Arrests include three serving officers in body representing police rank and file over transfer of £1m to a charitable account
18 MARCH 2016 | BY Vikram Dodd FOR THE GUARDIAN
Detectives investigating concerns over the handling of £1m at the Police Federation have arrested four people, including three serving officers, on suspicion of fraud.
The federation, which represents most of the 125,000 police officers in England and Wales, called in Surrey police on Tuesday.
Surrey police said in a statement on Friday: “The allegation relates to concerns about the transfer of around £1m to a charitable account in August 2015.”
It added that the four people arrested were two men in their 50s and two men in their 40s. They remain in the custody of Surrey police, within whose area the federation’s headquarters is located.
They were detained on suspicion of fraud under section 4 of the Fraud Act and conspiracy to defraud, the Surrey force said.
The Police Federation of England and Wales called police in over concerns about accounts held by its constables’ central committee.
DetSupt Karen Mizzi, leading the investigation, said: “We are carrying out a detailed and thorough investigation into allegations of fraudulent activity involving significant amounts of money.
“As the allegation was only reported to us on Wednesday 16 March, our enquiries are at an early stage but specialist officers, including our economic crime unit, are investigating to establish whether any offences have occurred.
“The Police Federation reported the matter to us as their headquarters is in Leatherhead and we are their local force, but to be clear those arrested are not Surrey police officers.
“Our professional standards department is currently in liaison with colleagues in relevant forces to inform them of the arrest of their officers.
“Due to the nature of the allegation, and those arrested being serving officers, Surrey police has notified the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and will also be in liaison with the charity commission going forward.”
The federation has been mired in controversy for years over how it handles money and the government has threatened to take it over if it does not reform.
In a statement, the federation said it had called in police on Tuesday “to investigate potential fraudulent activity, relating to accounts held by the federation’s constables’ central committee”.
The federation said: “The issue was identified by the PFEW itself and we are fully cooperating with their initial investigation, which is being undertaken to determine whether any offences have been committed. Until those inquiries are complete it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The federation has previously faced allegations of bullying and secret multimillion-pound bank accounts. Its relationship with the Conservative party was poisoned by the Plebgate affair involving the former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell.
An independent review, chaired by Sir David Normington, following the scandal raised questions about the conduct of some of the federation’s former representatives, and found that officers were disenchanted with the body supposed to represent them.
The federation was created by parliament in 1919 to represent rank-and-file officers and stop them joining unions with the right to strike.
A federation spokesperson confirmed that Will Riches had resigned as vice-chair of the federation on Wednesday, but would not say why. Riches remains in his other posts, including on the federation’s interim national board and on the powerful constables’ central committee, where he serves as a representative for the Metropolitan and City of London forces.
Riches has been a constable in the Met since 1995, starting his service in east London. He first won election to the constables’ central committee in 2009, and in 2014 he became vice-chair of the federation, losing out on being chair after a coin toss. The committee making the choice had split evenly, and Steve White, seen as a leading voice for modernising the organisation, was chosen after Riches called heads on a flipped 50p coin; it landed on tails.