16 September 2005

Fury as ex-UDA boss Gray is allowed bail

Belfast Telegraph

By Deborah McAlleese
16 September 2005

A HIGH Court decision to release former UDA chief Jim Gray on bail was met with outrage last night.

There was anger that Gray, who is charged with money laundering and possession of the proceeds of crime, has been granted bail at a time of civil unrest within loyalist communities.

Gray was released on £15,000 bail - his own bail of £5,000 and two sureties of £5,000 - after a judge was told it could take up to two months before a forensic accountant produces a full report into his financial dealings.

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said the court's decision was "sending out the wrong message at the wrong time".

Forty-seven-year-old Gray, formerly of Convention Court in Belfast, was ordered by Mr Justice Coghlin not to leave Northern Ireland and given a tight curfew. Police will hold on to his passport.

He was also ordered not to have any contact with two co-accused - his girlfriend Sharon Moss and former estate agent Philip Johnston - and to report to police five times a week.

Gray, who has been directed to reside at an address in the east of the city, was arrested on April 7 along with Ms Moss, on the A1 dual carriageway between Banbridge and Loughbrickland.

He had a bankers draft for €10,000 euro, €270 euro in cash and £2,720 with him.

A Crown lawyer told the court that Gray claimed he had received the money after selling two bars in Belfast - The Bunch of Grapes and Avenue One.

However, he pointed out that after Gray's bank accounts were checked it was found his outgoings exceeded his alleged income of £300 per week.

Police also discovered that he had property in Belfast and Spain.

A defence lawyer said Gray had received whatever money he had legitimately and had allowed officers full access to his financial documents.

Gray had almost £50,000 in bank accounts in the province when arrested.

The Crown warned that his release could spark violence as he is under paramilitary threat and that he could obtain a false passport.

Questioning Gray's release Mr Attwood said: "While citizens have the right to seek their liberty there will be large numbers of people who will not understand the decision of the courts. The vast majority of people say this makes no sense. Serious questions must be asked."

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