Liverpool Crown Court
Police obtained permission at Liverpool Crown Court to seize company documents in November

TIMELINE | Eleven questioned in year of Operation Aloft

Sarah Townsend

The fraud inquiry by Merseyside Police, launched last year, has seen a clutch of high-profile arrests over the past 12 months, but no charges have been brought.

The probe is examining suspected corruption without Liverpool’s political and business spheres, in particular fraud related to building and development contracts. The latest round of arrests on Friday, of Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson and four other men, was in connection with offences of bribery and witness intimidation, as part of the wider property investigation, Merseyside Police said in a statement.

Previous arrests, made on suspicion of corruption, bribery and conspiracy to defraud, according to police statements at the time, have been more specifically related to building and development contracts for projects across the city.

So far, all of the 11 people arrested to date as part of the investigation have been released on bail and no charges have been brought. The probe continues, with implications for Liverpool’s politics, reputation and development.

Operation Aloft: key events

18 December 2019  Elliot Lawless, founder of developer Elliot Group, and Nick Kavanagh, Liverpool City Council’s head of regeneration, are arrested “as part of an ongoing fraud investigation” 

19 December  Lawless and Kavanagh released on bail

8 January 2020  Merseyside Police secure court approval to confiscate £200,000 seized from one of Lawless’ properties, Beetham Plaza, at the time of his arrest

17 March  Lawless secures judicial review of his arrest in December and the police search of his property, both of which he claims were ‘unlawful’

25 March Lawless’ police bail lifted by the High Court and he has not been subject to investigation since

29 April  High Court rules police search was unlawful and orders Merseyside Police to pay Lawless’ legal costs. The process to bring that return of the seized assets is underway, according to Lawless. “The assets are from cash businesses operated by Elliot Group and we expect them to be returned in due course,” he said.

2 September  Kavanagh rearrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery, along with four other people

7 September  Kavanagh and the five others released on bail pending further enquiries

5 November  Merseyside Police attends Liverpool Crown Court to formally request permission to obtain documents from companies linked to the arrests made in September, under a legal power known as a production order

4 December  Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool arrested along with four others, his son David, Alex Croft, an aide to the mayor, politician Derek Hatton, a former Militant member, and Andy Barr, Liverpool City Council’s assistant director of highways and planning, in connection with offences of bribery and witness intimidation

5 December  Anderson and the four other men are released on bail pending further enquiries

Nick Kavanagh

Kavanagh has been twice arrested and released

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