Four jailed over bribes for Edinburgh repair contracts

Grant Prior 7 years ago

Two construction bosses and a pair of Edinburgh City Council officials have been jailed for a total of more than 13 years for bribery and corruption surrounding the award of maintenance contracts.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how the contractors bribed council officials with cash payments and hospitality in exchange for being allocated maintenance and repair contracts.

The corruption involved the payment of bribes totalling over £42,000 and the provision of hospitality inducements worth over £30,000.

Kevin Thomas William Balmer and Brendan Cantwell were co-directors of Action Building Contracts (ABC) Ltd, a construction company specialising in the refurbishment of buildings.

At its height, the company turned over more than £4m each year and employed over 70 staff. ABC Ltd went into voluntary liquidation in 2010.

James John Costello was employed by Edinburgh City Council between 1991 and 2011. Between 2004 and 2011 he worked within the Property Care Services department.

Charles Hutton Owenson is a painter and decorator who was employed by Edinburgh City Council in various roles between 1991 and 2011.  Between 2007 and 2011 he also worked within the Property Care Services department.

The contractors bribed the council officials with cash payments and hospitality in exchange for being allocated maintenance and repair contracts.

The “hospitality” included corporate seats at football matches and nights out at bars and lap dancing clubs.

The fraud element of the case centred on the contractors’ practice of falsely inflating their invoices to the council in order to cover the costs of the bribes.

Proceeds of Crime proceedings have now been commenced against all accused, with a view to recovering their illegal earnings.  The confiscation case against all four accused will next call for a hearing on 12 August 2015 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Following sentence of the accused, Lindsey Miller, Procurator Fiscal for Organised Crime & Counter Terrorism, said:

“These four men set about an elaborate scheme to line their own pockets with public funds meant to benefit the people and city of Edinburgh.

“After an extremely thorough investigation led by our specialist Economic Crime Unit, they have been brought to justice and we will now take appropriate steps under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the funds they stole and pay them back into the public purse where they belong.”

The full sentences details are:

Charles Hutton Owenson (DOB 31/01/53) from Edinburgh, was sentenced to four years and four months.

James John Costello, (DOB 30/08/1970) from Edinburgh, was sentenced to three years and nine months.

Kevin Thomas William Balmer (DOB 04/10/62) from Livingston, was sentenced to two years and 10 months

Brendan Cantwell (DOB 15/10/1970) from Livingston, was sentenced to two years and three months.

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