My business is legitimate says Harry Fitzsimons

HARRY DENIES MAFIA CLAIMS

By Ciara Quinn

A WELL-KNOWN and popular local businessman has rubbished media reports linking him to a £400m Mafia  investigation in Italy.

Speaking exclusively to the Andersonstown News last night, Harry Fitzsimons branded the claims “absurd and surreal”.

“This is a bolt from the blue,” said the Andersonstown man, best-known through his connection to ACE Taxis and the Stewartstown Road filling station – two businesses which he sold to fund his expansion into the Italian property market.

“It is a shocking allegation which is causing great distress to my family. The first I knew of the controversy was when I was contacted by the media. At no time, did the Italian police or PSNI contact me about any irregularities in my Italian business.”

Three years ago, the West Belfast man teamed up with Italian lawyers to promote holiday homes in the emerging tourist destination of Calabria. However, while Mr Fitzsimons says work is progressing on his ‘Jewel of the Sea’ development, there have been legal disputes with local buyers who paid out between £40,000 and £180,000 for the proposed properties.

“The project has some problems, but we are still building,” said Mr Fitzsimons. “There have been attempts to use my republican past to blacken this project but, as a strong supporter of the peace process, I can state that I am proud of my past and that there is no link with any organisation to this development. It’s a wholly legitimate business which is being painted as something which it is not. For the record, I have never met anyone from the Mafia and I have never met any of the people Italian police are linking to this investigation.”

Mr Fitzsimons said his lawyers were liaising with Italian police. “I have nothing to hide from anyone. Any transactions involving this development have been entirely above board.”

Italian police said on Tuesday that they had issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr Fitzsimons as part of their probe into an alleged £400m Mafia scam. While stating that they were aware Mr Fitzsimons has a previous conviction for an IRA bomb attack, the head of the district police said he had “no evidence to imagine a link, a concrete link or even an eventual link with the organisation”.

Mr Fitzsimons told us he’s currently travelling on business but plans to be back in Belfast later this week.

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