Scotland Yard Mulls BBC Fraud Probe (Report)

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Politicians have criticized severance payments to former top executives of the U.K. public broadcaster that exceeded contractual promises.

LONDON – Police fraud squad officers here are looking at whether to launch a probe into allegations of misconduct in public office and fraud at the BBC tied to severance payments to former top executives that exceeded contractual promises, the Guardian reported.

Rob Wilson, a member of parliament and member of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, requested that London's Metropolitan Police, better known as Scotland Yard, consider an investigation of the U.K. public broadcaster, it said.

It wasn't immediately clear who a police probe would target. Critics have questioned the roles of former BBC director general Mark Thompson and human resources director Lucy Adams, among others.

A recent report by Britain's financial watchdog, the National Audit Office, highlighted cases in which severance payments for top managers exceeded contractual guarantees. Executives of the BBC and its governing body, the BBC Trust, last month were grilled and criticized by British parliamentarians about their role in severance payouts. 

BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten called his reaction to the revelations one of "shock and dismay." He said he was not told that payments went beyond contractual terms. Meanwhile, Thompson, now CEO of the New York Times Co., said he had informed the BBC Trust of proposed severance payments that went beyond contractual terms.

Patten highlighted, though, that the BBC Trust does not have any power over severance payments.

The National Audit Office has highlighted several cases in which excessive severance payments were approved at high levels, including by the director general.

Thompson is scheduled to give evidence on the severance issue in parliament next month.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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