PracticeAuditWestminster Council hot on £27m trail

Westminster Council hot on £27m trail

Westminster City Council is in talks with the Audit Commission on the next move in its battle to recover £27m from Dame Shirley Porter, the disgraced former leader of the authority.

Link: Auditor wins Dame Shirley fight

The deadline for Dame Shirley to pay the surcharge, imposed following an Audit Commission enquiry into the ‘homes for votes’ scandal a decade ago, passed earlier this month with no sign of the money – the Tesco heiress’ disclosed worldwide assets are said to be only worth £300,000.

A spokesman for the city council said: ‘We now have to discuss both with the council members and the Audit Commission how we go about recovering the £300,000 or finding other assets through forensic accounting.’

The council is committed to pursuing the debt ‘vigorously’, although it admitted any substantial recovery of the surcharge depended on whether assets transferred by Dame Shirley in the past could be pursued.

The scandal was originally investigated by former Deloitte & Touche partner John Magill, who acted as the district auditor for Westminster council. Last December he won the final legal round in the Law Lords which vindicated his allegations of political corruption.

The ruling overturned a 1999 appeal court verdict clearing the former Westminster council leader and her deputy David Weeks of ‘wilful misconduct’.

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