Sunday Life

Gray day for Sunny Jim

By Sunday Life Reporter
12 September 2004

Under pressure UDA crimelord Jim Gray's business empire is starting to crumble.

For the paramilitary boss has been forced to call time on one of his best known ventures in his east Belfast stronghold.

The Avenue One bar, at Templemore Avenue, along with its upstairs nightclub and adjoining off-licence, is to close in a fortnight.

Shocked suppliers who called at the premises on Friday were told: "We're taking no more orders... we're closing down."

It is not known if the jet-setting UDA brigadier has sold the pub, or is desperately trying to offload his assets as crime-fighting agencies close in.

The Assets Recovery Agency has spent months probing how Gray amassed his wealth.

And, Sunday Life revealed in June, how Gray told bemused investigators how he launched his bar business empire with a jackpot win in a Las Vegas casino.

Gray's own colleagues have told him he dropped a major clanger by pursuing a High Court action against an insurance company, which refused to pay out following a fire at another of his pub outlets.

Gray and Gary Matthews, who ran the Bunch of Grapes, at Beersbridge Road, had sued Axa Insurance Company for over £60,000, after the fire in January, 2001.

But, the action was withdrawn last May, when it came before Mr Justice Coghlin, who entered judgment in favour of Axa.

Shortly before the fire, the mutilated body of George Legge (37), a former senior UDA man, was found at Carryduff, and murder squad detectives investigated a possible link with the pub fire.

Axa refused to pay out, because they did not accept that the pub was damaged in the circumstances claimed.

The insurers also stated that Gray "failed to disclose that he was connected with an unlawful organisation, the UDA, being at all material times a member of the UDA and/or the Officer Commanding the UDA in east Belfast."

Axa's court documents also claimed the fire was "an unlawful, wanton or malicious act, committed maliciously by a person or persons acting on behalf of or in connection with an unlawful association."

One loyalist source revealed: "Gray was stupid to continue with the action... it only served to draw attention to him, and that's the last thing he wanted with the cops breathing down his neck. It also left him with a hefty five-figure legal bill."

Gray lives in a plush apartment, in the east of the city, and regularly jets off to exotic locations around the globe.

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