Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Trust to pursue dead solicitor funds

The health body that triggered investigations into a top Belfast solicitor has vowed to continue its pursuit of funds from the late lawyer's practice.

George Brangam died last week while at the centre of a PSNI Fraud Squad investigation into his extensive legal work for NHS organisations in Northern Ireland.

The probe was launched after the Causeway Health Trust in north Antrim had uncovered suspected irregularities in the solicitor's dealings with it.

The Trust, which is now part of the new Northern Health and Social Care Trust, is understood to have contacted both the Department of Health and the Law Society last year about its concerns.

Mr Brangam subsequently had his assets frozen as a result of court action by the Society. His law firm, which had offices in Belfast city centre and Dundonald, was also closed down.

NHS organisations, meanwhile, launched civil proceedings against the practice to retrieve money allegedly defrauded from them.

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust this week told the Belfast Telegraph that the Causeway legal action will be continuing.

A spokeswoman said: "The Trust will be going ahead with our civil proceedings."

The Department of Health has also stated that civil actions to recoup money will continue.

Mr Brangam had held a dominant role in NHS-related legal work in Northern Ireland.

He represented a string of health bodies in medical negligence proceedings and other cases over a 10-year period.

The fraud investigation is believed to have involved allegations of double invoicing and falsified compensation settlement sums.

The PSNI probe is now expected to be wound up shortly, in the wake of the lawyer's death.

But the case will still be examined in detail by the Northern Ireland Audit Office, the watchdog for public spending in the province.

That opens up the possibility of it being reviewed by the Assembly's high-profile Public Accounts Committee.

The Health Committee at Stormont may also consider the saga. Its chair, DUP MLA Iris Robinson, last week said lessons had to be learned.

Mrs Robinson added: "I will be pressing the Minister to see what changes have been put in place within health bodies to ensure the same situation could not happen again in future."

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