Discord at the Royal Academy of Music after 'double fraud'

Former executives accused of defrauding historic institution of more than £600,000
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The Independent Online

Two former executives at the prestigious 190-year-old Royal Academy of Music have been charged with defrauding the organisation of hundreds of thousands of pounds, after allegedly misleading eminent musicians and prominent national figures on its governing body.

Janet Whitehouse, 56, the academy's former director of finance, is accused of misleading trustees – who include the soprano Lesley Garrett and the economist Sir Howard Davies – and of defrauding the charity of more than £200,000.

She will appear in court next month accused of fraud along with the former head of IT at the academy, Steven Newell. He has been charged with three counts of fraud in relation to more than 40 invoices he allegedly submitted amounting to more than £400,000 over nearly two years, and with an allegedly false qualification and reference to secure his job. The pair both left their jobs in March last year.

"We have advised the Metropolitan Police Service that Janet Whitehouse, the former director of finance at the Royal Academy of Music, and Steven Newell, the former head of information at the RAM should be prosecuted for fraud offences," said Andrew Penhale, of the Crown Prosecution Service's Central Fraud Group.

"After careful consideration of all the evidence, I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case."

The Academy, founded in 1822, is the country's oldest conservatoire, training nearly 700 students from more than 50 countries. It had an income of £20m last year, according to its most recent accounts. It has a stellar list of alumni spanning the worlds of classical and popular music including Dame Evelyn Glennie, Sir John Dankworth, the conductor Sir Henry Wood and Annie Lennox. Sir Elton John, another former student, is its vice president.

It also has impeccable Royal connections, with the Queen as its patron and the Duchess of Gloucester as its president. It is the keeper of a renowned collection of musical instruments, busts and manuscripts in its museum that have been donated over the years.

Ms Whitehouse faces three counts of fraud for allegedly abusing her position at the charity for personal gain over four years to defraud the Academy, according to a statement by the CPS. She is accused of misleading the trustees over three lump-sum payments totalling more than £100,000 which she claimed had been approved by the chairman of the governing body, Lord Burns, a former permanent secretary to the Treasury.

She is also accused of deceiving the trustees about four invoices from Whiteley Associates, a company in her name and valued at nearly £104,000 claiming they were payment for work carried out for the Academy and should be paid.

She has also been accused of abusing her position by allowing a member of her family to stay in the charity's accommodation rent-free without approval. The two former employees will appear before Westminster magistrates on 2 May in separate hearings.

A spokesman for the Academy said it was aware of the police investigation but declined to comment further.