The most senior Army officer to face a court martial in 200 years lied about his wife living with him 120 miles away from their children's schools to claim £50,000 in fees, a court has heard.
Major General Nick Welch, 57, is standing trial accused of defrauding the taxpayer by abusing his Army allowances to pay for his children’s private education.
The two-star general is the highest ranking officer to be brought before a court martial since 1815, when Lieutenant General Sir John Murray was convicted of abandoning his siege guns without due cause in the Napoleonic Wars.
Opening the case on Tuesday, the prosecution alleged Maj Gen Welch told the Army that his wife, Charlotte, would be living with him at his new residence in London after he took up the job at the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) headquarters in 2015.
This meant he would be able to claim an allowance for his children’s education, despite the fact his wife spent most of her time at their £800,000 country home close to the schools, the military court was told.
The first day of his four-week trial at Bulford Military Court, Wilts, heard that £48,000 in education allowance was claimed between Dec 2015 and Feb 2017.
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Maj Gen Welch, who denies one count of fraud, had been living in Gloucestershire when he was appointed Assistant Chief of the General Staff in 2015.
The father-of-three had to relocate to a four-bed family quarters home in Putney, London, the court heard.
Soldiers are offered funding to cover 90 per cent of their children’s education when they are relocated on assignment under the Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA), as long as their family lives with them.
Maj Gen Welch allegedly told the Army this would be true in his case, but his wife actually spent most of her time at a cottage in Dorset, close to the two schools where his children boarded.
One child was sent to the £37,000 a year Clayesmore School while another went to the £22,500 Hanford School, the court was told.
Mrs Welch, 54, sent a text to her friend saying she could see Hanford from her cottage window, it was heard, while her husband was said to spend every weekend at the home.
Sarah Clarke QC, prosecuting, said: "Very rarely were they in London, it was not being used as the family home.
"It was in fact a convenient second property - and that's very nice, but that's not what CEA is about and, if that was the case, then Welch was not entitled to CEA.
"He should not have been claiming the allowance."
She claimed Maj Gen Welch “dishonestly wanted to continue to keep the privilege of having his two children in private education but did not want his family to live in the home at London but instead the family home in Blandford, which is clearly where they wanted to be".
A subsequent investigation showed Mrs Welch, who did freelance work in London on occasion, spent less than 10 per cent of her Fridays over the 15 month period in London and none of her Saturdays, the court heard.
The longest period she spent in London was five days, which only happened on three occasions, it was alleged.
Ms Clarke said without CEA a private education would have been “beyond the means” of soldiers including Maj Gen Welch,.
The trial continues.
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