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Former Kent officer 'used fees to buy Jaguar'

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The former Kent CC energy procurement officer charged with multiple counts of fraud used “unauthorised management fees” to buy himself a Jaguar car, details of the charges against him have revealed.

Ross David Knowles of Larking Drive, Allington, who has yet to enter a plea, is alleged to have committed the crimes while holding a senior post at Local Authority South East Region (LASER), the council’s wholly owned energy procurement business, which has more than 100 local authority clients.

Mr Knowles faces two counts of fraud and one of money laundering for alleged crimes carried out between August 2008 and January 2011. He has since left the council.

The charge sheet said: “You [Mr Knowles] dishonestly abused that position [head of energy procurement for LASER] intending thereby to make a gain for yourself by negotiating an unauthorised management fee with Centrica of 0.04p per kWh of energy supplied and diverting that commission into your own bank account, in breach of section 4 of the Fraud Act 2006.”

A second fraud charge related to an “unauthorised management fee with npower of 0.05p per kWh of energy supplied” also in breach of section 4 of the Fraud Act 2006.

There is no suggestion of impropriety on the part of the energy companies.

The third count related to alleged illegal transfers made by Mr Knowles. One of the alleged transfers was made “for the purchase of a Jaguar motor vehicle”.

Mr Knowles will appear in Maidstone crown court on 2 September.

The council’s annual governance statement revealed police were called in to investigate “a significant irregularity” in one of its service areas towards the end of 2010-11.

The statement said: “As a live case under investigation by the police, further detail cannot be provided, but the case did bring to the fore questions about the governance arrangements of the service concerned.

“The council immediately commissioned an external review to ascertain the specific control failures that gave rise to the issue, and is seeking to commission a wider governance review of the service area during 2011.”

A Kent Police Authority statement later confirmed: “Ross Knowles of Larking Drive, Allington was charged on 10 May with two counts of fraud by abuse of position, and one count of money laundering”.

According to its website, LASER has 106 local authorities with more than 60 full-time staff.

The council declined an offer to comment on whether or not costs resulting from the alleged fraud could have been passed on to customer authorities but said it had contacted customers about the alleged fraud.

LGC contacted more than 10 council customers of Kent’s energy procurement service last month but at the time none were aware of the legal developments.

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