January 28, 2023

Unite has passed information to police after two independent reports about the construction of a nearly £100 million hotel and conference center in Birmingham revealed what the union said were “very serious concerns about potential crime”.

The union’s plan to build the 170-room complex – which began under the leadership of former general secretary Len McCluskey – was predicted in 2015 to cost around £35 million, but is now expected to rise to £98 million.

Sharon Graham, who took over from McCluskey last year, commissioned two reports for the project, one by a senior attorney and another by an accounting firm, Grant Thornton.

On Thursday, the union said both reports would be shared with police and not published while officers investigated what they discovered.

A Unite spokesman said Graham had commissioned a report from Martin Bowdery KC on why the project was going so over budget, and then an “external forensic investigation into Unite affiliated service providers”.

The spokesman said: “Due to very serious concerns about potential crime that have emerged, both reports are now being shared with the police. Police have asked Unite not to release the contents of the reports during the investigation. Unite will not comment further while these are ongoing.

“The secretary general is determined to do everything in her power to recover lost funds, by any means necessary and to hold accountable all those responsible.”

In April, South Wales Police and HM Revenue and Customs raided Unite’s central London offices as part of an investigation into allegations of bribery, fraud and money laundering linked to the hotel project.

Sources said contracts related to the center were part of their investigation. Police took files and a computer from the union’s office and also searched a number of other addresses in South Wales, Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, Greater London and Northamptonshire.

A leaked document seen by the Guardian in January 2021 indicates that a project reportedly budgeted at £35m in 2015 had cost the union £74m to that point. The current total budget is estimated at £98 million, with some reports saying the value of the complex could be about £30 million lower.

In January 2021, McCluskey told a meeting of the union’s executive council that costs had risen because of the union’s pledge to hire workers who were unionized, involving the involvement of companies with a history of blacklisting. , hiring workers directly and paying them at least national rates.

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