Probe into alleged fraud at Bradley Group

Bradley Group has claimed that an alleged fraud by a former employee involving at least £500,000 precipitated the recent restructuring at the firm’s Belfast print operations.

The firm said the matter was being jointly investigated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and South Yorkshire Police.

The PSNI confirmed to Printweek that an individual was under investigation.

A police spokesperson said: “Detectives investigating a report of an alleged fraud at a business in the Belfast area arrested a 30-year-old man. He was later released pending a report to the PPS [Public Prosecution Service].”

In a statement, Bradley Group managing director Peter Bradley said: “The advice given to us initially was to keep details of the investigation confidential, in order to protect the integrity of the criminal investigation going forward. 

“Our former employee sadly abused a position of trust, the police have found evidence that the employee had been directing our customers to pay cash into a personal bank account, and essentially manipulate our sales process. This occurred systematically over a period of time and is estimated to have cost the business upwards of £500,000.

“The former employee has been arrested and reported for 13 offences, possession criminal property, acquiring criminal property, transferring criminal property, theft, fraud by abuse of position, false accounting, fraud by false representation (four counts) and obtaining services dishonestly (three counts).

“When the fraud was finally uncovered, the damage to cashflow was so significant, that the only option to retain and save the existing 55 employees was to restructure and sell the two entities. Bradley Group has acquired the trading names of website and Nicholson & Bass and has now safeguarded our processes going forward and it is business is as usual.”

Separately the 14 employees who lost their jobs on 16 August as a result of the restructuring, but are yet to receive redundancy payments, are hoping that progress is now being made in the insolvency process of the two limited companies: Quinns Belfast (2009) and Nicholson & Bass, which are now under the control of director John McGrath.

James Kennedy, principal at Belfast accountancy and insolvency firm JBK Accountants, said last week that he would be taking the case on.

He said: “I confirm that I intend to accept the appointment as liquidator of the companies. Formalities are delayed however by the absence on leave of Mr McGrath the new owner of the companies. We are however currently engaged in assisting the employees with the formalities of initiating their claim for redundancy and other benefits from the Department in the interim. There have been some delays in obtaining information relating to their historical earnings from the former employer.”

According to one of the workers made redundant, a creditors’ meeting has been scheduled for 17 October.

Bradley Group’s Belfast operation encompasses online trade printing via the Quinns brand, and high-end printing including books and magazines at Nicholson Bass.

The £14m turnover group also owns Mannin Group on the Isle of Man.

This story has been closed to comments due to the police investigation.