Police have received two independent reports of alleged corruption at Unite, one of Britain’s largest trade unions, after findings revealed ‘potential crime’.
Union officials have revealed that the separate probes, one by an attorney and the other by accounting firm Grant Thornton, both found evidence of overcharges for large contracts.
The revelation is inconvenient for Labor Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, as Unite has been the largest donor for the past decade.
Sharon Graham, who was elected Unite general secretary in August 2021, launched the first inquiry by Martin Bowdery KC last December.
Graham commissioned Bowdery after an expert appraisal suggested that a Birmingham hotel and conference center built by the union was worth less than the amount spent on developing the site.
The project was expected to cost £57 million, but the final bill is now expected to be around £100 million. Earlier, officials said the higher total was partly due to the addition of an extra floor and because the hotel was upgraded to four-star plus and only employed union workers.
Graham then instructed Grant Thornton to take a broader look at “affiliate services” that Unite had purchased through various contracts.
Unite completed the Bowdery report before Christmas and was due to be published soon. But earlier this week, Graham told colleagues on the union’s “executive council” that it would no longer be published because it had been handed over to police.
Unite also handed over the findings of the Grant Thornton report to police, including an allegation that a company was awarded a contract worth £100,000 a month for eight years, totaling nearly £10 million
A spokesman for Unite said Graham had promised to find out if there had been any “misconduct” in the construction and expenditure related to the conference center, which was why she had instructed Bowdery and Grant Thornton.
Last month, Unite told staff it had severed ties with a supplier “mainly because of the risk of committing an offense under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002”.
“Due to very serious concerns about possible crime that have come to the fore, both reports are now being shared with the police. Police have asked Unite not to release the contents of the reports while they conduct their investigation,” the spokesman said.
Unite would not comment further, they continued.
“The secretary general is determined to do everything possible to recover lost funds, by any means necessary and to hold to account all those responsible. Clearly, this transparency would not have been there without the general secretary’s determination to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in getting to the truth.”