Fraud allegations are ‘a political smear’, says Grant Shapps
Police not to investigate allegations against Shapps, but Met lawyers say software selling may constitute offence of fraud.
The Metropolitan Police has decided not to investigate allegations about the past business affairs of the Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps made by the Labour MP Steve McCabe. But, in an unusual move, the Met has told McCabe that lawyers who advised the police concluded that the selling of the software may be ”an offence of fraud” and perhaps other offences.
Steve McCabe made his complaint to the police last year at a time when Mr Shapps’ past business affairs were under close scrutiny by journalists. An investigation by Channel 4 News raised questions as to whether the supposedly satisfied customers who were quoted giving positive testimonials on the Shapps business website were people who really existed or were actually fictitious.
Grant Shapps was also found to have run his business under the pseudonym Michael Green.
Three weeks ago, on 10 October, Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Duthie of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command at Scotland Yard wrote to Steve McCabe to announce that the police had now finished their assessment of the allegations against Shapps and his family firm How To Corp Ltd.
The police letter to Mr McCabe states: “Legal advice was sought which concluded that the selling of the software may constitute an offence of fraud, among others.”
The letter continued: “However, upon the conclusion of the assessment process the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] have decided not to instigate a criminal investigation and have now closed this matter.”
The police have told Steve McCabe that they consulted a number of organisations before reaching their decision, including the Intellectual Property Office and the Publishers Association.
Below: the full letter sent by the Met to Steve McCabe MP.
Although Grant Shapps’ business website was rapidly dismantled following the controversy last autumn, Steve McCabe was able to provide the Met with many hundreds of webpages which had been captured by various sources before the Shapps firm’s sites were taken down. The police say that this material “was useful but did not overcome the evidential barriers that we face”.
I understand that one of the evidential barriers to pursuing a prosecution for fraud, or possibly some other offence, was the difficulty of identifying any victims who had suffered from the activities of Shapps’s firm How To Corp. It is not clear what Duthie’s letter was referring to when it suggested there may have been other offences committed apart from fraud.
Mr Shapps ceased being a director of How To Corp in 2008. However, his wife Belinda Shapps was still running How To Corp Ltd from the family home in Hertfordshire as recently as the autumn of 2012, a Michael Green continued promoting How To Corp products online, such as TrafficPaymaster (pictured above), long after 2008.
Grant Shapps still has many questions to answer on these matters. Given his call earlier this week for the BBC to be more “transparent” in its activities, he will be under pressure to be equally transparent about his own business affairs.
You can follow Michael Crick on Twitter.