Hatton 'at centre of web behind fraud plot'

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The Independent Online
DEREK HATTON, the former deputy leader of Liverpool council, was paid almost pounds 120,000 to help push through a corrupt pounds 1.8m land deal, a court was told yesterday.

Mr Hatton, 45, was alleged to have been at the 'the centre of the web' in a plot to cheat the council.

Mold Crown Court, where he faces charges of conspiring to defraud the council with John Nelson and Hannah Folan, former councillors, and Roy Stewart and John Monk, businessmen, was told Mr Hatton's public relations company, Settleside, received almost pounds 30,000 a year from Mr Stewart over four years.

Alan Rawley, for the prosecution, said Mrs Folan, 47, passed on to Mr Hatton the confidential information that a 20-acre site in the city was to be offered for commercial development. Mr Hatton, who ceased to be a councillor in 1987, then told Mr Stewart, head of a development company, that the land was to be made available for retail purposes.

Mr Rawley alleged Mrs Folan's committee had given Mr Stewart an option to buy the land in Stonedale Crescent against the advice of council officials that it should be offered for tender.

Mr Stewart's company, Rogerson Developments, paid Settleside regular sums for 'public relations and research', Mr Rawley said. Mr Hatton had already 'bought and sold' Mrs Folan with a payment of pounds 1,000 connected with another land deal.

'That is an awful lot of public relations,' the jury was told. 'What we are suggesting is that the payments going to Mr Hatton, of just under pounds 30,000 a year, were for the influence he could bring to bear on Mrs Folan.'

Mr Hatton was 'at the centre of the web', the court was told. 'The Crown say the inference is quite clear - that the confidential information acquired by Mrs Folan was communicated by her to Mr Hatton who communicated it to Mr Stewart. He got in touch and said he was interested in the site.'

He said in 1988 Rogerson paid pounds 887,000 for a 999-year lease for half the land and later paid pounds 976,000 for another part on which a cinema was built.

Mr Rawley said: 'You may think it is a fair inference to draw that events and the payments are closely connected. What did Mr Hatton actually do, apart from identifying land, which justified sending such large invoices?'

The defendants all deny the charges. The trial was adjourned until today.