Page last updated at 08:04 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 09:04 UK

Cleared estate agent starts again

Philip Johnston
Philip Johnston said he was afraid of leading loyalist Jim Gray

A Belfast estate agent who was cleared of money laundering charges has taken back three of his former businesses.

Philip Johnston was arrested in April 2005 as part of an inquiry into the affairs of murdered loyalist Jim Gray.

The charges were dropped in August 2006 but Mr Johnston, who was forced to sell his six offices, said the incident had left him financially ruined.

He has now taken back a substantial part of his original business and said he felt he was starting over again.

"Due to the miscarriage of justice in April '05, I was put into a situation that was impossible to get away from," he said.

"I think the Ulster people will make their own decisions.

"It was widely publicised at the time, my arrest in April '05, likewise it was widely publicised my vindication in August '06, so, as far as I am concerned, I am starting with a clean slate with a wealth of experience."

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

In an interview for BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme shortly after the charges were dropped, Mr Johnston said his business had collapsed after his arrest.

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

Mr Johnston also said he had been afraid to end his association with prominent loyalist Jim Gray.

However, he told the BBC on Wednesday that he still felt a degree of loyalty to his former staff.

Mr Johnston is also confident of an upturn in the property market.

"Whilst I appreciate that the property market is suffering a rather dormant spell after the substantial increase in property prices 06/07, I personally have a good feeling that the market will return in the near future to a more stable affordable level," he said.




SEE ALSO
Cleared man 'financially ruined'
05 Sep 06 |  Northern Ireland
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


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