Wednesday, April 27, 2016

UK: Police union fat cat in £1m fraud probe

A Police Federation ‘fat cat’ arrested over an alleged £1.15million fraud has been evicted from his grace and favour apartment at the union’s luxury HQ. Will Riches, 41, was booted out after quitting as vice chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales last month.

Sources said the tattooed officer was no longer entitled to live at the two-bedroom flat at the organisation’s £26million base in Leatherhead, Surrey. His apartment was one of a number of perks enjoyed by the constable, who is employed by the Metropolitan Police.

Riches, who drives a £45,000 Mercedes CLS 250 and is renowned in police circles for his fondness for fine wine and expensive restaurants such as The Ivy, was served with a notice last month requiring him to leave the flat by Tuesday. He is now living back at his marital home in Essex.

Days after resigning as vice chairman last month he was one of four men – three serving policemen and a retired officer – detained over claims of financial impropriety at the Federation.

Watchdog officials are probing the legality of an alleged transfer of £1.15million from the scandal-hit union to a charitable account last August.

The inquiry was launched two years after the Federation was engulfed in a series of controversies including disclosures over offshore bank accounts, lavish spending and alleged bullying.

In April 2014, two senior officials quit after the Mail revealed the union had hired a PR firm to mastermind a ‘guerrilla’ 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.

Riches, nicknamed ‘Bungalow’, quit as vice chairman on March 16 – two days before detectives prepared to make arrests.

He has not been suspended by the Met and remains on full pay. According to sources he denies any wrongdoing and is determined to clear his name.

All four suspects remain on bail while an investigation is carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into a ‘start-up’ payment to the Peelers Charitable Foundation, which was set up last July to support officers in need. Last night the IPCC promised a ‘thorough’ investigation into the fraud claims.

The union’s stockbroker belt HQ, built in one of the country’s most expensive locations, contains a gym, swimming pool, restaurant and ten ‘grace and favour’ flats together worth nearly £3million. There is also a hotel for use by visiting officers and their families.

Confirming that Riches had left his apartment, a Federation spokesman said: ‘Will Riches had the use of a flat in his role as vice-chair and when he resigned from this position he no longer retained right to that property and he left on 19 April.’

The organisation also said it is ‘determined’ to carry out reforms, including the ways in which it deals with ‘some financial matters’.

At Riches’ £400,000 detached home in Essex, his wife Eleanor said he was not available for comment.

Riches’ basic salary of about £38,000 a year is paid by Scotland Yard but as a senior Federation official he would have been entitled to a ‘salary enhancement’ of up to £54,420 as well as a generous mileage allowance. Although no longer vice chairman of the union, he remains on the powerful constables’ central committee.

Riches, a constable in the Met since 1995, first won election to the committee in 2009 and became vice-chairman of the Federation in 2014. In that year, an independent review of the Federation found it had around £95million in reserves and assets.

An estimated £30million of it was held in separate accounts, details of which were not given to the national heads of the organisation.

Original report here

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