Today the industrious journalism of the Irish News revealed that Ian Coulter, the man at the centre of the £7.5m NAMA scandal, has now taken up post with Lagan Construction, part of the Lagan group.
This is all rather interesting given that the Lagan group were one of those who retained the services of verbatim, the fantasy company of which the sole director is none other than Gareth Robinson.
Just what service did Gareth Robinson provide for the Lagan group? No one really knows, but that leads us nicely onto a wholly co-incidental story that involves NAMA, the Lagan group and a £9m investment in the Millmount site in Dundonald.
Millmount was originally owned by the Taggart brothers and financed via the Anglo Irish bank. The Taggart brothers went into administration in 2008 and as a result of the banking crisis NAMA took control of this particular property loan that had been passed on by the Anglo Irish bank.
Originally NAMA wanted to sell the site and had pulled the plug on plans put forward by Anglo that would have seen Lagan receive the contract to construct the homes on the Millmount site.
NAMA originally rejected this plan and then, as if by magic, they had a change of heart and on the 16th April 2013 it was revealed that NAMA had released £9m for the development of the Millmount site – low and behold the development scheme was headed up by none other than the Lagan Group- who had of course retained the services of Mr Gareth Robinson.
As yet no one knows what service Gareth Robinson provided for the Lagan group, but it does seem somewhat mysterious that NAMA had such a swift change of heart in relation to the Millmount site and the beneficiaries of this happened to be the Lagan group, a company who had employed the son of Mr Peter Robinson, the First Minister, to deliver some form of PR or lobbying service!
First out of the traps to warmly welcome NAMA’s change of heart was the DUP’s then finance minister, Sammy Wilson. But just what prompted this change of heart on NAMA’s part?
Was Ian Coulter involved with the Lagan group, along with Gareth Robinson, during this period? Did Gareth Robinson use ‘influence’- through the finance minister- to put pressure on NAMA to change their mind on the Millmount development and if so, what payment did Gareth Robinson, or his company, receive for this lobbying?
There seems to be an ever growing thread running between Ian Coulter, Gareth Robinson, DUP influence, NAMA and property/land scandals. There are many unanswered questions and now that the Irish News have helpfully proven the link between the Lagan group and Ian Coulter, it is inevitable that yet more questions- about previous NAMA deals- will raise their head.