Belfast Telegraph

Under pressure Charter NI chief Dee Stitt 'going clean' with new firm NI Centurion

UDA boss Dee Stitt sets up two new firms as storm rages over his North Down 'homeland defenders' rant

Exclusive by Ciaran Barnes

Defiant terror boss Dee Stitt has helped set up two new businesses - in spite of pressure for him to quit the government funded Charter NI group.

Stitt has set up a cleaning firm and a catering firm in the last few weeks while he has been at the centre of a political storm.

The cleaning business is called NI Centurion which shares an address with his current employer - Charter NI.

The second firm is NI Angel Ltd of which Stitt is the sole director and shareholder and is registered to his home on a private estate in Bangor.

Other NI Centurion directors include Drew Haire, the chairman of Charter NI, and Caroline Birch - Charter NI's head of operations and wife of UDA east Belfast leader Jimmy 'Millions' Birch who sits on Charter's board.

Charter NI head of finance, Charlene Sheridan, who joked on Facebook about her children being pictured in front of a UDA flag, is NI Centurion's fourth director.

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It is understood the firm, which is only four weeks old, has been earmarked to benefit from the £1.7m of Social Investment Fund (SIF) cash controversially handed to Charter NI by the Executive Office.

A portion of this money is to be used to help create jobs for the long-term unemployed in east Belfast.

The cleaning firm is a Community Interest Company (CIC) and Companies House records show Charter NI is the subscriber.

A CIC is required to make benefiting the community its primary focus, with its assets only being used for social objectives. Directors can be paid or unpaid.

SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon repeated her call for an immediate suspension of all funding to Charter NI, saying the UDA-linked charity had "gone beyond the point of having any credibility" given the current controversy over its chief.

"There are too many unanswered questions," said the politician who believes the public deserve answers.

"Public funding to Charter NI must be immediately suspended pending a full and thorough independent investigation into this organisation's governance arrangements, legal structures, associated companies and all of these issues and evidence now emerging."

Ms Mallon also called on both the DUP and Sinn Fein to state whether they are prepared to stand over millions of pounds of public cash being used to fund Charter NI.

She added: "As custodians of the public purse are they really prepared to put up with hospital waiting lists of two years while a group surrounded in controversy gets almost £2million?"

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Cleaning firm NI Centurion is not the only company Charter NI's under pressure chief executive and UDA boss Dee Stitt has set up in recent weeks.

On October 10, the 45-year-old convicted armed robber registered the catering firm NI Angel Ltd, of which he is the sole director. He is also the director of an Newtownards Road ice cream shop.

UDA insiders believe it is only a matter of time before Stitt leaves his role as Charter NI's £35,000 per year chief executive.

The loyalist had been set to resign last Thursday, but when details of the announcement were leaked to the Belfast Telegraph he dug his heels in.

More: UDA boss Dee Stitt threatening Charter NI resignation U-turn over 'dirty tricks'

A UDA source said: "Stitt is just being petulant. He knows his time is up and that he has to resign from Charter NI."

It was senior figures in the terror gang who sealed the shaven-headed thug's fate during a series of meetings last weekend.

They told Stitt's east Belfast UDA boss Jimmy 'Millions' Birch that his continued involvement with Charter NI "tainted" the charity, and put at risk other UDA-linked projects that had received SIF cash.

Birch defended his old school pal, insisting he had his full support as Charter NI chief executive.

But when the DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said last Monday that Stitt should not lead the charity the writing was on the wall for the notorious loyalist.

Without the DUP's support Charter NI would not have been selected to manage the £1.7m SIF east Belfast cash fund.

More: UDA chief Stitt wouldn't be leading Charter NI if I was involved: Donaldson

Sir Jeffrey's comments came after footage emerged of Stitt giving an agitated interview to the Guardian newspaper during which he described his North Down Defenders loyalist flute band as "homeland security".

The sun-bed loving UDA boss laughed: "It says it in the name, we are here to defend North Down... from anybody."

Before that, he accused the British government of not giving "a f*****g f**k about us".

Stitt also said loyalist groups were doing "brilliant work, they are involved in community running flute bands."

Stitt's toe-curling interview was made public just days after Sunday Life revealed tragic homeless teen Nathan Ritchie fell to his death after being hounded by the UDA.

The 19-year-old was at first ordered out of Bangor by members of Stitt's gang, and then told to leave east Belfast by members of Birch's UDA.

This is just one of the many shocking incidents that the east Belfast UDA has been involved in during recent years.

The gang is notorious for involvement in drug dealing, racketeering and intimidation, particularly in Dee Stitt's Bangor stomping ground.

With pressure mounting on the UDA boss he has taken leave from Charter NI and last Tuesday failed to show at a SIF steering panel meeting in Newtownards.

Stitt was also absent from a community conference in Bangor on Thursday.

A loyalist insider said: "Dee Stitt has single-handedly destroyed all the good work Charter NI has done during the past few years.

"As long as he continues to be associated with the charity it will be tainted. He has no other option but to resign."

Stitt served a five-year prison sentence in the 1990s for involvement in a UDA attempted armed robbery and weapons possession.

He was kneecapped by the terror gang a decade ago during a power struggle, before finally being put in charge of Bangor when his good friend Jimmy Birch became east Belfast 'brigadier' in 2007.

Since then the pair have forged close links to the DUP, talking about this in a 2013 radio interview during which they both confessed to being senior members of the UDA.

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