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Private investigator sues Morgan Sindall

Exclusive: Detective takes firm where he investigated ‘kickback’ claims to tribunal over alleged breach of verbal contract

A private investigator hired by Morgan Sindall to root out corruption among staff at its subsidiaries is suing the company over an alleged breach of contract.

Andrew Campbell Stewart is seeking damages from the UK’s fifth largest contractor by turnover, claiming Morgan Sindall Fit Out managing director Steve Elliott reneged on a deal to give him a job in return for his discretion in a separate criminal trial.

Mr Stewart told an employment tribunal he had been promised a two-year job with Overbury, Morgan Sindall’s office, hotel, retail and education fit-out firm, plus extensive retraining.

He said he was to be paid £8,000 every two months for work in either the health and safety or environmental departments.

He claims the offer was conditional on him avoiding any mention of Morgan Sindall and its staff in a criminal prosecution that had been brought against him and related in large part to his work for the group of companies.

Mr Stewart – who invoiced Overbury for private investigation work under the name Ryan Surveillance Services, and later as RSS and then Spectrum, at the request of Mr Elliott – undertook work for the contractor from 2004.

Earlier this month, he told the tribunal his work included uncovering corrupt staff members accused of taking cash for contracts, auditing the legal and immigration status of site labour and handling police enquiries relating to scammers attempting to trade under Morgan Sindall-owned company names.

Mr Stewart told the tribunal:  “There were repeated problems with work being given out. Because the company gives quite a lot of freedom to its junior managers, junior managers were giving contracts often to the value of millions and sometimes they were getting kickbacks.

“It was successfully proving it that eventually tripped me up. I was looking at allegations from an anonymous source. Morgan Sindall put it to the people named and they denied it so Morgan Sindall asked me to see if there was any truth in the matter. They were put on the spot and the employees chose to leave.”

Mr Stewart was arrested on 30 July 2009. He was subsequently charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation on 26 May 2010.

He claims the job offer was made during a conversation with Mr Elliott in June 2010 as the Crown prepared its case for the criminal trial.

But when the crown announced it would not bring evidence against him on 13 May 2011, Mr Stewart claims the job he had been offered failed to materialise.

Angry at Mr Elliott’s alleged betrayal – the pair had been firm friends for several years, attending football matches and family functions together – Mr Stewart then contacted Morgan Sindall executive chairman John Morgan to complain about Mr Elliott.

He was referred to Mr Elliott’s number two, Overbury managing director Chris Booth, whom he claims made a veiled offer of a £60,000 pay-off but insisted any chance of a job had gone as a result of him contacting Mr Morgan.

Mr Stewart rejected the offer, choosing instead to write to Mr Morgan, detailing his claim over 10 pages.

When no job offer was made he decided to commence legal action.

Morgan Sindall, Overbury and Mr Elliott “absolutely refute” that any offer was made. They argued at the tribunal that Mr Stewart had no evidence to substantiate his claim and highlighted several discrepancies in his statements to the tribunal.

Morgan Sindall does not deny Mr Stewart has worked for both Overbury and Morgan Sindall, or that he was a close personal friend of Mr Elliott. Nor does it deny that Mr Elliott personally lent Mr Stewart £8,500 following his arrest.

But Mr Elliott claims Mr Stewart had sought to “threaten” the company with reputational damage so that it would give him a job.

He said in his witness statement: “I was really shocked and angry that Andy basically tried to threaten me into giving him a job with [Overbury].

“But on reflection, I think that with his career and reputation down the pan, he has become a desperate man and has resorted to these sorts of tactics.”

Claire McCann, the barrister representing Overbury, said Mr Stewart had conceived of his “little plan to fabricate employment” as a way to “get something for the guy who ended up with nothing”.

She said: “Even on your case, Mr Stewart, this was just a hope or an intention expressed by one mate to another.”

A Morgan Sindall Fit Out spokesman said: “Clearly the employment tribunal is only part-heard, but we have complete faith in the employment tribunal to arrive at the correct decision.”

The tribunal continues.

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