Union leader resigns amid vote-rigging investigation

Kevin Curran, the leader of one of Britain's largest trades unions, has resigned amid an investigation into ballot rigging. The general secretary of the GMB union, and a prominent supporter of Gordon Brown, was suspended from office last month for apparently interfering in an inquiry into the alleged voting scam during his election two years ago.

As revealed in The Independent, Mr Curran was accused of a scam in which possibly thousands of voting forms were sent to "safe houses", and his backers were also accused of unlawfully using the GMB's money to fund his campaign.

Mr Curran's backers allegedly voted for him on behalf of workers who had died, left the union or failed to pay subscriptions. It is claimed that addresses of the "ghost members" were altered so forms were dispatched to houses where Mr Curran's supporters would fill them in.

He denied any involvement, or any knowledge of the misuse of union money, in the alleged fraud. Members of the executive accused Mr Curran of trying to interfere with the inquiry and said they had been left with no choice but to suspend him.

A statement from the union said yesterday: "The GMB and Kevin Curran have reached an amicable agreement designed to resolve recent disagreements between both parties. Mr Curran is standing down as general secretary. Both parties reached this agreement in good faith and in the best interests of the GMB and its members.

"The union recognises Mr Curran's contribution to the GMB and the wider trade union movement. He leaves the GMB with his reputation and integrity intact and the GMB wish him well in whatever path he chooses to follow in future employment. Each party has agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. Neither party will be making any further statement."

Mr Curran was elected general secretary of the 600,000-strong union in April 2003 and took over from John Edmonds. He was suspended in March after being accused of attempting to put pressure on a QC who was appointed by the union to investigate the alleged voting irregularities.

He contacted John Hand QC, the chairman of the inquiry, allegedly emphasising that financial control of the union and the inquiry resided with him as general secretary. It is understood that Mr Curran maintained he was merely performing his duties as the organisation's chief administrator.

The executive twice demanded an apology from Mr Curran for the alleged interference, but he refused both times. A friend of Mr Curran said the general secretary had written to Mr Hand to ask if he needed any assistance and to assure him he would receive any help he needed.

A letter obtained by The Independent last month after his suspension showed Mr Curran tried to take charge of the inquiry. He wrote to the clerk of the barrister appointed to investigate the alleged irregularities, declaring that the inquiry could only proceed under his instructions.

The letter said: "I will be instructing [John] Hand QC in relation to his inquiry through solicitors. Pursuant to rule 14 of the constitution of the union, I am the only person in the union authorised to conduct the correspondence of the union and to incur legal costs in matter such as this."