A Derry businessman has challenged vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) to publicly state whether it is behind attempts to extort money from him.
The man, who did not wish to be named, claimed he had been approached by “a third party” purporting to be acting on behalf of RAAD who told him he would be shot if he did not give the group £5,000.
The business owner said he had “got into a row” with a member of RAAD in the city centre eight months ago and questioned whether this may be linked to the demand for money.
“Eight months ago I was in the town and got into an argument with someone connected to RAAD but I never heard anything more about it. Then four weeks ago I had another bit of trouble with one of them but it was nothing serious.
“The next thing I knew I was approached by a third party and told that if I handed over £5,000 I wouldn’t have any trouble but if I didn’t I would be shot. I have been approached three times in total,” he said.
He also said that he does not intend to pay the money. “I have been approached for £5,000 but I have no intention of paying it,” he said.
The man said he does not know if the person who approached him is a member of RAAD or not. “The third party said he was representing RAAD and he said that they weren’t happy with me.
“I don’t know if this person is actually from RAAD or if someone else is trying to mix things up by claiming to be.
“This all started over nothing more than a row so it seems strange that this would happen now,” he said. The man called on RAAD to state whether or not it is involved in the demand for money. “I don’t know if it is RAAD or not.
“I would like to know and I would like them to come out and say. If it actually is them I would like to find out why and if it is not them I would like them to deny it,” he said.
Local republican Brian McFadden, a friend of the man, also called on RAAD to explain its position. “I’m an independent republican and I am not a supporter of RAAD.
“I don’t believe RAAD are doing anything for the Republican struggle and in fact they are only damaging republicanism and bringing it into disrepute.
“I would like to see this group coming forward now and explaining to this man just what is going on. If they are trying to get money from him then they need to explain why and if it is not them, if it is someone else using their name, then they need to come forward and say that too.
“Maybe they are not involved in this and someone is trying to implicate them but if that is the case then they need to come out and say that. I hope that’s what they will do,” he said.
In the past RAAD has denied allegations that it is extorting money from anyone, despite claims by a number of individuals that the group has been demanding money to allow people who have been exiled from the city to return safely.