BARRISTERS in the trial of two defendants who allegedly tried to misuse £10,000 of Torfaen council’s money gave their closing speeches yesterday.
Farooq Dastgir, 53, of Coed Camlas, New Inn, and Gary Inchliffe, 52, of Beechcroft, Trelewis, have been on trial at Cardiff Crown Court since the end of April.
The men are accused of trying to pay for a newspaper supplement in the South Wales Argus advertising digital developments in Torfaen using the council’s money after the council decided it should be funded through private sponsorship.
Dastgir allegedly arranged for a false invoice to be paid to Inchliffe’s company Camelot for work which had not been, and never would be, done. Camelot was then to ‘sponsor’ the supplement when in reality the council would be paying for it, the prosecution alleges.
The invoice was never paid after Dastgir’s deputy at the data centre he ran in Blaenavon raised concerns. Both defendants deny a single charge of false accounting.
In her closing speech, Susan Ferrier told the jury: “The prosecution don’t dispute that ordinarily these are two good chaps. But these qualities, the prosecution says, were not apparent when they made the decision between the two of them to commit the offence which they did.
“Mr Inchliffe was a preferred supplier. He was, you might think, despite some of the things he has to say to you, highly dependent on the work that was coming to him from Mr Dastgir and from Torfaen. It may be you reach the conclusion Mr Inchliffe felt under something of an obligation to do this in order to keep his business going the way it was.”
She asked the jury why Inchliffe cancelled a cheque to the Argus paying for the advert. “Why pull out? It’s because he couldn’t pay for it.”
Huw Edwards, defending Dastgir, said: “Farooq Dastgir is now, and always has been, what people told you he was: a man of Torfaen. He’s given 100 per cent for 28 years. He’s absolutely devastated. He’s in this court because his name is what means most to him and he’d like to have it back.
“There’s no suggestion at all that there was any personal gain to be had by either of these two defendants.”
He said the invoice for cabling work worth £10,000 was legitimate and advance payments were common at Torfaen council: “The rules say it shouldn’t happen. But everybody knows it does happen.”
Had Dastgir’s “right-hand man” Stephen Jeynes raised concerns with a council official first and not Gwent Police, who also stored data at the Blaenavon centre, “this would have been looked at primarily as an internal disciplinary matter”, he said.
A whispered comment in which Dastgir allegedly told Mr Jeynes he could expect a £10,000 invoice which was to be for a newspaper article was a “lie” made up by Mr Jeynes, he claimed.
Adrian Maxwell, defending Inchliffe, said his client gave a completion date for the cabling work billed for because “he was providing a nominal date for a system that demanded it before early payment could be made.”
The system for keeping track of payments was “all over the shop”, he added.
The jury is expected to retire to consider verdicts today. Jurors were previously directed to return not guilty verdicts for two of the charges facing Dastgir of false accounting and misconduct in public office.