The Sunday Times faces legal action from West Ham United over a series of allegations relating to its successful bid to take over the Olympic stadium after the 2012 Games.
The club said it was treating claims published by the newspaper “with the utmost seriousness” and insisted it was “certain of the robustness” of its successful bid to take over the East London stadium following the 2012 Games.
An investigation by the newspaper’s Insight team alleged that West Ham made payments totalling £20,000 into the account of Dionne Knight, the director of corporate services at the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) who carried out paid consultancy work for the club without her bosses’ knowledge.
The Sunday Times warned the disclosures about the payments could force the Government to reopen the bid for the stadium.
The information was said to be have been obtained by corporate investigators hired by Tottenham Hotspur – the Premier League club that lost to West Ham in the bidding process to take over the stadium. West Ham confirmed it is also taking legal action against Tottenham.
The OPLC board, which was in charge of securing the future of the Olympic Park site, voted 14-0 in February to make the Hammers the first choice to move into the £486 million stadium.
The OPLC confirmed on Friday that an employee had been suspended after it was discovered she was working as a consultant for West Ham during the bidding process.
It said: “It has come to our attention that an employee of the Olympic Park Legacy Company has been undertaking paid consultancy work for West Ham United FC. The company had no knowledge of this work and no permission was given to undertake it. This individual had no involvement whatsoever in our stadium process.
“The individual concerned had declared a personal relationship with an employee of West Ham United FC when she joined the organisation and we therefore put robust measures in place to ensure our stadium process was not compromised.
“As soon as this new information came to light the company took immediate action and launched an independent investigation. The employee has been suspended pending the outcome of this.”
West Ham said that it undertook an initial internal investigation which established that the work carried out by Knight was “not connected in any way to the bidding process for the Olympic Stadium but procurement project management thereafter”.
The club has denied the bidding process had been compromised and confirmed it is taking legal action against in relation to the allegations that appeared in The Sunday Times.
Solicitors acting for West Ham, Henri Brandman & Co, said in an email to the Sunday Times that was later released by the club to the media that the Legacy Stadium Partnership (LSP) – owned 50 per cent by the London Borough of Newham and 50 per cent by West Ham – was aware of the long standing relationship between Ms Knight and Ian Tompkins, as was the OPLC.
“In order to thoroughly investigate why Ms Knight agreed to undertake this work without the permission of her employer, as has now transpired to be the case, the member of staff responsible for appointing her from West Ham has been suspended pending a thorough internal investigation,” the email added.
“The LSP has not paid any member of the OPLC for any information in relation to the bid process. The LSP has not received any unauthorised information from the OPLC or any other source in relation to its bid.”