Yard pounds 5m fraud inquiry focuses on supervision

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The Independent Online
CHRIS BLACKHURST

A senior Scotland Yard official is at the centre of an internal investigation into the management of Anthony Williams, the accountant jailed for seven and a half years in May for embezzling pounds 5.5m from under his colleagues' noses.

The inquiry is focusing on the chain of command above Williams. John Crutchlow, Scotland Yard's finance director, was his immediate superior. A Yard spokesman said: "The whole issue of supervision is at the heart of the inquiry which is still continuing."

A grade six civil servant, Williams, 56, spent millions of pounds on buying and refurbishing properties in the Highland village of Tomintoul. The inquiry is expected to examine how Williams was able to draw cheques on an account used for a top secret anti-terrorist operation without any need for a co-signature.

This was not the first time Williams had stolen from the Yard's coffers. In October 1988, it was discovered that pounds 5,000 had vanished two years earlier from a civilian staff welfare fund. Williams, its treasurer, was accused. He blamed bank error and repaid the money in full.

His explanation was apparently accepted since he was allowed to remain in charge of administering the secret anti-terrorist operation funds - which is where his pounds 5m came from. Mr Crutchlow, now 50, was one of the staff welfare fund trustees.

A full account of Williams's conduct is contained in the September issue of Esquire magazine. It has confirmed that Williams acquired his money from "Project Delta", which involved running a hi-tech spy plane used to monitor suspected terrorists. The Yard has remained silent over this story, first revealed in the Independent.

Delta was not raised at the recent session of the Commons Public Accounts Committee or by the National Audit Office, which both looked into the fraud. MPs accepted that national security would be threatened if they probed too deeply. This, says Esquire, was bunkum.

During the early Eighties, the Met's Specialist Operations branch used a rented plane to observe organised criminals and likely terrorists. In 1986, officers bought an aircraft and disguised its ownership.

As deputy finance director,Williams seemed the ideal person to manage it. The Yard bought a Cessna 404 and Williams formed a company called Turnbull. Using the alias D G Turnbull, he opened a bank account. Yard money was paid into the account to cover fuel and other supplies.

From day one, a large chunk of this cash went into Williams's back pocket. On the very first day Delta started, in November 1986, he raided the Turnbull account to clear his overdraft.

According to Esquire, which has had an exclusive interview with Williams, he held his breath. Nobody asked any questions, so he embarked on hiseight- year spending spree.

At times Williams was embezzling pounds 20,000 a day. He was finally caught in July 1994, after buying a mansion in Surrey, a Spanish villa and having lavished millions on Tomintoul.

Meanwhile, Mr Crutchlow is tipped for higher things. Police officials will not discuss the investigation except to say that the chain of command and responsibility is being examined.

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