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Last Updated: Monday, 18 April, 2005, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
UUP man complains over searches
Michael Copeland  has met the Police Ombudsman
Michael Copeland has met the Police Ombudsman
Ulster Unionist assemblyman Michael Copeland has complained to the Police Ombudsman following searches of his property in a money laundering probe.

Computer equipment, credit cards and bank statements were removed during Friday's raids of his home and offices. Mr Copeland denies any wrong-doing.

He has met the ombudsman over concerns about the police handling of the case.

It is understood he has made repeated attempts to meet the officers involved, but they have refused to see him.

Party leader David Trimble said he did not believe Mr Copeland, a local government candidate, had been engaged in any corrupt activity.

The Ulster Unionist Party postponed the launch of its election manifesto due to the searches.

Strategists felt the party's policies could be "overshadowed" by the money laundering investigation.

The party leadership opted to move the launch to Wednesday - a 48-hour delay.

Production order

Mr Copeland's property was searched by detectives involved in an inquiry that has already led to charges against a leading estate agent and an ousted loyalist paramilitary boss.

Meanwhile, police have confirmed that North Down Borough Council offices were visited on Friday by officers investigating money laundering.

The council said they were served with a production order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

It said the police inquiries did not concern any councillor or member of council staff, but detectives were interested in planning and building control applications by two firms which cannot be named under the terms of the order.

The raids came a fortnight after ousted Ulster Defence Association leader Jim Gray, 47, was arrested by police involved in the money laundering inquiry.

The loyalist has been charged with possessing and concealing property and his girlfriend has been accused of 16 counts of laundering cash.

Philip Johnston, who runs a chain of six estate agencies across Belfast, has also been charged in connection with the investigation.



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