Barratt Developments' Alastair Baird arrested in contract probe

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Police swooped on the London boss of Barratt Developments on Wednesday as the housebuilder was engulfed in an alleged cash-for-contracts scandal.

Alastair Baird, 52, a near-30-year veteran of the business, was arrested by the Metropolitan Police alongside an unnamed former Barratt employee.

The arrest comes 14 months after the builder launched a probe following an internal audit which “relates to possible misconduct in the process for awarding and managing certain material and subcontract supply contracts in the London region,” Barratt told the stock market. 

Barratt referred its investigation to the Met in April. It also led to civil action against a third employee which began last October, before the worker was fired in February. 

Baird, who has been suspended following his arrest, lives in Hampstead on one of London’s most exclusive streets, according to Companies House records. The seven-bedroom mansion, with indoor heated swimming pool and gym complex, is worth an estimated £15 million, according to Zoopla.

Barratt’s website describes Baird as “renowned for his superb relationships with key public and private-sector stakeholders and his outstanding grasp of the construction and financial issues that underpin successful development”.

He has been London regional managing director for five years.

Two months ago Baird was toasting the completion of the purchase of West Ham United’s former home, the Boleyn Ground, from Galliard Homes, where  Barratt aims to build 842 homes. 

One housebuilding boss told the Evening Standard: “He is known as a really great guy who knows his business. He is very well liked, a nice, nice man. He is well respected in the industry.”

Following the early findings of the investigation, Barratt appointed a leading accounting firm to conduct an external review of the controls relating to the tendering and procurement processes in the London business, which was reported to the company’s audit committee. 

Barratt said it had adopted additional controls. The builder’s London procurement processes differ from the rest of the group, due to the one-off nature of construction projects in the capital. 

Gary Ennis, manager of Barratt’s Southern region, will take interim responsibility for London as well, supported by other senior management. 

Barratt does not anticipate any “material” financial impact.

The shares rose 5.3p to 489.1p.

Chief executive David Thomas said: “We are committed to meeting the highest ethical standards in all aspects of our business. We have acted decisively, launching our own thorough and comprehensive investigation.”

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October 19, 2016 |
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