Four men have been jailed for their parts in an operation to make and receive payments in order to win contracts on the Farringdon station project.
Innocent Obiekwe, a senior health and safety manager at Costain / Laing O’Rourke joint venture CoLOR, alongside Kevin McKee and John Zayya of Alandale Rail Ltd and William Waring of Qualitas, were handed jail sentences on Friday after pleading guilty to corruption at Blackfriars Crown Court.
Rail contractor Alandale Rail Ltd was also convicted of corruption and fined £25,000.
Alandale Rail workers Mr McKee, 57, from Maidenhead, and Mr Zayya, 51, from Catford, made corrupt payments to Mr Obiekwe, 42, from Edgware, in exchange for help securing the contract to supply safety-critical staff at Farringdon.
Mr Obiekwe (pictured above, left) was responsible for ensuring the health and safety procedures on the upgrade of Farringdon as part of Network Rail’s multi-billion pound Thameslink project.
In return, Mr Obiekwe, who was nicknamed “our man in Havana” by co-conspirators, provided confidential information during the tender process for the contract.
According to the British Transport Police, which had been investigating the case since 2011, Mr Obiekwe provided information to Alandale Rail that influenced the tender process and ensured Alandale could undercut bids made by competitors.
After Alandale Rail won the contract through corruption, Mr McKee, Mr Zayya (pictured above, right) and Mr Obiekwe defrauded CoLOR by claiming for so-called “ghost worker” shifts, in which payments were claimed for workers who never attended the site or carried out work.
Invoices and timesheets were then falsified to disguise the bogus claims.
The proceeds were shared out between the three men, with Mr Obiekwe taking the lion’s share.
An investigation was launched by the BTP in February 2011 after Mr McKee told CoLOR and TfL of the men’s dishonest practices.
Despite the practices being uncovered, Mr Zayya continued to send money to Mr Obiekwe through Mr Waring.
The process would see Mr Zayya skim from the operatives’ rates of pay and use Mr Waring, 56, from Ashford, Kent, and his company, Quiltas, to pay Mr Obiekwe.
BTP officers identified payments of at least £140,000 paid to Mr Obiekwe along with other gifts and favours, but admitted the full extent of the money claimed and laundered may never be known.
Mr McKee pleaded guilty to charges of corruption, conspiracy to defraud and money laundering in September 2016 and was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment and disqualified from being a director for eight years.
Mr Obiekwe and Mr Zayya both pleaded guilty to corruption on 22 May 2017 and were sentenced to two years in prison and disqualified from being a director for eight years.
Mr Waring pleaded guilty to corruption and money laundering on 21 June 2017 and was sentenced to two years in prison and disqualified from being a director for eight years.
Kevin McKee and William Waring
The corruption was in relation to a Network Rail contract on the Farringdon station upgrade project in central London.
The Alandale Rail contract was initially valued at £2.1m but eventually rose to £5.2m.
CPS Specialist Fraud Division prosecutor Jane Mitchell said: “McKee, Zayya and Obiekwe cheated their way to a significant contract and their level of ongoing dishonesty was uncovered only when one of their own came forward.
“The defendants could not hide from the overwhelming evidence put forward by the British Transport Police and CPS and all pleaded guilty, apart from the company that was found guilty unanimously by the jury.”
Detective constable Justin Yorke from the BTP Commercial Fraud Squad said: ”The corruption shown by all defendants was complex, prolonged and meticulously planned.
“However, they did not plan on a whistle-blower reporting their corruption to the Mayor of London’s office.
“Obiekwe provided confidential information to Alandale Rail Ltd which ensured that they could undercut competitor bids, in order to secure this lucrative contract.
“He was motivated by greed and took bribes from Alandale Rail Ltd employees.
“The behaviour of Obiekwe and his fellow defendants was scandalous and undermines the legitimate tendering process companies undertake every day.
“The scale of the corruption was significant. Whilst we may never know the full extent of money fraudulently claimed and laundered, I am pleased that we have brought a criminal gang to justice.”
A Costain spokeswoman said: “We are pleased that appropriate sentencing has been passed for a former employee and a sub contractor who worked as part of our joint venture with Laing O’Rourke.
”While companies such as ours have processes and procedures in place to identify inappropriate activity, we actively encourage colleagues to come forward if they suspect any wrongdoing.”
A Laing O’Rourke spokesman said: “We welcome the sentences handed down to the criminals involved.
“Whilst no Laing O’Rourke employees were suspected of any wrongdoing in this matter, we were pleased to be able to assist the British Transport Police in their investigation.
“We also applaud those who came forward and testified at trial to secure these convictions.”
Network Rail and Alandale have been contacted for comment.