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Horizon scandal: more than £1m claimed in Post Office ‘profits’ could come from sub-postmasters

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More than £1 million in unexplained transactions was transferred to Post Office profits at the height of the Horizon scandal, leaked documents show.

The logs, seen by Sky News, show a snapshot of transfers from a Post Office “miscellaneous customers” suspense account over a period of four years, until 2014.

A suspense account is where unexplained or disputed transactions remain until they can be “reconciled.”

Unrecorded transactions were transferred from the Post Office’s suspense account to its profit and loss account after three years.

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Ian Henderson, director of Second Sight – the forensic accountants hired years ago by the Post Office – said: “The Post Office didn’t print money. She was accumulating funds in her suspense account.

“Those funds belong to someone, either third-party clients or sub-postmasters, and part of the work we were doing in 2015 was digging into that.”

Mr Henderson said they were fired shortly after raising questions about whether the Post Office was profiting from deficits paid by sub-postmasters.

Picture:
Mr Henderson told Sky News the money could have come from the pockets of sub-postmasters.

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A letter from Alisdair Cameron, the Post’s chief financial officer, to Second Sight in February 2015 states that some “publications cannot be attributed” to “underlying transactions.”

He added: “We are not always able to analyze the combined totals to detail all underlying transactions. »

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“Compensation paid by summer”

Mr Henderson said the letter shows that “the Post Office was benefiting from this uncertainty due, frankly, to poor record keeping, but by leveraging it to the benefit of its profit and loss account”.

He maintains it is impossible to prove with certainty that sub-postmasters’ money was invested in Post Office profits due to a “lack of granularity”.

It therefore asserts that there is “sufficient public interest” for a further independent review of the use of suspense accounts to take place.

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Mr Henderson added: “This hasn’t come out of nowhere, where is the money coming from? That’s a fundamental question that the Post Office hasn’t answered.”

Meanwhile, a secret recording obtained by Sky News indicates that the Post Office was trying to muzzle independent forensic accountants.

The recording is that of a meeting in January 2014 between Second Sight, a lawyer and a representative of the Post Office.

This happened more than a year before the accountants were fired.

During the conference call, there were signs that the relationship between the Post and Second Sight was beginning to weaken.

A contractual confidentiality agreement, a “letter of commitment” between the parties, is discussed.

In the recording, Ian Henderson says: “Either you know, we have unlimited discretion and authorization to just talk to MPs, or we don’t.

“At the moment the way the document is written prevents us from doing that. That’s the problem.”

His Second Sight colleague Ron Warmington seems to agree.

In another part of the recording, further concerns are raised that investigators cannot speak to deputies.

Mr. Henderson says: “What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t gag the candidate or Second Sight by being able to respond, you know, fully and frankly to MPs who, in some way, have frankly started this whole process.”

The Post Office representative responds by saying that he is not trying to gag anyone.

Mr Henderson describes “a point of principle”: “In exactly the same way as when we did spot reviews, we disclosed to MPs, when they asked us a specific question, the information provided to us by Fujitsu and by the Job.

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“And that’s why it’s so important to establish this principle that there should be no gagging of Second Sight in terms of being able to discuss our investigative work with MPs.”

At the same meeting, his colleague Ron Warmington said that if it later turned out that Second Sight had been “effectively gagged” in its dealings with MPs, “it won’t be Second Sight that particularly annoys them, it would will be Post Office”. “.

The representative responds directly: “I think that’s an issue that the Postal Service will have to address if — if that happens.”

Adding that “some of the language in terms of gagging is probably an exaggeration of what we are trying to do here, and at the moment, you have not signed anything.”

The Post issued a statement in response to the findings, saying: “The statutory public inquiry, presided over by a judge with the power to question witnesses under oath, is the best forum to consider the issues raised by this evidence.

“We remain fully focused on supporting the investigation to uncover the truth about what happened and determine responsibility for it.”

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