No precedent for £1m police investigation into Cobblers missing millions, says head of crime
Uncharted territory - that is how police described the £1m investigation into the infamous £10.25m loan by Northampton Borough Council’s to Northampton Town Football Club.
Northamptonshire Police has been looking into claims of bribery, misconduct in public office, fraud and money laundering surrounding the Sixfields ‘missing millions’ since October 2015.
From the end of November 2019, Operation Tuckhill has cost £974,492 - but police intend to ask the Home Office to cover the costs of the probe, said to be in the ‘final stages’.
Head of crime, Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Behan, said there is no precedent for an investigation on this scale or involving this many different organisations.
“It’s fairly uncharted territory because of the nature of it,” he told the Chronicle & Echo.
“There are the theft, fraud, bribery and corruption elements, and then there are the questions: ‘how has it happened? And where’s the money gone?’
“If you take all of those different strands together, which are substantial investigations in their own right, and then judge people against the relevant standards, it becomes multi-layered and that’s where the complexity comes from.”
More than 30 people have been interviewed as part of the inquiry, which has recovered more than five million emails, text messages and computer files.
The team of eight to 12 officers, made up partly of retirees and agency staff, has examined scores of bank accounts, collected hundreds of potential witness statements and amassed thousands of wide-ranging exhibits.
Det Ch Supt Behan said: “There hasn’t been any expense spared. We haven’t been lavish with it but we haven’t taken shortcuts or anything like that because it is such a key investigation.
"There haven’t been elements we’ve boxed off because all of this is in the public interest.”
Det Ch Supt Behan said the heightened public interest of the case does not bring any extra pressure to his team, who he described as ‘the best possible people’.
The mounting costs, which are expected to keep rising as the investigation continues as well as any subsequent legal costs, made it ‘appropriate’ to apply for Government funding to reinvest in the county, the officer said.
“Obviously we have to see how the Home Office responds but I think it was absolutely appropriate people in Northamptonshire knew we weren’t writing this money off and if we can reclaim it, we absolutely should,” he said.
The council has spent £2.3m on its own investigation and legal action.
Cllr Jonathan Nunn, Leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “Legal action is expensive, and we know we have to be extremely careful when considering the additional costs involved in recovering this money, alongside considering the strength of public feeling towards the recovery of the loan.
"A judgement for around £3 million was obtained from the high court against previous directors of the football club, for which a recovery strategy is being followed. This includes currently acquiring three properties, two from a company that received money from one of the previous football club directors.
"We are working where we can with Insolvency Practitioners who are dealing with the bankruptcy of one of the previous football directors, and the Council will be entitled to a proportion of the resulting funds.
"Discussions are ongoing with Deloitte about the recovery of the loan money from First Land Limited, one of the development companies that was involved, and of course the ongoing police investigation is likely to reveal information that will assist in the recovery of further money.
"This is a long process, and we may never recover the full amount, but we are committed to doing all we can to give Northampton’s tax payers a fair outcome.”