TORFAEN IT FRAUD TRIAL: Council IT deputy ‘suspicious’ over £10k ad invoice

South Wales Argus: Pictured leaving Cardiff Crown Court is Torfaen Council Officer Farooq Dastgir. (5713090) Pictured leaving Cardiff Crown Court is Torfaen Council Officer Farooq Dastgir. (5713090)

THE second-in-command of a man accused of fraud at a council IT centre told a jury he became suspicious after a “whispered” comment from Farooq Dastgir.

Dastgir, 53, of Coed Camlas, New Inn, allegedly tried to use £10,000 of Torfaen council money to pay for a South Wales Argus supplement highlighting digital developments in the county borough, when it had been decided it should be funded through private sponsorship.

Stephen Jeynes, assistant head of the Shared Resource Service (SRS) where IT resources from Monmouthshire and Torfaen councils as well as from Gwent Police were pooled, told the trial at Cardiff Crown Court yesterday: “I was in an informal meeting with [Dastgir] and others, however the conversation was between Farooq Dastgir and myself.

“He whispered there would be an invoice coming in for £10,000 for Camelot and that it would be for a newspaper article.”

Mr Jeynes said at that point he was not aware of plans for the supplement.

“I was approached some time later by Farooq Dastgir asking me to raise and authorise an order for cabling for Camelot to the value of £10,000,” Mr Jeynes said. “I remembered the whisper around the table when Farooq Dastgir said there would be an invoice for £10,000 and it would be for a newspaper article. Immediately I was suspicious of this.”

Mr Jeynes described contacting Camelot to ask for a completion date and original quotation for the work, as he had concerns the work may not have been done.

He told the court he told Dastgir he was not happy to authorise the payment.

But Huw Evans, defending Dastgir, disputed Jeynes’ evidence saying he originally told police the comment was made on June 13, when Dastgir was elsewhere. Mr Evans alleged the whispered comment “never happened”.

He also put to to Mr Jeynes: “There was no subsequent conversation with him in which you said you were uncomfortable with it. Processing payment wasn’t something [Dastgir] would have asked you to do, as other staff would do this.

Mr Jeynes said: “The conversation did take place. I told Farooq Dastgir I was uncomfortable about processing the order.”

Camelot’s secretary Elizabeth Steadman also gave evidence.

She said there were numerous occasions when Camelot, run by co-defendant Gary Inchliffe, 52, of Beechcroft, had been part paid or paid before work was completed and said full job sheets (detailing the work completed and by who) were not always filled out.

Dastgir and Inchliffe are each accused of false accounting in relation to the £10,000 cabling invoice. Dastgir also faces a further charge of false accounting and a charge of misconduct in a public office. Both have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Adrian Maxwell, defending Inchliffe, detailed several occasions when Camelot had been paid before work was completed, often at the end of a financial year when there was money left in the budget to spend.

Camelot had “pro forma” invoice forms which allowed this to be done, the court heard, although the SRS accounting system did not allow for “pro forma” invoices.

Ms Steadman said she “didn’t think anything of it” when raising the £10,000 cabling invoice.

Proceeding.

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