'I will clear my name' - Bobby Mullan

WELL known Ballykelly business man, Bobby Mullan, has said he will utilize the "full force of the law" to clear his name after his arrest last week.

Some media outlets identified the car dealer as one of the individuals arrested in an operation involving the alleged making and smuggling of cigarettes from the Far East into the UK and the Republic.

Having been questioned by authorities, Mr Mullan said he was not charged with any offence and was released without condition pending the preparation of a full report. He said he was not released on bail as had been reported.

In a statement released via his legal representatives, Mr Mullan vigorously denied any involvement in any fraudulent evasion of custom monies and stressed he co-operated fully with the authorities.

The business man stated he had been shocked by his arrest.

"I have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with anything to do with cigarettes. Its been a terrible ordeal. No doubt about it. It came as a terrible shock," he said.

Arrested at his Ballykelly premises around 9am, Mr Mullan described how he was taken to Limavady Police Station and for approximately three hours.

He said: "They came in at five to nine and when they arrest you, you lose everything. I'm talking about handing over keys to the car. You hand over everything in your pocket and you have no contact until you come back out of the police station."

Upon his release, Bobby Mullan said he was stunned to hear he had made the headlines because he had not been charged with any offence.

"I never thought this would reach the news because I'm not guilty of anything. I wasn't charged with anything. It seemed straightforward but it was too late when I heard my name mentioned on the radio, and the way it was mentioned, it was out of this world. Unbelievable," he said.

Referring to news reports that named him, Mr Mullan said: "That comes across as if Bobby Mullan orchestrated the manufacturing and smuggling of cigarettes."

Mr Mullan believes being named in the news reports has damaged his reputation. Speaking about this he said: "I think I could nearly lock the gates. I do think, 'what are people going to think?' Although in saying that, my phone has never stopped ringing with calls of support."

Bobby Mullan also said he is considering legal action after being named.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said the operation involved the manufacture and smuggling of cigarettes from the far East into the UK and Ireland and had been ongoing for 18 months.

Three arrests were made during the operation, two in Northern Ireland and one in Cambridgeshire.

HMRC said the raids were part of an international investigation into tax evasion and money laundering.

As part of the raids offocers seized documents, computers and mobile phones. The Criminal Assets Bureau in the Republic was also involved, carrying out raids in Cork, Meath and Louth.