Met to investigate whether BBC pay-offs amount to misconduct in public office

Metropolitan Police fraud squad officers are assessing whether to investigate allegations of misconduct in public office and fraud made against the BBC's severance payments and benefits for senior managers.

Conservative MP Rob Wilson requested the Met Police consider the possibility of an investigation after a National Audit Office (NAO) report identified cases where the BBC made payments of hundreds of thousands of pounds – approved at high level, even by the director-general – although executives were not always entitled to the money.

The BBC spent £25 million on severance payments for 150 high-ranking staff in a three-year period up to December, according to last month's NAO report, and since 2005 has made payments totaling £60 million to 401 senior managers.

In almost a quarter of the individual cases reviewed by the NAO, the BBC paid out more than the staff were entitled to under their contracts.

The Met Police has now written to Reading East MP Mr Wilson to confirm officers from the Fraud Squad, Specialist, Organised and Economic Crime Command have been tasked with assessing if an investigation is required.

No decision has been taken on whether the allegations should be investigated, according to the force.

Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, in his letter to Mr Wilson, said: "Further to your letter dated July 11, 2013, detailing your request for the Metropolitan Police Service to consider a police investigation regarding allegations of misconduct in a public office and fraud in relation to severance payments and wide benefits for senior BBC managers, officers from the Fraud Squad, Specialist, Organised and Economic Crime Command (SC&O7) have been tasked to conduct an assessment of the information provided in your letter.

"We are currently gathering information to assist with our assessment and a decision will be made as to whether we progress to a full investigation in due course. We will update you with any developments."

Conservative MP Rob Wilson said: "The BBC should never have got itself into a position where the fraud squad is looking at an investigation.

"However, something is not right about these huge pay-offs and potential wrongdoing needs to be ruled out.

"The police are the only organisation in a position to do that."

A Met Police spokesman said: "The contents of the letter are being assessed."

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