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Contract probe sees fraud arrest

An architect has been arrested on suspicion of fraud in relation to building contracts at a hospital in Nottingham.

Jonathan Palmer from Sheffield was taken in for questioning by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) as part of a police investigation into contractual irregularities at the Queen's Medical Centre (QMC).

It is understood that the police were called into the QMC following reported concerns about millions of pounds of building contracts being granted to the same company.

Palmer was one of two people arrested in connection with the case but both were later released without charge. The architect has refused to comment on the allegations but he is expected to make a statement through his solicitor in due course.

On Thursday (18 November), the SFO raided four premises in Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire and Leicestershire, and officers are believed to have searched two homes and two businesses addresses during the investigations.

The SFO has confirmed that inquiries into the alleged fraud are still ongoing. However, a spokeswoman admitted that, because of the complexities of the case, the matter could drag on for some time.

'The officers took quite a bit of paperwork and computers and, because it is a relatively new case, it could take anything up to two years to resolve, ' she said.

The case had originally been referred to the SFO in September by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), as it was looking into anti-competition issues within Nottinghamshire's public sector.

The OFT is now carrying out a parallel investigation into allegations of 'bid-rigging in the market for the supply of building, construction and renovation work'.

However, a spokesman for the OFT said: 'No assumptions should be made at this stage that there has been an infringement of competition law.

'We will not be in a position to decide that until we have all the facts, ' he added.

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