City mayor Joe Anderson and four others including the council’s assistant director of highways and planning Andy Barr and former Militant member Derek Hatton, who were arrested on Friday as part of a corruption investigation, were released on Saturday pending further enquiries.
The other two people who were arrested and then released on bail as part of the ‘Operation Aloft’ probe into building and development contracts in Liverpool were Anderson’s son David, and Alex Croft, a former political aide.
Anderson was removed from the Labour Party on Friday night, meaning he will be unable to stand for mayor in the elections in May. As an elected mayor rather than a member of the council, he does not represent any city ward. There have been calls since Friday for him to stand down.
Anderson issued a statement on Saturday, which read: “I was arrested as part of Operation Aloft on Friday 4 December and interviewed for six hours. I cooperated fully with Merseyside Police and will continue to be cooperative in their continuing enquiries.
“I will be talking to my cabinet colleagues over the weekend to ensure the challenges our city faces with the Covid pandemic continue to receive the focus they deserve. I also support the Labour Party’s decision to apply an administrative suspension while this investigation continues.
“I have been bailed to return in one month’s time. Given the investigation is continuing, and there are bail conditions, I will not be making any further comments.”
A former social worker and publican, Anderson has been a Liverpool councillor for 22 years and leader of the Labour group since 2003. He was elected mayor in 2012.
A statement from Merseyside Police on Saturday said: “We can confirm that five people arrested in connection with offences of bribery and witness intimidation as part of an investigation on into building and development contracts in Liverpool have been released on condition bail, pending further inquiries.”
Operation Aloft has now seen 11 people arrested since it launched last year, including Liverpool City Council’s director of regeneration Nick Kavanagh, and Elliot Lawless, founder of developer Elliot Group, last December. Kavanagh was rearrested alongside four others in September, while Lawless was questioned before Christmas last year but the police has taken no further action against him since and his bail was lifted by the High Court on 25 March.
No charges have yet been brought.
Merseyside Police did not name the latest individuals to be arrested and later released this weekend. It described the five men as:
- A 62-year-old man, from Old Swan, has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.
- A 33-year-old man, from West Derby, has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.
- A 46-year-old man, from Ainsdale, has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.
- A 25-year-old man, from, Ormskirk, has been arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.
- A 72-year-old man, from Aigburth, has been arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.
Liverpool City Council said it had nothing further to add to its statement issued on Friday, which said: “[The council] is co-operating with Merseyside Police in relation to its ongoing investigation. We do not comment on matters relating to individuals.”
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