A chief fire officer acted as “both auctioneer and bidder” to fraudulently buy one of his brigade’s Land Rovers, which had new tyres worth more than the £500 he paid for it, a court has heard.
Birmingham Crown Court was told Stewart Edgar dishonestly turned down a rival £8,250 bid for the 15-year-old Defender vehicle, after telling a colleague he had always wanted a red Land Rover for his daughter’s wedding.
Prosecutors allege 53-year-old Edgar, the former head of Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, abused the chief fire officer’s post to commit the fraud in 2018.
Opening the Crown’s case on Tuesday, the prosecutor, Robin Shellard, alleged that Edgar asked a firm based in Ayrshire in Scotland to lodge a £500 bid on his behalf, in an email stating that the process was “all above board”.
The jury, sitting in a Nightingale (temporary) court at offices in Birmingham city centre, was told Edgar then lied during an investigation, claiming to have paid a £1,000 deposit for the Land Rover after another bid was lodged too late.
Mr Shellard told the court: “He couldn’t bid himself for any number of reasons – he wasn’t a registered bidder and also there would be a clear conflict of interest as he was in charge of the bidding process.
“What he did was to get somebody else who was a registered bidder to bid on his behalf without telling anybody what he was doing.
“This was not all above board – he had kept what he was doing from those who should know.
“That, we say, was patently dishonest because he was both auctioneer and bidder – so Mr Edgar won the auction and he got the Land Rover for £500.”
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Such a low bid was under any realistic value for the “mint condition” 2003 Defender with 19,000 miles on the clock, Mr Shellard said, adding: “As you will hear it was not the only bid he received for that Land Rover.
“Another company had bid £8,250 but their bid had been rejected by Mr Edgar on the 27th of April.
“His gain, of course, was the loss to Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, which employed him and which he led.
“Mr Edgar later claimed he had received this bid outside the allotted time period and therefore under the rules of the tender process he had no option but to ignore it – the only option was to award the Land Rover to himself.”
Mr Shellard also told jurors that Edgar informed a visitor to his office that “he had always wanted a red Land Rover for his daughter’s wedding, which it seems was coming up”.
The prosecutor added: “The Land Rover had been serviced, it had five new tyres and was very well looked after.”
After councillors set up an inquiry into the sale process, the court heard, Edgar said he had paid a £1,000 deposit on the “poor condition” vehicle, had done nothing wrong and “had only been stupid”.
Telling jurors that an online valuation check had shown the Land Rover to have a part-exchange value of £11,500 and sale price of £13,000, Mr Shellard added: “It was pointed out that the tyres were probably worth more than £500 alone on that vehicle.”
As well as offering his resignation during the council-led inquiry, Edgar claimed he had offered £1,000 for the Land Rover after seeing it while on “other business” at the firm he had asked to bid on his behalf.
Edgar, of Braehead Drive, Carnoustie, Angus, denies a single count of fraud by abuse of position alleged to have been committed between April 1 and May 1, 2018.
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