15 December 2000
Police milk probe is three months old

By Johann Tasker

POLICE have spent three months investigating financial irregularities at the farmer-funded Milk Development Council, FARMERS WEEKLY can reveal.

The statutory body admitted last week that it had called in police after identifying a number of unspecified accounting irregularities in previous years.

No further comment could be made, said an MDC statement which pledged that none of the organisations ongoing work would be compromised.

But an investigation by FARMERS WEEKLY has found that police were first called in to scrutinise the alleged misuse of MDC funds three months ago.

The sum of money involved is understood to be substantial.

Fraud squad officers have spent weeks trawling through financial records.

Gloucestershire police confirmed: “An investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds was launched in September and is still ongoing.

“The inquiry is still continuing by the forces fraud unit.”

Safeguarding assets and preventing fraud is the responsibility of MDC chief executive Peter Merson, who is also the councils accounting officer.

Mr Merson described the situation as “regrettable”, saying no staff had been suspended and no current council members are under suspicion.

Brian Peacock, MDC council chairman, indicated earlier this week that the police probe is likely to continue into the New Year.