EXCLUSIVE: Leaked report slams multi-million council loan to Northampton Town Football Club
UP TO 30 people could be charged as part of a police investigation into a "missing" £10.25m taxpayers' loan to Northampton Town Football Club (NTFC) for a stadium redevelopment that was never completed. Northamptonshire Police has submitted a file to the CPS after a five-year investigation into suspected theft, fraud, bribery, misconduct in public office, electoral offences and money laundering concerning the funding of the failed multi-million project (Club's CGI image of planned stadium above) that would have also seen a hotel and conference centre developed and major retail park built on adjoining land. Those who were previously interviewed under caution by police, but not arrested, have included former Tory MP David Mackintosh, who, as leader of Northampton Borough Council oversaw the loan, and its former chief executive David Kennedy and former finance officer Glenn Hammons.
It is not, however, known if the three are among the 30 people whose names have been passed by police to the CPS in the file and they have all continued to deny any wrongdoing. Mr Mackintosh was the leader of the Tory council when the loan was agreed for the League One side known as "The Cobblers" in 2013. He was elected as Conservative MP for Northampton South in 2015, but did not stand again in 2017 after details of the project's failure had emerged. Various people connected to the football club and developers involved have also been arrested or interviewed under caution. News of the possible charges comes as a report by auditors KPMG, giving its "provisional view" of the circumstances surrounding the loan, was leaked to Essex News and
PROBE: David Mackintosh, who had voluntary interview under caution, with PM Boris Johnson (BBC)
The provisional report has identified a string of alleged failings by the authority and described some of the financing arrangements as "unlawful." A Northants Police spokesman said: “A file has been submitted to the CPS for consideration for charge on a number of individuals suspected of committing offences under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. We are working towards a charging decision target date by the end of October. "Up to 30 individuals are under investigation who will be split into different clusters with the evidence submitted in batches relating to the different offences under investigation." Seven people were arrested in 2017, with the remaining people interviewed under caution. On July 30 auditor KPMG sent its provisional view to the council inviting it to respond by August 24. Its final report will be published and could be amended depending on how the council responds. The provisional report gave a damning provisional view on the whole arrangement. Among KPMG's findings were: *Not enough due diligence was done on NTFC despite it having the lowest possible credit rating and liabilities of £7.5m; *The council continued to advance money to the football club even when it became "obvious something was seriously wrong;" *As council leader Mr Mackintosh had discussions with the club "without minutes being taken or other council representatives present and sent emails from a private account instructing officers to take actions"; *The council sought no commercial case for the increase in stadium size and security or guarantees on the loan were not secured; *Mr Kennedy had no authority to increase the loan by £1.5m without council approval and the extension was "unlawful"; *The council entered into a conditional agreement with firm CDNL to sell land for the retail development, predicted to generate £110, despite it being recommended by and sharing directors with the club, and there being no competitive tender process; *The council cabinet was not made aware of the football club's relationship with CDNL and its shared directors; *The land in question, in its current state, has been described as "worthless"; *A £5m chunk of the loan was described as an "inappropriate gift" to the football club that councillors were not aware of
SIGNING: Mr Mackintosh (left) with David Kennedy who is now a photographer (Davidmackintosh.org.uk)
The report said: "All of the then cabinet members stated that they were not aware that the report that they approved included a £5m 'gift' to NTFC. "We can see no such need for the council to make such a 'gift' on what was already a very favourable loan (to) NTFC and when in fact NTFC had not really been able to demonstrate that it was a viable going concern." "This whole episode demonstrates poor decision making based on poor/wholly lacking reports leading to public money being lost. "There was a near complete lack of an approved business case, appropriate independent advice and documented risk management and proper governance process followed." The report said its final view could alter following any council submissions. A council spokesman said: “Since this issue arose in 2015 we have acknowledged the mistakes made, and dramatically improved all of our processes to ensure that we have robust procedures in place to prevent anything like this happening again. “The letter seeks comments before it can be considered a final version and published, and beyond that, we await the outcome of Northamptonshire Police and the CPS concluding their investigations.” The police spokesman added: "The decision to charge is solely that of the CPS and we are in current discussions with them around different aspects of the investigation and the evidence.
"It is anticipated that over the next few months CPS will be provided with the material they require to make decisions in respect of all those under investigation.
"Clearly because the backlog in the courts as a result of the Covid-19 situation it is anticipated there will be a delay in any proceedings."
The force has nine staff working on the investigation, but is currently recruiting six more posts to temporarily increase this to 15 to bring the investigation to a close.
So far the police probe has cost about £1.25m and has followed up 1,405 lines of inquiry, with officers speaking to 639 people.
There have been 733 statements and 493 officer reports created, resulting in 101 interviews under caution.
DEVELOPMENT: The plans included a business and conference centre
A total of 3,674 exhibits have been seized or created which contain over 5.2million computer files such as emails, PDF documents, word documents and spread sheets.
The spokesman added: "While the vast majority of these computer files are not relevant to the investigation, hidden within them are the relevant items."
In 2018 Mr Mackintosh confirmed he attended a voluntary interview and said he welcomed the opportunity to speak to police.
Neighbours reported items being removed from his home. Mr Mackintosh said: "I have seen a copy of the draft KPMG auditor's report dated July 30 2020 which was sent to me for my comments.
"I am concerned that you have been given a copy of this draft report which contains issues that need to be corrected.
"I have already responded to KPMG to correct matters within this draft report and I have sought for these corrections to be included within the final official version.
"As you are aware this is an ongoing police investigation so I shall not comment further other than to say that I am happy to assist the police with their lines of enquiry." Mr Kennedy and Mr Hammons pointed out that it was a provisional report, but declined to comment further.