Three charged over Olympic Stadium 'surveillance' claims
An investigator hired by Tottenham Hotspur during their ill-fated bid for the Olympic Stadium was among three men charged with fraud yesterday, having allegedly illegally obtained phone records belonging to West Ham United director Karren Brady.
Howard Hill was arrested in January and charged after a 14-month investigation by the Metropolitan Police into allegations by West Ham and the Olympic Park Legacy Company that information relating to the stadium was unlawfully obtained.
Until December last year, Hill, 58, worked for PKF, a London-based firm of forensic accountants used by Tottenham during their failed bid for the stadium. The club have always denied employing Hill or PKF to conduct any form of surveillance on their opponents in the bid or the OPLC, whose board members were to decide the stadium's future tenants. Baroness Ford, former chair of the OPLC, accused Spurs of spying on all 14 members of the board through private investigators – a claim Tottenham have always denied.
Hill, from Stockport, will appear at Westminster Magistrates Court with Richard Forrest, 30, and Lee Stewart, 39, on 28 November charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
West Ham were chosen to take on the stadium in October last year but that deal collapsed under the threat of legal challenge. The future of the £500m stadium is still undecided. The delay in reopening it may mean it is not ready to host events until 2016, as the London Legacy Development Corporation – as the OPLC is now known – reiterated yesterday.
A final decision is expected early next month with West Ham strong favourites. But the delay was yesterday criticised by Ed Warner, chairman of UK Athletics. "This is fast becoming a Stratford farce," said Warner. "West Ham have been phenomenally patient over the last few months. I would urge those making the decision to please get on and do it."
The delay is in part due to negotiations over who will pay for conversion costs – £38m of government money is set aside but installing retractable seating and extending the roof, as well as reducing capacity from 80,000 to 60,000, is expected to require around £180m.
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