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Barratt London chief arrested in bribery probe

The London chief of Barratt Developments, the UK’s largest housebuilder, has been arrested on suspicion of bribery offences in an investigation into the awarding of contracts by the company in the capital.

Alastair Baird, a managing director, was arrested on Wednesday and has been suspended from his position at the FTSE 100 group, while a woman from east London, who the company said was a former employee, has also been arrested.

The detentions form part of an ongoing inquiry by the Metropolitan Police’s complex fraud team into “a number of allegations of corruption … related to irregularities in the tendering process,” the force said in a statement.

They follow an internal investigation by Barratt that began in August 2015 and resulted in a referral by the group to police in April.

On Wednesday, David Thomas, chief executive of Barratt, said that the group would “continue to co-operate fully with the Metropolitan Police and to conduct our own investigation into these matters”.

“We will take whatever action is required to ensure our values and standards are upheld,” he said.

Barratt said that the investigation related to “possible misconduct in the process for awarding and managing certain material and subcontract supply contracts in the London region”. This also led to a civil legal action, beginning in October 2015, against an employee who was dismissed in February, the group added.

Barratt said in an update to the stock market on Wednesday that it did not expect “any material adverse financial effect” from the affair. Investors appeared unconcerned, with the shares rising 2 per cent on Wednesday.

Mr Baird, who has worked at Barratt for almost 30 years, will be replaced by Gary Ennis, regional managing director for the south, on an interim basis. His role involves running the group’s London business, which amounts to 12 per cent of its output by number of homes.

Barratt has adopted extra controls over its London tendering and procurement after a review by external accountants, it said. It added that procurement in the capital differs from other divisions because of “the non-standard and one-off nature of London construction projects”.

“We are committed to meeting the highest ethical standards in all aspects of our business. We have acted decisively, launching our own thorough and comprehensive investigation and referring the matter to the Metropolitan Police,” Mr Thomas said.

“I am confident that Gary Ennis and the London board will ensure that Barratt London continues to deliver successfully, and remains a trusted, valued partner to its stakeholders.”

The Metropolitan Police said: “In April 2016, the Metropolitan Police Service launched an investigation regarding a number of allegations of corruption concerning a public limited company. The allegations related to irregularities in the tendering process.

“The investigation is being led by officers from the complex fraud team, part of Falcon — the Met’s response to fraud and linked crime online.

“On Wednesday October 19, a 52-year-old man was arrested at an address in South Wales on suspicion of bribery and taken to a south Wales police station. A 47-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of bribery at an address in east London. She was taken to an east London police station. Investigations are ongoing.”

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BDC 318 : Jul 2024