working for Miskelly.

:45:04.:45:10.

Cushnahan showed a bit grey a letter he wanted John Miskelly to sign.

:45:11.:45:25.

But Cushnahan put a false date on the letter so it looks like he only

:45:26.:45:35.

started working for Miskelly in 2014, after he resigned as a Nama

:45:36.:45:36.

adviser. John Miskelly immediately questioned

:45:37.:45:45.

the date on the letter. David Gray, the third man President

:45:46.:46:05.

at this meeting -- present at this meeting said he thought the early

:46:06.:46:11.

date was because the agreement between the two men had been agreed

:46:12.:46:20.

but not formalised earlier. Frank Cushnahan's need to cover his tracks

:46:21.:46:24.

became even more urgent once this happened.

:46:25.:46:41.

Independent TD Mick Wallace claimed the millions of pounds move to the

:46:42.:46:48.

Isle of Man was a payoff for a politician. No actual evidence

:46:49.:46:52.

against a politician has emerged. But the sale came on and Leinster

:46:53.:47:10.

house in Dublin. But it wasn't just politicians combing through the Nama

:47:11.:47:15.

sale. The PSNI asked the National Crime Agency to investigate, and

:47:16.:47:19.

some powerful American agencies, including BFB Ahye, began showing

:47:20.:47:25.

interest in the case. -- including the FBI. A few weeks after the

:47:26.:47:31.

allegations surfaced, Frank Cushnahan went to see John Miskelly

:47:32.:47:35.

while he was getting treatment in the world Victoria Hospital. Frank

:47:36.:47:38.

Cushnahan seemed nervous about the investigations.

:47:39.:47:56.

And it's clear Cushnahan had growing misgivings about John Miskelly. The

:47:57.:48:06.

Irish News had reported that there were 30 hours of recordings that

:48:07.:48:10.

could hold the key to the Nama investigations, and Frank Cushnahan

:48:11.:48:12.

suspected that they belonged to John Miskelly.

:48:13.:48:23.

John Miskelly was telling the truth. The recordings referred to by the

:48:24.:48:28.

Irish News had been made by another businessman, but it was clear

:48:29.:48:36.

Cushnahan felt vulnerable to what Miskelly new. If Frank Cushnahan was

:48:37.:48:44.

suspicious of John Miskelly then, imagine how he felt when he learned

:48:45.:48:49.

that Miskelly was expected to testify at storm -- Stormont. The

:48:50.:49:01.

finance committee which was investigating the Nama scandal

:49:02.:49:09.

interviewed John Miskelly last year. For Frank Zhang, Miskelly's

:49:10.:49:14.

testimony was a catastrophe waiting to happen. Last November, he came

:49:15.:49:22.

back to the royal to discourage John Miskelly from talking to the

:49:23.:49:24.

Stormont committee. Miskelly said he wanted to tell the

:49:25.:49:45.

assembly about his grievances against Nama and the Anglo Irish

:49:46.:49:47.

bank. Then Cushnahan moved onto suggesting

:49:48.:50:20.

how Miskelly should respond to the committee.

:50:21.:50:53.

Cushnahan then got to the nub of the matter, what Miskelly might tell

:50:54.:50:57.

NLAs about payment lee-macro. But it wasn't just the committee

:50:58.:51:46.

that concerned Frank Cushnahan. He had an even bigger worry. What John

:51:47.:51:51.

Miskelly might tell the National Crime Agency.

:51:52.:52:02.

Last October, the same group of people that we secretly recorded at

:52:03.:52:10.

the Hotel lunch, Frank Cushnahan, John Miskelly and accounting David

:52:11.:52:11.

Gray, met again. Frank Zhang's lawyers told us it

:52:12.:52:29.

would be totally inappropriate for him to comment on matters that might

:52:30.:52:34.

be part of the National Crime Agency's investigation, but that is

:52:35.:52:37.

clearly not how he felt at this meeting, because he started to coach

:52:38.:52:41.

John Miskelly about what to say to detect did from the NCA. The

:52:42.:52:47.

conversation took place in a busy hospital canteen.

:52:48.:53:23.

