The arrest of two of the prominent players in the Nama scandal marks the beginning of a wave of arrests- believed to be up to 8 people in the coming weeks and months- in relation to corruption around the sale of Nama NI loan portfolio and the conduct thereafter.
Ronnie Hanna and Frank Cushnahan were the first two to be arrested. The National Crime Agency interviewed Ian Coulter by voluntary arrangement a number of months ago.
Ronnie Hanna was the inside man within Nama, acting as the eyes and ears of the ‘golden circle’ of property developers that were to benefit from sweetheart deals. The developers received preferable treatment in return for huge kick backs to Frank Cushnahan and Gareth Robinson.
The original £7.5m was only the beginning, with much more money set to change hands for the ‘fixers’.
As previously revealed, Paddy Kearney was one of the main beneficiaries of the sweetheart deals, with the former First Minister Peter Robinson even intervening on his behalf. More is to be revealed in the coming days in relation to serious frauds committed by Cerberus and Paddy Kearney. This includes forging Mr Kearney’s power of attorney signature on hugely significant documents, with the full knowledge of the property developer.
Mr Kearney is assisted by Alan Mains, a retired RUC and British Intelligence officer. Mr Mains is currently under the microscope following the revelation that one of the Docklands bombers and gunmen in murders investigated by the Smithwick tribunal was a protected MI5 informant.
Another key player in the Nama scandal is Mr David Watters. Mr Watters was one of those I named during my appearance at the DFP committee- he strenuously denied any involvement. A letter later surfaced proving his complicity in the scandal.
Mr Watters set up the company that was initially supposed to draw down the fixers payments. The company was named Cadogan Ltd. The significance of the name is that Cadogan is the area Mr Watters lives in.
One of those arrested, Ronnie Hanna, regularly stayed at the home of David Watters when he was based in Southern Ireland and had to travel to Belfast for business. Mr Hanna moved back to Co Down in recent times.
Today the DFP Committee met for the first time in the new mandate. In a startling development last week, Emma Pengelly- Peter Robinson’s former SpAd- was appointed to chair the inquiry. Mrs Pengelly’s husband was also one of those nominated to Nama by the DUP and extraordinarily evasive under questioning by the committee. This absurd situation, and astonishing conflict of interest, would surely be unthinkable in any genuine democracy.
At today’s meeting Mr Jim Allister QC outmanoeuvred the clever attempts of the new chair to further stymie the inquiry. The purpose, of course, is to insulate the DUP and their former leader from further exposure.
With further arrests due, including that of ‘fixer’ and former DUP Cllr Gareth Robinson, it most certainly promises to be an interesting couple of weeks ahead.