A SENIOR council employee accused of fraud denied wrongdoing in police interviews read to a jury yesterday.
Farooq Dastgir, 53, who ran a Torfaen and Monmouthshire council IT centre in Blaenavon before being suspended on full pay in 2011, is on trial at Cardiff Crown Court along with Gary Inchliffe, 52, accused of false accounting.
Dastgir faces a further charge of false accounting and of misconduct in public office. Both pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The two allegedly arranged for a false invoice of £10,000 to be created so Torfaen Council would pay Inchliffe’s company, Camelot IT, for work that was never intended to be completed.
Camelot was then to use the money to sponsor an Argus supplement advertising IT developments in Torfaen, which the council’s chief executive had specified should not be paid for using public money, the prosecution alleged.
However, an employee of the IT centre shared by Torfaen and Monmouthshire councils and Gwent Police raised concerns and the money was not paid to Camelot, the court heard.
Dastgir, of Coed Camlas, New Inn, is also alleged to have pushed through a payment of £18,200 to make up a deficit on a budget for laptops and mobile phones for Monmouthshire county councillors, using money ring-fenced for regeneration projects in Torfaen.
Prosecutor Susan Ferrier read excerpts from police interviews with Dastgir and Inchliffe.
Dastgir said after catching a flight back to Heathrow in September 2011 he received a voicemail message from Inchliffe saying his invoice had not been paid.
Dastgir said he then asked for a copy of the invoice.
Later in the interview he said: “If I would have seen the invoice I would say there’s no ‘pro forma’ on there.
“I did not tell anybody that it was goods received. I have not had that conversation with anybody.”
He said money was to be paid in advance for work in the “near future” so the budget was allocated.
The phrase ‘pro forma’ was used to indicate an advance payment, the court heard.
Dastgir accepted he had told Stephen Jeynes to expect an invoice to Camelot for £10,000 but denied telling him it would be for a newspaper article, as alleged earlier in the trial.
Inchliffe, of Beechcroft, Trelewis, said in a prepared statement given to police: “I initially agreed to contribute £10,000. Due to cash flow difficulties my cheque was stopped.
“This invoice was on the instructions of Mr Dastgir in the honest belief the job specifications would be produced subsequently.”
He denied “dishonest or criminal” conduct.