[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
Cleared man 'financially ruined'
Philip Johnston
Philip Johnston said he was afraid of leading loyalist Jim Gray
A Belfast estate agent cleared of money-laundering charges has said the incident left him financially ruined.

In an interview for BBC NI's Spotlight programme, Philip Johnston, 40, said he had been afraid to end his association with prominent loyalist Jim Gray.

Mr Johnston, who owned a chain of six offices in east Belfast, said his business collapsed after his arrest.

All charges against him were dropped last week. Jim Gray was shot dead in October last year.

Mr Johnston, of King's Road, was investigated as part of a police probe into the financial affairs of Gray.

Speaking on BBC's Spotlight programme, Mr Johnston said he had maintained his innocence "from day one".

"I was never conscious or frightened that some stone may be turned and something may be under that stone that may incriminate me, because I always knew within my heart of hearts that I had not committed any criminal act," he said.

Jim Gray
Jim Gray was murdered outside his father's house in October 2005

He said people did not want to do business with him once they heard he had been charged and he became financially ruined.

"There isn't a winner in this whole situation. The majority of people dropped me like a hot stone," he said.

"My name will never be restored.

"Anybody who talks about Philip Johnston, the estate agent, in the future will be synonymous with two things, one, property and two, Jim Gray/paramilitary organisation/ money-laundering etc."

On Wednesday last week, Mr Johnston's lawyers were told the Public Prosecution Service had dropped the case. No reason was given.

Mr Johnston's solicitor Joe Rice said neither he nor his client had been given advance notice that the prosecution was withdrawing the charges.

A complaint has been lodged with the Police Ombudsman's Office on Mr Johnston's behalf.

Spotlight will be screened on BBC One at 2235 BST on Tuesday.




SEE ALSO
Estate agent charges are dropped
30 Aug 06 |  Northern Ireland
Shot ex-UDA chief's assets frozen
25 Nov 05 |  Northern Ireland
Former loyalist leader shot dead
05 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific