TORFAEN IT FRAUD TRIAL: Officer left facing one fraud charge

Free Press Series: IN COURT: Farooq Dastgir IN COURT: Farooq Dastgir

FAROOQ Dastgir, the senior Torfaen council officer accused of fraud, was cleared of two of the charges levelled against him at Cardiff Crown Court yesterday.

The jury was directed to reach a “not guilty” verdict on one count of false accounting and one of misconduct in public office.

Dastgir, of Coed Camlas, New Inn, had been accused of using Welsh government money meant for disadvantaged Torfaen communities to pay for laptops and phones for Monmouthshire councillors after a budget shortfall.

Judge Rhys Rowlands ruled there was insufficient evidence for a conviction, telling the jury: “There is a problem with the prosecution’s case in relation to counts two and three.”

“For Mr Dastgir to be guilty, the prosecution have to prove there was a misapplication of funds. The defence can be encapsulated in one word: infrastructure.”

Until he was suspended on full pay in 2011, 53-year-old Dastgir ran a shared technology centre in Blaenavon where computer services from Torfaen council, Monmouthshire council and Gwent Police operated.

Susan Ferrier, prosecuting, alleged a “fictitious” invoice had been created saying staff were loaned from Monmouthshire Council to Torfaen. The amount paid for ‘professional services’ was the same needed to make up the budget shortfall for the laptops and phones.

But Judge Rowlands outlined evidence given by Welsh government employee Richard Harris, who said the Heads of the Valleys fund could have been used to provide infrastructure.

“The evidence is that some Monmouthshire employees were working on infrastructure. It would have been possible for Monmouth to have billed Torfaen for that work.”

The charge remaining under consideration is of false accounting. Dastgir is alleged to have organised for a false invoice for £10,000 to be created for cabling work that had not been and was never intended to be done.

IT contractor Camelot was run by co-defendant Gary Inchliffe, 52, of Beechcroft, Trelewis. The prosecution allege Camelot was to use the money to pay for a supplement in the South Wales Argus advertising digital developments in Torfaen. But it had been decided the costs should be met through private sponsorship and not taxpayers’ money.

Earlier in the trial the court heard that the money was never paid, after a fellow employee raised the alarm.The jury were told they were likely to retire to consider their verdict either this Friday or the following Monday.

Proceeding

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