Police bill now stands at nearly £1.5m for probe into missing £10.25m Northampton Town loan
Charges over undeclared donations mark "first step" towards concluding 5½-year Operation Tuckhill investigation
Detectives probing the disappearance of a £10.25million borough council loan to Northampton Town FC say charges against six people are the "first step" towards concluding their near six-year investigation.
All six will appear at Northamptonshire Magistrates Court next month charged with making undeclared donations to Northampton South Conservative Association in 2014.
It is the first criminal action to emerge from the police investigation labelled Operation Tuckhill which has now cost almost £1.5m, seen nearly 600 witnesses quizzed, and a team of ten trawling through tens of thousands of emails and financial records.
Northampton Borough Council lent £13.5 million to Northampton Town, then owned by Anthony and David Cardoza, as part of plans to boost the ground's capacity to 10,000 with corporate boxes and a conference centre, hotel and gym complex. A development company, 1st Land, was set up to complete the redevelopment.
But work on extending the East Stand was halted in October 2014 when sub-contractors claimed they were owed £2.9m. The loan repayments to Northampton Borough Council stopped and, in November 2015, police launched a criminal investigation.
Various legal actions to recover the money were instigated, including attempts by Northampton Borough Council to recover the money.
Anthony Cardoza was declared bankrupt in 2019 following a High Court order to pay back £2.1m to the borough council.
1st Land boss, property developer Howard Grossman, was banned from running companies for ten years in February 2019 over a £5m hole in his company's accounts.
Northampton Borough Council confirmed last year it had spent £2.3m on its own investigation and legal action but the leader of the Labour group on the former borough council believes the true bill to council tax-payers is in excess of £17m.
Councillor Danielle Stone claimed the cost of the loan itself plus lost interest and the amount of money spent investigating and trying to recover the loan adds up to around £16.3m with the cost of council officers' time taking the total to more than £17m.
She added: "We need to be honest about the scale of what we have lost."
"There is a huge consequence for the borough, but what is the consequence for those that allowed it to happen and for those who made it happen?"
Attempts to recover the unpaid portion of the loan through civil courts have now passed to the West Northants unitary authority established in April to replace four districts and boroughs.
Councillor Stone's comments followed publication of a damning report by independent auditors KPMG which referred to a lack of scrutiny for the overall project.
The report stated: "This project was championed by the former leader [of NBC]. It appears to have been agreed without having been subject to any robust challenge by his fellow Cabinet members."