And when it came to the question of payments, Cushnahan made it clear he

:53:24.:53:29.

wanted Miskelly to lie to police. Cushnahan had received bags full of

:53:30.:53:51.

cash from John Miskelly, but here he was telling Miskelly to keep that a

:53:52.:53:52.

secret. It is essentially another part of

:53:53.:54:31.

the process of seeking to cover his tracks. He is ensuring that Miskelly

:54:32.:54:38.

knows the score and they are singing of the same hymn sheet should be NCA

:54:39.:54:43.

arrive on the doorstep. We have asked Frank Cushnahan about the

:54:44.:54:48.

material in all the recordings play tonight. Last week his employer said

:54:49.:54:53.

he would not be providing any further responses because of the

:54:54.:54:57.

ongoing MCA investigation, and because he is contemplating legal

:54:58.:55:00.

proceedings against the BBC. -- his lawyer said.

:55:01.:55:07.

More than a year has gone by since serious questions were first asked

:55:08.:55:16.

about the sale known as Project Eagle. Somebody was setting up the

:55:17.:55:23.

purchase, is what it appears to me. Do you feel, Mr McDonald, that you

:55:24.:55:26.

might have been set up in any way? No.

:55:27.:55:33.

The wait for answers looks like it will go on much longer. The National

:55:34.:55:36.

Crime Agency arrested two people on suspicion of fraud at the end of

:55:37.:55:39.

May, almost 11 months into the investigation. Those people were

:55:40.:55:44.

quietly released from police bail over the summer. No further action

:55:45.:55:49.

has been taken against them, though the NCA says the investigation

:55:50.:55:55.

remains active. The only political casualties has

:55:56.:55:58.

been the chairman of Stormont's inquiry into the affair. Sinn Fein

:55:59.:56:12.

MLA Dave Mackay resigned from the assembly -- Daithi McKay resigned.

:56:13.:56:21.

There have been persistent recalls for an inquiry into the Nama sale.

:56:22.:56:24.

So far the Irish government has resisted. The Republic's authorities

:56:25.:56:30.

say an inquiry should not happen until the National Crime Agency

:56:31.:56:33.

investigation in Northern Ireland is complete, but much of the evidence

:56:34.:56:36.

we have revealed tonight points to breaches of southern law, breaches

:56:37.:56:43.

beyond the powers of the NCA. John Merrick and -- McGuinness looked at

:56:44.:56:55.

our evidence. I presume that that was a

:56:56.:57:15.

transaction of 40,000 in cash for some reason or other. I just think

:57:16.:57:26.

that that piece played their shows you how incorrect, how unlawful, all

:57:27.:57:33.

of this seems to have been. Now the finance committee chairman says

:57:34.:57:38.

Spotlight's evidence means a radical new approach is required on both

:57:39.:57:42.

sides of the border. I think that if you were to tell anybody the story

:57:43.:57:47.

without the audio or without the presentation of documents, they

:57:48.:57:52.

would find it extremely difficult to believe. You have to actually listen

:57:53.:57:58.

to the audio. You have to read the documents. And it's only then that

:57:59.:58:06.

the shock begins to setting as to what was really happening in

:58:07.:58:10.

Northern Ireland regarding Project Eagle. Two months ago he voted

:58:11.:58:17.

against a commission of inquiry. What is your opinion now? This goes

:58:18.:58:22.

beyond just a commission of inquiry in the South. If you had an all

:58:23.:58:27.

Ireland commission of inquiry, then you will get a clear picture. It is

:58:28.:58:30.

now quite obvious from the meeting in the hospital, from the sharing of

:58:31.:58:38.

confidential information, from Nama, and all of the other activity mixed

:58:39.:58:42.

in with it that that cross-border effort must be made to get to the

:58:43.:58:48.

end of this and to get to the truth, and for people to face the

:58:49.:58:53.

consequences of their actions. In the absence of an effective

:58:54.:58:56.

mechanism for getting to the truth, there is a danger that criminal

:58:57.:59:01.

investigations will stall, caught between conflicting justice systems

:59:02.:59:02.

north and south.

:59:03.:59:06.

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