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Housing Executive offices are raided by PSNI

Northern Ireland Housing Executive offices were searched by the PSNI's Organised Crime Branch investigating its alleged role in a controversial development site in north Belfast.

Detectives took computers and files from Belfast city centre offices yesterday as part of a probe into matters concerning land at Nelson Street in Belfast. A house in Co Armagh was also searched.

An eyewitness told how unmarked police cars waited from around 8.30am yesterday outside the offices in Fountain Street for staff to arrive.

“Just after lunch a search team came in uniform and removed items,” the eyewitness said. “There were about two computers and boxes of files. They were there to just after 4pm, most of the day.”

Police said two people were being interviewed voluntarily and were not arrested.

The Housing Executive said concerns were raised about its role in the site and, as a responsible public body, it has referred the matter to the PSNI.

The Executive supported an original proposal for social housing on the site. It was then bought by Big Picture Developments. It wants to build 250 private apartments there.

The Housing Executive had insisted the land was designated for social housing. But it recently told planners that it was “withdrawing the request”.

A spokesperson said: “It would be inappropriate for the NIHE to comment on the nature of an ongoing PSNI investigation.”

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