Quango 'axed executive who found corruption'

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The Independent Online

A senior executive in a multi-million pound quango has claimed he was made redundant because he found evidence of malpractice within the organisation, an industrial tribunal was told yesterday.

Patrick Freke-Evans, 53, claims that he discovered financial corruption, including the embezzlement of more than half a million dollars in one venture, within the Commonwealth Development Corporation. He claims he was forced to leave the organisation after voicing concerns about such corruption.

The corporation is a statutory body which assists Third World countries with economic development. It is funded by the Overseas Development Administration, and invests in dozens of companies around the world, mostly involved in producing agricultural commodities. Mr Freke-Evans, head of marketing and a specialist in palm oil trading, claims that after he was dismissed from his pounds 40,000-a-year job half a million dollars were found to have been stolen in one venture funded by the corporation, and that three top executives from the company involved were then sacked.

The corporation insisted, during the opening day of the tribunal, that Mr Freke-Evans had been made redundant as part of a long-term restructuring of the department in which he worked.

Colin Gatt, director of the division in which Mr Freke-Evans worked for four years until 1993, told the tribunal that the redundancy was "a logical decision to transfer this part of the business closer to where the product was being produced". He said the corporation was trying to give Third World partners more control over the marketing of their product, and this was part of that policy. "I thought at the time it was the right thing to do and I still do."

The corporation had never made any allegation of impropriety against Mr Freke-Evans and considered him a good oil trader. It was surprised, the tribunal heard, by his claims of corruption which counsel said occurred after he was first told of his redundancy.

Mr Evans, during cross-examination of Mr Gatt, claimed that the real reason for his departure was because of internal corruption "Wasn't the immediate effect [of his departure] that half a million dollars was thieved? Weren't three senior executives then removed within a week?'' Mr Gatt denied both these claims. The tribunal, at Croydon, south London, continues today.