Civil servant who enjoyed life of luxury on proceeds of corruption: Chris Blackhurst traces the criminal career of Gordon Foxley, the

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The Independent Online
THE FRUITS of Gordon Foxley's crimes were not difficult to see. As well as his pounds 450,000 six-bedroomed mansion backing on to Henley golf course in Oxfordshire, he and his wife, a former health service worker, have another home in Wiltshire. In all, investigators have traced nine properties, two with swimming pools.

When the civil servant retired he was on pounds 20,000 a year - but he had amassed a fortune. Even the pounds 1.5m figure that the court has ordered him to repay within 18 months or face an additional three years on his four-year sentence now looks on the thin side.

At the two-day sentencing hearing this week, the prosecution moved to confiscate houses, cars and sums of cash worth more than pounds 2.4m belonging to the Foxleys and their children.

The Foxleys have seven children, four of whom have served in the Army. One son, Paul, had an account at Barclays, which had seen pounds 3.57m pass through it in eight years, yet there was no evidence that Paul had himself paid in any of the money.

For the product of a working- class family from Liverpool, Gordon Foxley had done well. No one - not least his colleagues at work - suspected anything because the money did not come until he retired from the Ministry of Defence in 1984.

Obsequious, unassuming, he could be 'oily and persuasive' when pushed, a colleague said. But that was all: in short, he was no different from any one of the thousands of public servants who populate the middle to senior reaches of Whitehall.

His deputy, James Taylor, 67, whom Foxley paid pounds 30,000 to keep quiet, was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment at Guildhall Crown Court last December. Due to a combination of ill health and skilful pleading by his lawyers, it was not until yesterday that Foxley, 69, was finally sentenced.

It is easy to be dismissive of Foxley's white-collar crime: no one got hurt; he took backhanders from foreign firms in return for dishing out tens of millions of pounds in orders. But Foxley's crime was not victimless. In Blackburn, Lancashire, 450 workers at the town's Royal Ordnance factory blame him for the loss of their jobs.

They made fuses for what was Britain's last major fuse manufacturer. Sitting in the MoD's offices in Southwark Street, south London, Foxley sent the contracts elsewhere - to Fratelli Borletti in Italy, Gebruder Junghans in Germany, and Raufoss of Norway - and the finely-honed skills of the Blackburn workers were history.

According to the MoD, its fraud squad stumbled across Foxley in 1989, on another, unrelated inquiry. But it took four more years before he stood trial. He was first arrested in September 1989 and charged with corruption. But the case was dropped due to lack of substantive documentary evidence. A year later, the police tried again, with the same result.

Undeterred, they tried once more. On 21 August 1990, armed with a search warrant, they arrived at the offices in Henley where Paul Foxley worked. In a concealed cupboard they found two plastic bags full of documents. They asked him to sign for them. As he did, he grabbed the bags and ran off. By the time they caught up with him, the documents had been burnt. In May 1991, he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Detective Inspector Matthew Taylor and Detective Sergeant Colin Rogers, of the MoD police, raided Gordon Foxley's home and in another hidden cupboard, they found papers which pointed to Switzerland and small private companies controlled by Foxley.

Money from the fuse manufacturers had been paid to the Swiss companies which then made deposits into numbered Swiss bank accounts. The officers maintain that the bulk of the bribes lies behind two Geneva accounts.

So far, they have been unable to penetrate them. In a note smuggled out of his police cell after his arrest, Foxley instructed his son, Paul, to: 'Close accounts, liquidate holdings. Everything possible. Security has my diaries, address books. Home and overseas. Might have (Swiss bank account) numbers. Assume the very worst and totally cover the safer place.'

Police blame a combination of Foxley's cunning and traditional Swiss secrecy; Swiss officials claim they have never received a formal application to force the banks to lift their secrecy.

Most of the contracts are now over - although one, worth pounds 25m, for the DM111A3 fuse that went to Junghans, is still continuing. So, too, are the jobs that Blackburn would otherwise have kept. Foxley has squirrelled away his money; the foreign companies got their contracts; the MoD got its fuses.

In passing sentence yesterday, Judge Andrew Brooks said there was no evidence to show that Foxley's corruption had caused the MoD any loss, or forced Royal Ordnance to cut staff or close down plants when contracts went abroad. However, the former Royal Ordnance staff felt they suffered - with the loss of their jobs.

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