Saturday, March 19, 2016

Three serving British cops and retired officer arrested over '£1million fraud at scandal-hit police union'

Robbing their own union!  How low can you go?

Three serving policemen and a retired officer were arrested yesterday over an alleged £1million fraud at the scandal-hit police union.

One of those detained was Will Riches, who quit as vice chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales this week as detectives were brought in to investigate claims of financial impropriety.

Surrey Police said its investigation centres on an alleged transfer of about £1million to a charitable account last August.

The suspects – two in their 40s and two in their 50s – were in custody last night as police searched grace-and-favour flats at the federation's £26million HQ in Leatherhead, Surrey.

It comes two years after the federation was engulfed in a series of controversies including disclosures over offshore bank accounts, lavish spending and alleged bullying of staff.

In April 2014, two of its most senior officials quit less than a week after the Mail revealed the union had hired a PR firm to mastermind a 'guerrilla' and 'blitzkrieg' campaign against government plans for reform.

There were also questions over the union's role in the Plebgate affair, which concerned an altercation between then-chief whip Andrew Mitchell and police officers at the gates of Downing Street.

Steve White, who took over as chairman two years ago, called in police this week over concerns about the £1million payment.

Riches, whom Mr White beat to the post of chairman by the toss of a coin, quit as deputy as detectives prepared to make arrests.

Rick Nelson, who sits on the union's constables' central committee, was also detained.

The third man arrested was Paul Barker, 56, ex-secretary of the constables' central committee. The fourth man's identity could not be confirmed.

The alleged fraud concerns a £1million 'start-up' payment into the account of the Peelers Charitable Foundation, which was set up last July to support officers in need.

Riches – renowned for his love of expensive restaurants and fine wine – is one of its four directors.

It was previously known as the Constables' Charitable Foundation. Barker, who appears to have retired from Greater Manchester Police, was also a director.

One insider said Mr White began asking questions about the money this week. They said: 'A lot of people are still scratching their heads as to exactly what has gone on.

'The creation of the Peelers Charitable Foundation was well-documented and was signed off after many meetings, all of which were minuted. Everyone agreed it was a well-intentioned and good idea and something that the federation should be doing.

How this has transformed into a fraud inquiry by Surrey Police is beyond many people's comprehension.'

The federation had raised concerns with Surrey Police on Tuesday. It made a formal allegation relating to accounts held by the constables' central committee on Wednesday – the day Riches quit.

Detective Superintendent Karen Mizzi, of Surrey Police, said inquiries were 'at an early stage but specialist officers, including our economic crime unit, are investigating to establish whether any offences have occurred'.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has been notified and the Charities Commission will be contacted, she said. The federation said it was 'co-operating fully'.

'Our Professional Standards Department is currently in liaison with colleagues in relevant forces to inform them of the arrest of their officers.'

The men were arrested under section four of the Fraud Act and conspiracy to defraud.

Det Supt Mizzi added: 'Due to the nature of the allegation, and those arrested being serving officers, Surrey Police has notified the Independent Police Complaints Commission and will also be in liaison with the Charity Commission going forward.'

Original report here

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