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Jail term for ex-Royal Household official who accepted bribes for contracts

Published 28/09/2016

Former Royal Household official Ronald Harper has been jailed at Southwark Crown Court
Former Royal Household official Ronald Harper has been jailed at Southwark Crown Court

A former Royal Household official who accepted more than £100,000 in bribes to award contracts for work at royal residences including Buckingham Palace has been jailed for five years.

Ronald Harper was deputy property manager responsible for maintaining the Queen's main London home, as well as St James's Palace, Clarence House and Windsor Castle, from 1994 until he was suspended in 2012.

The 64-year-old, from Sudbury in Suffolk, accepted payments or gifts from the directors of companies who were then given large contracts for maintenance of the historic buildings paid for by the then Civil List, now called the Sovereign Grant.

The corrupt bribes were made "over a significant period of time" either directly to Harper or via a member of his family, while some of the money was used to pay Harper's credit card bills, jurors were told.

Sentencing Harper on Wednesday at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said one side of his personality showed a "hard-working, apparently loyal team player, admired and trusted by your colleagues", but the side they did not see was "dishonest and greedy".

He went on: "But nobody could have guessed that a trusted insider such as yourself could think of going to the lengths that you did to corrupt the system for personal gain.

"Your betrayal of your colleagues' trust and your lack of remorse at what you did are both remarkable."

Harper was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to make corrupt payments after two trials in June and August.

Among the firms that Harper dealt with was Melton Protective Services (MPS) and BSI Nordale, which were both awarded prestigious contracts for work within the royal palaces.

Judge Loraine-Smith told the court that Harper received at least £85,000 in relation to MPS between 2006 and 2011, and £20,000 from BS Nordale directors in two payments in 2011.

He said: "The betrayal of his fellow workers - that is what gets to me - having seen them all give evidence, truly embarrassed and not thinking their friend and colleague could act that way."

He also referred to an award Harper had on display on his office wall, saying: "I wonder how he felt about it as he sat and pocketed the money?"

In mitigation, Martin Taylor told the judge there had never been any complaint about Harper's work, which was "excellent".

The sought-after Royal Warrant given to MPS in 2005 in recognition of excellence was "well in advance of any criminality in this case" and there was "nothing to say" the company should not have received it, he said.

Mr Taylor admitted there were "many pejorative adjectives to describe his (Harper's) conduct" but that he was a father, grandfather and a "solid, reliable family member" and any sentence would have an "enormous effect" on his family.

"There is good and bad in him and this is the bad in him," he said to the judge.

Harper was sentenced along five others on Wednesday.

Former MPS director Steven Thompson, 62, from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make corrupt payments and fraud by abuse of position and was jailed for 18 months, as was BSI Nordale director Christopher Murphy, 56, from Witham, Essex, for conspiracy to make corrupt payments.

Harper, Thompson and Murphy, who worked at Harrods at the time of the offences, patted their fellow defendants on the back and shook their hands before being sent down.

Alan Rollinson, 67, of Leigh-on-Sea, Essex was given 12 months suspended for two years for converting or transferring criminal property.

The judge also ordered Rollinson, Harper's brother-in-law, to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work within 12 months as he branded bribery "toxic" and said he had no doubt that Rollinson was aware of the money's true nature.

BSI Nordale director Aseai Zlaoui, 41, from Witham, Essex, who also was employed by Harrods, sobbed as she was given a 12 month suspended sentence for conspiracy to make corrupt payments, and ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work within that time.

Judge Loraine-Smith said character references provided by her family, friends and colleagues "paint a picture of a decent, hard-working woman who would never agree to bribing anyone".

Glynn Orridge, 67, from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, who pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position, was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community work.

Nick Vamos, head of special crime at the CPS, said it had been a "complex scam".

"It was a long-running, sophisticated and well-planned fraud in which they exploited the good name and status of the Royal Household to enrich themselves at the taxpayers' expense," he added.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said Harper's actions were an "isolated case", that "reinforced the Royal Household's broader commitment and determination to maintain good governance and prevent corruption."

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