Four men who worked on the upgrade to Farringdon railway station in London have been jailed for a total of seven years after being found guilty of corruption and fraud.
A British Transport Police (BTP) investigation found that a senior manager for CoLOR, a joint venture between UK contractors Costain and Laing O’Rourke, had accepted bribes from a subcontractor called Alandale Rail to give it commercially sensitive information and help it to run a "ghost worker" fraud. Â
The manager, Innocent Obiekwe, was responsible for health and safety procedures at the project. In 2010 he accepted inducements from two Alandale Rail directors, John Zayya and Kevin McKee, in return for helping Alandale to win a contract to supply staff who monitored health and safety at the site. Further payments were later made on Alandale’s behalf by William Waring, a director at management consultancy Qualitas Infrastructure Developments.
The jury at Blackfriars Crown Court heard that the Alandale directors referred to Obiekwe as "our man in Havana" owing to his willingness to supply confidential information about CoLOR’s tendering process. The information allowed Alandale to undercut other bids and win the contract with an initial value of £2.1m, later rising to £5.2m.
The corruption shown by all defendants was complex, prolonged and meticulously planned– Detective Constable Justin Yorke
After Alandale was appointed to the work, Obiekwe and the other defendants were part of a scheme to defraud CoLOR by claiming for workers who never attended the site.
Altogether, Obiekwe is thought to have accepted £140,000 in illegal payments as well as gifts and favours.
Detective Constable Justin Yorke of BTP’s fraud squad said: "The corruption shown by all defendants was complex, prolonged and meticulously planned. However, they did not plan on a whistleblower reporting their corruption to the Mayor of London’s office.
"The behaviour of Obiekwe and his fellow defendants was scandalous and undermines the legitimate tendering process companies undertake every day. I am pleased with today’s sentences and I hope this sends a very clear message to any groups who may be considering similar actions."
Jane Mitchell, a prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, commented: "McKee, Zayya and Obiekwe cheated their way to a significant contract and their level of ongoing dishonesty was uncovered only when one of their own came forward."
Their operation came to light in 2011 after McKee told CoLOR and Transport for London of their dishonest practices, sparking the investigation. McKee later received a shorter sentence than the other defendants.
The sentences handed down on Friday, 21 July, were as follows:
- Kevin McKee pleaded guilty in September 2016. He was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment and disqualified from being a director for eight years.
- Innocent Obiekwe pleaded guilty to corruption. He was sentenced to two years in prison and disqualified from being a director for eight years.
- John Zayya pleaded guilty to corruption. He was sentenced to two years in prison and disqualified from being a director for eight years.
- William Waring pleaded guilty to corruption and money laundering. He was sentenced to two years in prison and disqualified from being a director for eight years.
- Alandale Rail was found guilty of corruption and fined £25,000.
Image: Left to right, Obiekwe, Zayya, McKee and Waring (British Transport Police)