POLICE have admitted their investigation into a controversial businessman could take several months to conclude.

Mike Smallman was arrested in October last year and remains on police bail on suspicion of theft, fraud and money laundering.

It is understood detectives from North Yorkshire Police have already identified and spoken to several individuals who have complained about the 50-year-old’s activities.

But the sheer number of complainants means the investigation is likely to take some time.

Mr Smallman, who has been the director or secretary of more than two dozen dissolved companies, ran APM Clothing Developments, based in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, until it folded last year.

The venture attracted numerous complaints – many from new business start-ups – claiming they were owed amounts ranging from several hundred pounds to five figure sums.

They include a part-time judge and a couple living in Ireland, Mark and Eimear Nieuwenhoff, who said they were owed more than £12,000 after ordering hundreds of rugby tops, polo tops and T-shirts which never arrived.

Meanwhile, former staff, who were laid off by Mr Smallman, successfully brought employment tribunal claims over unpaid wages, it emerged.

The Manchester-born businessman was recently involved with other two other ventures, Clean Cool Europe – which claimed to have the unique patent for an anti-bacterial cool-drying fabric – and The English T-shirt Company.

Both were being run from a business park in Richmond, North Yorkshire. The Clean Cool Europe website has since been removed.

The Northern Echo understands at least two other police forces – Durham and the Metropolitan Police in London – have received complaints about Mr Smallman, who describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur”.

He has previously denied any wrong doing and said he has attempted to refund those claiming they are owed money after paying for goods which were not completed.

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire police confirmed it was in communication with other forces, but said its detectives were leading the investigation.

She said: “Inquiries are continuing and it is expected that the investigation will remain ongoing for several months.”