POLICE are probing claims that one of Scotland’s most notorious underworld figures is moving in on the Edinburgh taxi trade.
The Glasgow gunrunner Paul Ferris is believed to have bought a significant stake in one of the city’s independent taxi firms.
Lothian and Borders CID officers are currently studying intelligence linking the former gangland enforcer with a private minicab firm in the city.
A police source said: "We are probing allegations linking a taxi firm in Edinburgh and Paul Ferris. There have been suggestions that Ferris has joint partnership in the company and our CID branch are looking into it."
Several sources in the taxi trade say it has been common knowledge among cabbies for some time that Ferris has been trying to move in on private hire companies in the Capital.
One source said: "I have heard that Ferris has bought into this firm in some way -we think he has done it through various people and companies. Lots of people are talking about it in the business and are concerned. The link is definitely there - it is very disturbing."
Private hire companies do not have to apply for taxi licences. Anyone can set themselves up as a hire company and only the drivers need to apply for licences.
However, one trade source said the allegations surrounding Ferris highlighted the need for licences to be extended to the companies.
"I have heard there are people trying to move in on the private hire business in Edinburgh and it is extremely worrying.
"It is common knowledge that private hire firms in the west are often used for money laundering. For many years we have been asking for companies to be licensed and I believe this is something the Executive is looking into."
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police confirmed that officers are "observing intelligence" received and are "keeping tabs" on the situation.
Ferris started out with Glasgow gangster Arthur Thompson Snr in the late 1970s, but they parted company in the 1980s.
In 1992, Thompson Snr gave evidence during Ferris’s trial for the murder of his son, Arthur Jnr.
Ferris’s co-accused, Joseph Hanlon and Bobby Glover, were found shot dead ahead of the trial, hours before Thompson Snr buried his son.
At the time, it was the longest and costliest criminal trial in Scottish legal history, costing 4 million and lasting 54 days.
Defended by Donald Findlay, QC, Ferris was cleared.
In 1998 he was jailed for seven years at the Old Bailey in London for trafficking guns and explosives.
In a statement issued before his release in January 2002, Ferris said: "There is just one option open to me when I get out of prison - to go straight."
The story of Paul Ferris’s life is already the stuff of legend in Glasgow’s underworld, largely due to his own publicity.
His life is also soon to be the subject of a film based on his book, the Ferris Conspiracy.
Glaswegian movie star Robert Carlyle is set to star as Ferris in the 14m film.
RISE OF RUTHLESS OPERATOR IN A WORLD OF BLOOD AND VIOLENCE
WHEN he first came to real public prominence in the early 1990s, Paul Ferris was already known as a prolific crook and ruthless enforcer in the underworld of Glasgow’s east end. As his notoriety grew he became one of the city’s shrewdest and most dangerous gangland operators.
Born on November 10, 1963, in Blackhill - then one of the toughest housing estates in Britain - Ferris claimed the direction of his life changed dramatically when he turned on members of a local family who were bullying him.
At the age of 16, Ferris became a leg-man for the Thompson firm and quickly established himself as a fearless thief.
His taste for violence was evident early on, but despite being linked to stabbings, slashings, blindings and knee-cappings, Ferris would always emerge relatively unscathed.
As Glasgow’s heroin market flourished in the early 1980s, the ambitious Ferris would also secretly organise his own criminal operations under the cover of apparently legitimate business interests.
In the 1980s, Ferris finally broke free of the Thompson family. He became closely linked with The Licensee, Tam McGraw, but their relationship soon broke down when Ferris accused his ally of setting him up in a police drugs bust.
His rivalry with the Thompson family and McGraw was at its peak when he was charged with killing Arthur Thompson Jnr, left, in 1991.