Former fire boss fraudulently flogged himself a brigade vehicle, court told – Gloucestershire Live

A former chief fire officer fraudulently flogged himself a brigade vehicle at a knock-down price – so he could use it for his daughter’s wedding, a court heard.

Stewart Edgar, 53, is accused of acting as “auctioneer and bidder” when he sold the Land Rover Defender to a company he was connected to for £500 – £7,500 below the highest bid.

A court heard the ex-Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service boss later claimed he had not sold the vehicle at a normal auction over fears it might be used by terrorists.

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Today (October 12) Edgar went on trial at Birmingham Crown Court accused of fraud by abuse of position between April and May 2018.

Jurors were told Edgar arranged the fraudulent sale as he was interested in buying the vehicle himself and was overheard saying “I wouldn’t mind a punt on that”

So he asked a Scottish firm called Emergency One to lodge a £500 bid on his behalf – turning down a separate offer of more than £8,000, it is claimed.

He was later accused of his abusing his position before he resigned from his role in June 2018.

Prosecutor Robin Shellard said Edgar had won an auction in which he was “auctioneer and bidder” as he told jurors the case was about “fraud and abuse of power.”

He added: “This is not a complicated fraud. Gloucester Fire and Rescue have lots of vehicles and when they get to a certain age they need to be sold on.

“This was not done on the open market. This was done by a closed auction by GFRS.

“A limited number of companies are registered with GFRS as authorised bidders – so you and I couldn’t just bid unless we are registered.

“When a vehicle is about to be sold the companies are contacted by GFRS and invited to place bids by a certain date and time in sealed envelopes addressed to the Chief Fire Officer.

“At the appointed hour the Chief Fire Officer in his office opens the safe, removes the bids and selects the highest bid and awards the vehicles accordingly.

“This case concerns the sale of a Gloucester Fire and Rescue Service Land Rover Defender.

“This vehicle was in excellent condition with low mileage for its age but needed to be replaced.

“Mr Edgar was informed of the sale, and he was interested in buying the vehicle himself.

“He couldn’t bid himself of course for any number of reasons.

“He wasn’t a registered bidder, and it would be a clear conflict of interest as he was in charge of the bidding process.

“That wasn’t going to stop Mr Edgar. So, what to do? Get someone to bid for you but not tell anyone else.

“Mr Edgar was friendly with the Directors of a company called Emergency One who were authorised bidders and he asked them to bid on his behalf.

“So Mr Edgar won the auction in which he was the auctioneer and bidder and got the Land Rover for £500.

“£500 is a price considerably under any realistic value and not only that it wasn’t the only bid that had been received by GFRS.

“Another company had bid for £8,250 but their bid had been rejected by Mr Edgar as he claimed it had not been received within the allotted time period .

“So under the rules, he had to ignore it and the only option was to award the Land Rover to himself.”

Mr Shellard explained Dave Pike was the Area Manager and Head of Technical Services for the service at the time the alleged offence was carried out.

The Land Rover Defender was deemed surplus to requirements by Mr Pike and was put up for sale in April 2018.

Mr Shellard said Edgar was overheard saying “I wouldn’t mind a punt on that” and that he wanted a red Land Rover for his daughter’s wedding.

Mr Shellard added: “David Pike had authorised the disposal of the Land Rover at the beginning of March after a review he carried out the week before.

“About a week after this he spoke to Edgar in his office and Edgar informed him that he wanted a red Land Rover for his daughter’s wedding.

“The Land Rover had been recently serviced and had five new tyres and was very well looked after.

“Mark Skone a mechanic who used to work for Land Rover and now worked for GFRS described it as in ‘mint’ condition for its age.

“Stone stated that Edgar said to him when he was working near the vehicle, ‘I see that you’ve got the Defender that I’m buying’ and asking about its condition.”

The court heard Emergency One was awarded the Land Rover despite another firm called Terberg DTS entering a higher bid.

Mark Hawthorne, the leader of Gloucestershire County Council, received a complaint about the tendering process.

Council Chief Executive Pete Bungard then set up an investigation process and an internal audit before Edgar was voluntarily interviewed by police.

Mr Shellard added: “He answered ‘no comment’ to all questions put to him.

“He made a prepared statement denying any criminal conduct. He stated he had the Defender to be disposed of through the usual channels.

“He stated that it did not go through auction due to concerns about security and terrorism.

“He stated that he had discussed his desire to get a Land Rover for a restoration project.

“He asked if he could contact one of the approved purchasing companies to buy it and he could purchase it back.

“In essence, he said he had done nothing wrong.

“Mr Edgar was an experienced Fire Officer with command over all those in GFRS.

“When you sign up for a job such as Chief Fire Officer you have to abide by the Code of Conduct.

“In the Code of Conduct when dealing with tendering there must be accountability and openness. And guard against conflict of interest.

“Exactly as arose here, but a conflict of his own creation and for his own benefit.”

Edgar, of Carnoustie, Angus in Scotland, denies the charge.

The trial continues.

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