Family on trial over £2.2m laundering

Members of a traveller family have gone on trial accused of £2.2m of money laundering including a disastrous £366,000 council contract to overhaul two travellers' sites.

Northamptonshire County Council awarded the contract to redevelop sites at Gypsy Lane, Irchester, and Kangaroo Spinney, near Wellingborough, to Francis Doherty senior, in November 2003.

As caretaker, the 53-year-old was contracted to upgrade the two sites but the building work was either substandard or never completed.

He was awarded both contracts in spite of the fact he was not an approved contractor and concerns within the local authority about his "mixed track record" and "variable" quality of work.

Once investigations began, it emerged that the county council had overpaid almost 500,000 for incomplete or sub-standard work and that almost all the money paid to Doherty had disappeared

Francis Doherty senior went on trial at Northampton Crown Court on Monday along with his wife Rhona, 50, and sons Hughie, 27, and Francis Doherty junior, 32.

They are accused of 2.2m money laundering involving the council contract, VAT fraud, defrauding elderly and vulnerable pensioners, housing fraud and VAT evasion.

Opening the prosecution earlier this week, Christopher Donnellan QC said: "The case is about the criminal activity of the Doherty family and how, in the course of profiting from their criminal activity, Francis Doherty senior, involved with a county council officer and an independent professional, obtained unlawful advanced payments and substantial overpayments from Northamptonshire."

David Entwistle, 50, who was the head of countryside and tourism at Northamptonshire County Council at the time, is accused of misconduct in public office, concerning payments made to F Doherty and Sons Builders.

The court heard yesterday Entwistle, of Northampton, allegedly forged cheque requisition forms to secure payment from the council – payments which were made in advance for work which was either sub-standard or never done.

Philip Horne, 56, of Wootton, Northampton, was employed by the council as contract administrator, with responsibility for signing off the work.

He denies forging payment certificates to approve payments to Doherty between January 2003 and June 2008.

The jury heard how a building expert was sent to both sites in 2008 to determine what work – which was intended to have a 10-year 'shelf life' – had been done and whether it was up to specification

The trial, which is expected to last 10 weeks, continues.