No more charges surrounding fraud scandal at Cotswold Water Park
NOBODY else should be charged in connection with a major fraud scandal at Cotswold Water Park, according to recommendations made in an official report.
The findings of an independent investigation by the City of London Police, published yesterday, have led the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to rule out any further action.
It comes after Dennis Grant, the former boss of the Cotswold Water Park Society, was jailed for four years and four months in July 2011 for defrauding the organisation out of more than £660,000.
During the investigation, a number of allegations of fraud and corruption were made about public officials in connection with the water park, near Cirencester – including one that the whole affair was part of a wider Masonic conspiracy involving businesses, police and local government.
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But the CPS said there was "no compelling evidence" to support the allegations.
Police in Gloucestershire said they now considered the matter to be closed.
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Berry said: "This complex and lengthy inquiry has finally come to an end and the outcome of our initial investigation has been confirmed.
"We take allegations made to us very seriously. In this case, we investigated the initial claims.
"To gain an impartial perspective on our investigation, we asked the City of London Police – who are very experienced in fraud and corruption enquiries – to review it.
"That City of London Police inquiry was passed to the CPS for review.
"The CPS confirmed that the inquiry had not omitted any significant areas and that there are no further lines of inquiry to take.
"We consider that the matter is now at a close."
The scandal first came to light in 2010 after a new operations director employed by the charity, Tasha Flaherty, discovered irregularities and went to the police.
Cotswold District Council and Gloucestershire County Council were bought under the spotlight and were accused of failing to monitor the charity set up to run the water park.
The water park's financial director Nick Hanson was originally arrested and charged alongside Grant, but died of a heart attack before his case was heard.
Since the scandal, a new body has been set up, the Cotswold Water Park Trust, which has taken the society's place.
The publication of yesterday's report is the second investigation into the scandal after the Garbutt report produced in March last year. Councillor Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said a line could now been drawn under the matter.
"I welcome the clear conclusion that there are no other lines of inquiry to pursue," he said.
However, yesterday's report highlighted the fact that the response from police to initial allegations of Grant's fraudulent activity could have been handled better.
Initial complaints from resident Esmond Jenkins, now a Liberal Democrat councillor, were not taken seriously and initial attempts by managers at the water park to report their concerns were ignored.
Councillor Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Churn Valley), leader of the Lib Dem group on Cotswold District Council, said he would be setting up a meeting with police and crime commissioner Martin Surl to discuss why these initial concerns were not given more attention.
He said: "The full scale of the fiasco when Grant's crimes were first reported have finally been laid bare in this report and it is deeply worrying.
"I will be seeing Martin Surl to discuss what can be done to reassure public minded citizens that they will be listened to when they take their suspicions to the police."