BBC accepts resignation of 'Panorama' producer at centre of bribery allegation


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The Independent Online

The BBC has accepted the resignation of a senior producer on its Panorama programme who had been suspended following allegations of bribery.

Matthew Chapman has left the organisation although a BBC inquiry is ongoing into the allegations against him. A luxury Caribbean property developer has claimed that one of its security consultants was bribed with the offer of work at the BBC.

In a statement issued today, the BBC said it still hoped to show the Panorama documentary on which Mr Chapman had been working. “BBC News confirmed today that it has accepted the resignation of a member of staff who had recently been suspended following a complaint made to Panorama. We are still looking at the facts behind the complaint made by Harlequin and hope that the film will be broadcast in due course.”

Mr Chapman won a Bafta for his work on Panorama’s investigation into care-home abuse, Undercover Care. Some colleagues were angry yesterday that he had been “forced out” over the incident when senior executives in the BBC had not lost their jobs over mistakes made in relation to the Jimmy Savile scandal and editorial failures surrounding untrue allegations about Lord McAlpine.

The development coincided with comments by the head of the BBC newsroom Mary Hockaday, who claimed that trust levels in BBC journalism were back to levels it enjoyed before the Savile crisis.

Mr Chapman has resigned after property developer Harlequin released email correspondence and lodged a formal complaint with the BBC. Using a BBC email address, Mr Chapman is alleged to have contacted Sean Ghent, a consultant to Harlequin. According to a report in The Times, one email said: “I was wondering if I could be a bit cheeky here. It’s unlikely that Ames [Harlequin chairman David Ames] and maybe Harlequin will be around for much longer, nor will he have the money to pay people… Panorama and the BBC is always using security protection officers and although I cannot guarantee anything we may be able to put things your way. How would you feel helping me out in a totally confidential way?”

Mr  Ghent was approached via the business network LinkedIn. “He was suggesting my job might disappear,” he told The Times. “It seemed to me he was trying to offer me an enticement.” In a letter to the BBC, Harlequin said: “On any sensible interpretation, the message to Mr Ghent is simply staggering… In short, it appears to be tantamount to an attempted bribe.”

The Serious Fraud Office and Essex police are jointly investigating complaints against Harlequin, while the Financial Services Authority has warned financial advisers about investing large sums of clients’s money in the company’s overseas property.