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Exclusive: Leeds Grand Theatre at centre of six-figure fraud probe

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One of Leeds’s premier arts venues is at the centre of a six-figure fraud probe, the Yorkshire Evening Post can reveal.

Police are investigating claims more than £100,000 has been siphoned from Leeds Grand Theatre funds.

As reported last week, an inquiry was launched after Leeds City Council uncovered suspected “fraudulent creditor payments” at an unnamed partner organisation.

Both the council and police are still refusing to confirm the identity of the organisation in question.

But a well-placed source told the YEP it was common knowledge among theatre employees.

“Staff have known about it for some time. It’s the talk of the theatre,” he said.

The investigation – launched towards the end of last year – is understood to relate to claims that bogus invoices have been used to make payments to nonexistent private companies.

Two men and a woman – at least one of whom is thought to be a council employee – have been arrested and bailed.

Morley North councillor Bob Gettings, who sits on the board of trustees, said the theatre, which opened in 1878, was operating as normal while inquiries continued.

He added: “The board has met several times about this issue and, although it came as a bit of a blow, we are satisfied that the law will deal with it.”

A report to Leeds council’s governance and audit committee revealed that an inquiry had taken place into an unnamed partner organisation following “proactive fraud exercises” by internal audit staff.

“The identification of this issue prompted the need for a detailed audit investigation, the findings of which have been passed to the police,” the report said.

As well as the police investigation, internal disciplinary procedures have been undertaken. The council is supporting the organisation to “ensure the continuation of day to day functions,” the report added.

The matter was briefly mentioned at a meeting of the governance and audit committee on Tuesday, but the organisation involved was not named and members were told they could not discuss the investigation publicly until the conclusion of both criminal and disciplinary proceedings.

Chief officer Tim Pouncey said there was a danger of jeopardising the two investigations.

“Nobody has been disciplined or found guilty at a disciplinary hearing and nobody has been found guilty in any criminal proceedings and at this stage it would be unwise to get into the principles of this particular case,” he said.

Committee member Coun Neil Taggart said he accepted that standpoint, but pressed for further details to be revealed in due course.

“I hope it isn’t going to be too prolonged because there are questions being asked and, although I’m saying nothing at this stage, at some point we have to say that there will be an account given by the committee,” he said.

The council refused to say if anyone had been suspended as a result of the investigation and said it would not comment further.

The theatre also refused to comment.

 
 
 

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