Brian Sims
Editor

SFO seizes additional funds from Shropshire training contract fraudsters

THE SERIOUS Fraud Office (SFO) has secured increased Confiscation Orders against Silinder Singh Sidhu and Paul Kent, two men convicted in 2010 of rigging further education and training contracts operated through the Shropshire Learning and Skills Council (SLSC).

The increases come after the SFO identified an additional £140,000 of assets that the fraudsters have now both been ordered to hand over in order to repay their ill-gotten gains.

The SFO doesn’t rest until it has recovered every available criminal asset, no matter how many years pass. Under Section 22 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, the SFO has the power to continue investigations into the assets of criminals after their conviction and also to increase the amount seized when it identifies additional assets.

The SFO secured convictions against Sidhu and Kent for corruptly awarding contracts worth over £1.3 million to local training providers, receiving almost half a million pounds in corrupt payments and financially benefiting between them to the tune of over £467,000. The fraudsters used this money to fund lavish lifestyles, buying expensive cars and watches and taking luxurious holidays at the taxpayers’ expense.

The men conducted their fraud through positions they held with the SLSC, established by Parliament in April 2001 to improve the skills of young people and adults not in university education by planning and funding high quality education and training.

Fraudulent CV

Kent began his fraud in 2003 after securing a position on the SLSC with a fraudulent CV, recruiting Sidhu to his fraud a year later. As a director of the SLSC, Kent would solicit bribes for the award of contracts. Once an employee of SLSC, Sidhu later became a services provider through his company SLK Marketing Ltd. In this capacity, he received over £266,000 from the SLSC and paid Kent just over £80,000 in corrupt payments.

In April 2010, Kent admitted to 11 counts of receiving corrupt payments and to gaining a monetary advantage by deception. He was jailed for four-and-a-half years and paid £3,240 in confiscation. Sidhu pleaded guilty in May 2010 to two counts of corruption. He was found guilty of two further counts of corruption after a two-week trial later that month. Sidhu received a three-year jail sentence and paid more than £31,500 in confiscation.

A review conducted by the SFO into the proceeds of their crimes has since identified substantial additional assets to be recovered from Sidhu and Kent. The SFO has secured more than £111,000 from Kent and over £27,000 from Sidhu. Sidhu has now fully paid the increased available amount of his Confiscation Order.

Undermined programme integrity

Lisa Osofsky, director of the SFO, commented: “These men defrauded the UK taxpayer and undermined the integrity of a programme designed to improve the life prospects of young people and adults from across Shropshire. We do not allow such criminals to enjoy the benefits of their crimes and are pleased to have recovered their assets for the public purse.”

Both Confiscation Orders were fully paid by the fraudsters. The extra money recovered by the SFO will be paid to Her Majesty’s Treasury.

The SFO fights complex financial crime, delivers justice for victims and protects the UK’s global reputation as a safe place in which to do business. The organisation investigates and prosecutes the most serious or complex cases of fraud, bribery and corruption.

As explained, the SFO also recovers the proceeds of crime worldwide. Under the directorship of Lisa Osofsky, through Confiscation Orders and fines as well as penalties, the SFO has recovered over £1 billion of illicit gains.

Further, the organisation has secured convictions against 21 individuals and companies and secured eight agreements with companies including Serco, G4S and Airbus, compelling them to pay penalties and reform in order to prevent future law-breaking.

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