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Ex-Post Office CEO Paula Vennells knew of remote access two years before denial to parliament, tapes reveal



Ex-Post Office CEO Paula Vennells knew of remote access two years before denial to parliament, tapes reveal

Paula Vennells, the previous Submit Workplace chief government, could have been advised a couple of “covert operations workforce” that would remotely entry the Horizon system and modify branches’ accounts two years earlier than she appeared in parliament.

In newly surfaced allegations Ms Vennells was briefed by the Submit Workplace’s normal counsel {that a} unit in Bracknell’s Fujitsu headquarters may entry subpostmaster’s accounts remotely.

Tapes obtained by Channel 4 present the Submit Workplace’s chief lawyer Susan Crichton confirming twice that Ms Vennells was conscious of the allegations.

Within the audio recording – relationship from 2013 – Ms Crichton may be heard saying:

“[Paula] is aware of concerning the allegation. She is aware of we’re engaged on it.”

She added: “She’s obtained every thing. The way in which that I’ve tried to transient Paula is, as quickly as I’ve proof that, you already know, that there’s a downside, she is aware of about it the following minute”.

Former Submit Workplace boss Paula Vennells has forfeited her CBE after public dissatisfaction together with her function within the Horizon scandal


The recording is from two years previous to the Submit Workplace halting prosecutions in opposition to its personal sub-postmasters, and two years earlier than the previous chief government advised MPs in 2015 that it was not attainable for subpostmasters’ accounts to be accessed remotely.

In written proof to the Enterprise, Innovation and Abilities Committee Inquiry, the Submit Workplace stated: “There isn’t any performance in Horizon for both a department, Submit Workplace or Fujitsu to edit, manipulate or take away transaction information as soon as it has been recorded in a department’s accounts.”

Greater than 700 department managers across the UK had been prosecuted by the Submit Workplace between 1999 and 2015 when the defective Horizon accounting software program made it look as if cash was lacking from their retailers.

Proof of attainable distant entry to the Horizon system by Fujitsu operatives has been central to the continuing Submit Workplace scandal.

The newly uncovered tapes come from a name on which investigators from forensic accountancy agency Second Sight, together with a number of Submit Workplace executives, had been current.

Michael Rudkin, a former Submit Workplace union official, who was central to the invention of Fujitsu’s covert operations unit was additionally referenced on the decision.

Within the tape Ron Warmington, a consultant from Second Sight, warns that Ms Vennells might be questioned by Lord Arbuthnot – who campaigned on behalf of sub-postmasters – on the Bracknell operation.

“If James says one thing like, ‘And the place are you on this assertion concerning the Bracknell covert operations workforce, because it was referred to by Rudkin?’,” Warmington asks.

“Properly look, that’s a selected case. We’ll come again to it after we end the investigation,” Ms Crichton responds.

“Yeah, effectively, so long as she doesn’t come again and say, ‘Look, so what’s this Bracknell problem, what’s he speaking about?’; ‘Oh, we’ve recognized about that for 2 months’,” Mr Warmington probes.

“She is aware of concerning the allegation. She is aware of we’re engaged on it,” Ms Crichton responds.

Tons of of subpostmasters had been wrongly convicted of stealing after the Submit Workplace’s Horizon accounting system made it seem as if cash was lacking at their branches (Yui Mok/PA)

(PA Wire)

The tapes additionally reveal that attorneys had been wanting to shut down curiosity from MPs into the unfolding scandal.

Within the audio, the Submit Workplace lawyer is heard saying: “The necessity to in some way have a plan to shut down this course of. I imply, even to the extent of stopping MPs sending instances in now. So how will we shut down the MP facet of the method. And what would work for MPs? And what can we promote to MPs? And the way rapidly can we try this?”

She continues: “So is there any approach, and I’m considering out loud right here, is there any approach of shutting down the MP instances, and making James and his buddies completely satisfied, in order that they’ll simply go away mainly?”

Former union worker Mr Rudkin advised Channel 4 that the tapes went some solution to confirming what he had all the time recognized: “The minute I first heard it, it was one in all elation saying ‘Rudkin you had been proper!’. The second is one in all unhappiness considering ‘Why did my spouse and youngsters must be put via this”

He continued: “It’s not simply us that’s affected. It’s the entire household. The way in which that you’re shunned inside the local people – whispers, ‘No smoke with out fireplace’. Susan’s fame and mine for that matter, simply dragged via the mire.

“And I can’t perceive for the lifetime of me why it’s taking so lengthy for the Metropolitan Police to get on prime of this. Any person’s obtained to be held to account”.

Susan Crichton and Paula Vennells didn’t reply to Channel 4 Information’ requests for remark.

A Submit Workplace spokesperson stated: “We stay absolutely targeted on attending to the reality of what occurred and supporting the statutory Public Inquiry, which is chaired by a decide with the facility to query witnesses beneath oath, and is due to this fact greatest positioned to assist obtain this.”

Fujitsu has been contacted for remark.

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