AN ENTREPRENEUR whose business dealings attracted scores of complaints from customers at home and abroad has appeared in court.

Mike Smallman was charged last month with running a fraudulent business, eight further counts of fraud and two counts of theft.

The Manchester-born businessman ran APM Clothing Developments, a now defunct fashion firm, based in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, which provided clothing garments to order.

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It ceased trading with Mr Smallman claiming he later received death threats.

The 50-year-old has also been associated with two other ventures, Clean Cool Europe and The English T-Shirt Company, which were both being run from a business park in Richmond, North Yorkshire.

He was arrested by North Yorkshire Police in October last year after complaints from members of the public to the force. The force said there were further investigations ongoing.

Nigel Soppitt, prosecuting at Teesside Crown Court , yesterday (June 13), said Mr Smallman was facing a number of counts of fraud which he said took place over a “significant period of time and involved a significant amount of money”.

He said: “There were two trading concerns set up by this defendant and a number of customers were duped into parting with money in exchange for goods and services.”

Mr Soppitt said 70 such customers had been identified, of which only one had expressed satisfaction.

He added: “There are more complainants to be interviewed, 14 have yet to be traced and 26 are pending [interview].”

No charges were formally put to Mr Smallman, of Castle Hill, Richmond, North Yorkshire, who wore a purple shirt and carried a briefcase with him into court. He was given unconditional bail by Judge Peter Bowers following the preliminary hearing.

A plea and case management hearing is expected to take place in August.

Speaking outside the courtroom Mr Smallman claimed he was now surviving “day to day on £52 tax credits and a little bit of consultancy work”.

He said: “Other than being Michael Smallman what I have done wrong?

“I will prove myself innocent whatever it takes.”