Detectives raid M&E firm's offices and arrest former director in Jubilee Line contract investigation.
Police have raided the offices of Drake & Scull as part of an investigation into the possibility that fraud was involved in the awarding of £125m worth of Jubilee Line Extension work to the M&E contractor in 1993.

Officers from the British Transport Police executed search warrants at the company's west London headquarters and Docklands office on 31 March, removing more than 20 bags of documents. They took complete sets of tender documents, project drawings and correspondence with London Underground from the tender period for JLE contracts 205 and 206. The documents related solely to the tendering period.

In the past month, a former Drake & Scull director believed to have been engaged in the preparation of the tender was arrested and released on police bail. One other suspect was also arrested. Neither has been named. This week, the company released a statement that said: "Drake & Scull are supporting an investigation into the Jubilee Line Extension project. This is not affecting the current work, which is progressing as normal."

The Drake & Scull probe is the latest development in a wide-ranging inquiry into possible fraud and corruption in the awarding of contracts on the JLE. There have also been allegations of bribery of a former JLE staff member. Claims consultant RWS was raided almost two years ago, and a file on its activities has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. Whether RWS directors are to be charged will be known in July.

Drake & Scull employed RWS staff on an agency basis when it won the JLE contracts. About 13 RWS staff are still employed by the firm.

The police said they had obtained a warrant to investigate all RWS' contractual relationships on the JLE. RWS has always denied any wrongdoing. It was unavailable for comment this week.

Another firm raided by British Transport Police officers in a separate line of investigation in December 1997 was Surrey-based claims consultant George Skinner & Associates.

The investigation also saw the arrest of four people last summer, none of whom has been charged, however. The fraud investigation is the latest incident in what has been a tough project for Drake & Scull.

The two contracts were worth £76m when they were first awarded, but have since soared to £125m.

The JLE contracts are expected to be worth more than £200m to Drake & Scull by the time it finishes work, with LU still to pay for large sections of work. The JLE is running more than £1bn over its original budget and is more than a year late.

  • JLE contractor Balfour Beatty/Amec was due to meet construction union UCATT yesterday to thrash out a termination payment for civils workers at Westminster and Waterloo stations.

The 250 operatives had threatened strike action this week, but have agreed to await the outcome of the talks after a union plea for moderation.

UCATT official Jerry Swain said: "The men are very angry, but I have asked them to leave everything in abeyance until after I have met with the contractor on Thursday. "I'm hopeful matters will be progressed at the meeting and that a conclusion satisfactory to everyone will be reached."

Meanwhile, electrical labour supplier Eska Services has threatened to pull its steel erectors off the project in a row with M&E contractor Drake & Scull over holiday pay. The company, which supplies 40 specialist erectors installing steel linings for electrical trunking, has asked Drake & Scull to pay additional costs incurred by the agency in complying with the European Working Time Directive.

Sources within Eska said the agency's original price for supplying workers did not include provisions for holiday pay and insisted that it was usual practice to pass unbudgeted costs on to the client.