Investigation demanded into Labour party connections to ‘bogus invoice’ printing firm

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There have been calls for an investigation into the printing firm that provided bogus invoices for ex Labour MP Jim Devine after it emerged that the company’s director is also a Labour councillor.

Mr Devine is currently awaiting sentence after being found guilty of fiddling his MP’s expenses by using bogus invoices to claim public cash.

It has emerged that a director at Armstrong Printing Ltd, Margaret Brisley, is also a sitting Labour councillor at Stirling council.

Armstrong printing was named in the ex Labour MP’s trial as the firm that supplied Mr Devine with receipts for work that was never undertaken.

There have been calls for an investigation into the printing firm that provided bogus invoices for ex Labour MP Jim Devine after it emerged that the company’s director is also a Labour councillor.

Mr Devine is currently awaiting sentence after being found guilty of fiddling his MP’s expenses by using bogus invoices to claim public cash.

It has emerged that a director at Armstrong Printing Ltd, Margaret Brisley, is also a sitting Labour councillor at Stirling council.

Armstrong printing was named in the ex Labour MP’s trial as the firm that supplied Mr Devine with receipts for work that was never undertaken.

Witnesses told the court how the former Scottish Labour MP contacted the printing firm in March 2009, asking them to send him receipts for thousands of pounds worth of work that was never done and that he never paid for.

Mr Devine subsequently received two sets of invoices for over £5000 marked “received with thanks” after director and shareholder Bill Lockie overruled former company secretary Jennifer McCrea, who had refused to sign off Mr Devine’s “strange” request.

In May 2009 documents leaked to the Telegraph newspaper caused outrage after it revealed the extent of expenses abuse at Westminster and investigations were carried out into the claims of several MPs.   A short while later in July 2009 company director Jennifer Coyne resigned from Armstrong Printing.  Bill Lockie’s directorship was terminated just a few months later in November that same year.

Jim Devine was eventually charged with fraud relating to public cash claimed using the bogus invoices.  A few months after Mr Devine was charged, Jennifer McCrea had her employment with the printing company terminated.

At his trial the ex Labour MP claimed to have received advice from senior Labour whips who he alleged told him to obtain receipts for work.  This was denied by the MPs during questioning when they gave evidence.

According to accounts filed by the firm, Armstrong Printing has been making a loss since 2008.  Documents obtained by Newsnet Scotland show the firm’s net assets were:

  • £127,224 in March 2005
  • £119,048 in March 2006
  • £133,552 in March 2007
  • £115,081 in March 2008
  • £57,269 in 2009
  • £18,691 last year.

The firm’s assets have plummeted since 2009 and last year’s showed a drop of around 80% from the pre-expenses scandal level.

A financial expert told Newsnet Scotland that the statements filed by the company are what are termed “abbreviated accounts” and are usually used by larger companies wishing to limit information available to competitors.   However, our expert queried why such a small company would be so secretive.

The printing company has received thousands of pounds for work carried out for other Labour politicians.

The revelations have led to calls for an investigation into the companys’ links with the Labour party.  John Wilson, an SNP MSP for Central Scotland, said there were questions the firm had to answer.

Mr Wilson said: “Armstrong Printing has to state whether the practice of providing receipted invoices to MPs before the work was carried out was common or not.   All the MPs who used their publicly-funded allowances to give work to this firm need to list all the jobs that were carried out.  The company’s links to Labour need to be fully investigated.”

Armstrong Printing have claimed there was no wrongdoing on their part, a spokeperson said: “It’s not unusual to give an invoice in advance of a job being done.”

The Labour party have described the calls for an investigation into the printing firm as a “political smear” by the SNP.