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Council officials bribed with lap dances by builders

Edinburgh council officials were treated to lap dances and drinks in return for awarding lucrative building contracts, a court has heard.

Former Edinburgh Council employees Charles Owenson and James Costello were given hospitality including corporate seats at Hibs and Hearts football grounds, meals and bar crawls.

They took the bribes from Kevin Balmer, 52, and Brendan Cantwell, 44, directors at Edinburgh firm ABC Limited, in return for favourable awards on contracts.

The contractors even submitted inflated invoices to the local authority for work carried out to cover the costs of the bribes they were paying to council officials.

Fiscal Keith O’Mahony told Edinburgh Sheriff Court: “In essence, the council was being charged for the cost of bribing its own officials.”

All four men admitted charges at the sheriff court earlier this week. Owenson and Costello pleaded guilty to breaching the 1889 Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act. They will return for sentencing next month.

The charges related to the maintenance of Edinburgh Council buildings between 2006 and 2010.

Further details of the crime, heard by the court, involved falsely inflating invoices to the value of more than £67,000, along with money laundering. It was uncovered in 2011 after a whistleblower raised concerns.

Owenson and Costello both worked as property care services officers with the council in a department that looked after schools, care homes, community centres and cemeteries.

They were responsible for logging reports of properties that needed repairs and taking on contractors to carry out the work.

Two former directors of ABC, which went into liquidation in 2010, also admitted a corruption offence and one admitted fraud.

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BJ   18/05/2015 at 12:49

Well I've seen many a builders cleavage, but dread to think how they would be a lap dancing!

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