Detectives face probe over fraud inquiry at charity

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DETECTIVES who carried out an abortive fraud investigation into an ethnic minority charity are facing an inquiry after an official complaint was made to the police watchdog by those accused of wrong-doing.

Senior trustees of the Barnsley Black and Ethnic Minority Initiative (BBEMI) had their homes raided and property seized after concerns were raised with South Yorkshire Police over its financial dealings.

The complaint was made last August by Barnsley Council, which gave the charity £100,000 a year, but after a nine-month probe, officers found there was “no significant evidence” of financial mismanagement.

Vladimer Sanadze, the former chairman of BBEMI, which is now being wound up, confirmed yesterday that he had complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over the way the case was handled.

It is understood that IPCC chiefs have now ordered South Yorkshire Police to carry out its own inquiry and reveal the results to the former trustees, before deciding whether to take further formal action.

Mr Sanadze told the Yorkshire Post he believed a bogus complaint over financial problems had been made to “destroy” the charity after trustees raised questions over the council’s ethnic minority policies.

The teacher and physicist, who has now moved from Barnsley to Dewsbury, added: “We had asked Barnsley Council’s leaders why there was not a single member of an ethnic minority in a senior role at the council.

“The next thing that happened was that the council said it was withdrawing our funding because of concerns over our finances and then the police were called in and we were questioned on suspicion of fraud.

“We were told by the council that we had no right of appeal, and that there was nothing we could do to save BBEMI, despite all the work put in by the trustees and staff over several years in the community.

“We still do not have a clue what evidence they had, but now the charity is closed and the work that it did, which cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds, has been wasted.”

Earlier this month the former treasurer of BBEMI, Naeem Jarral, told the Yorkshire Post how police had broken down his door in a dawn raid to seize paperwork as a result of the council’s fraud accusations.

Mr Jarral said officers took a computer belonging to his son, who is training to be a doctor in Leeds. Dr Sanadze said his son, 12, a pupil at Heckmondwike Grammar School, received similar treatment.

Dr Sanadze, who is originally from the former Soviet state of Georgia, added: “We believe the case is very worrying because it seems that the council was just able to tell the police to start an investigation.

“It was horrendous because the accusations have proven to be without substance, but we were never given the opportunity to provide our side of the story or to provide any explanations.

“I have now complained to the IPCC about the way South Yorkshire Police acted without any evidence and have pointed out some racist issues.

“The police were supposed to respond within 28 days but I have not had any response from them at all, and I plan to appeal to the IPCC again if necessary.”

Last night, a spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said the officer dealing with the investigation into the BBEMI case was not available.

A Barnsley Council spokesman said: “Despite the police not pursuing their investigation, the council had and continues to have serious concerns about how certain matters were being dealt with by BBEMI.

“It was felt necessary to raise these concerns with the police in order to protect public funds.

“Barnsley is working towards the establishment of a race equality forum as a means of engaging with the many and varied black and ethnic minority communities in the borough.”

martin.slack@ypn.co.uk