A SENIOR council officer has told a court yesterday how he was arrested and his house searched by police probing a fraud allegation against him.
Farooq Dastgir, who denies a charge of false accounting, was cleared on Tuesday of two of the other charges levelled against him at Cardiff Crown Court.
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, took to the stand yesterday morning as Huw Evans opened the case for the defence.
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.
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, who also denies a charge of false accounting.
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.
Dastgir told the court he was the ‘main instigator’ for taking IT in Torfaen back to an in-house operation. He added that his contacts with large IT companies allowed it access to state of the art new equipment at a low cost, as the council would test the products for them.
He also described coming back from a holiday and a few days later being arrested.
He felt like “sinking in the ground”, he said.
“Police wanted to come to my home to do a search. Within 15 minutes, six to eight officers came. Boom. Searched my house, took the computers, my son’s computer, financial information, every aspect.”
I was thinking, “What the hell have I done? Why are you arresting me?”
He told the jury: “I have been waiting for this day for two and a half years, ladies and gentlemen. Nobody ever spoke to me. I was so scared. I was shivering all the time in interviews. I just couldn’t believe why this was happening to me.”
He had never been in trouble prior to this, he said.
“Every single thing of my data was on my computer or my emails because I was a mobile worker. For 18 months I was given no access. How could you expect me to answer the questions when I don’t have the information?
“I was left in a cell for three to four hours. I was thinking, Why do this to me? Ask me questions, ask me what it’s all about. I even wrote a document for them. I tried my best to give them all the information I could.”
He said a switch over in systems led to it being much more difficult to keep track of payments. He also denied having a whispered conversation with Stephen Jeynes, head of Shared Resources.
The Argus has previously reported Mr Jeynes’ claims that in an informal meeting, Dastgir whispered to him that an invoice would be coming in for £10,000 for Camelot IT for a newspaper article.
Dastgir said: “Every time we spoke about anything to do with finance, we made notes because it is crucial, we could not afford to make mistakes... I would never speak about finances in front of other staff. I would have discussed financial information in my office.”
Dastgir described his relationship with Inchliffe as professional and not personal and said the council had used Camelot IT, Inchliffe’s company on previous projects.
The court heard how electronic diaries at the data halls in Blaenavon would show if a meeting between Dastgir and Mr Jeynes took place. Dastgir agreed that July 4 was a very busy day for him and that he would not have had time for an informal meeting with Stephen Jeynes, as claimed.