Shropshire

Three jailed over £1.3m adult learning contracts scam

Paul and Sarah Kent
Image caption Police said Paul and Sarah Kent spent around £40,000 on their wedding

Three people have been jailed over an adult learning skills contracts scam in Shropshire.

Paul Kent, 46, of Telford, admitted receiving about £300,000 in kickbacks from Learning Skills Council contracts worth £1.3m, which he granted to his co-defendants.

He was jailed for four and a half years at Birmingham Crown Court.

Silinder Singh Sidhu, of Walsall, was jailed for three years and John Ford, of Shrewsbury, jailed for two years.

Kent was director of adult learning at Shropshire Learning and Skills Council (SLSC) and was the central figure in the fraud, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said.

Lavish lifestyle

He admitted 11 counts of receiving corrupt payments and one of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, at an earlier hearing.

The SFO said he used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle, splashing out on expensive sports cars, designer watches and a £40,000 wedding and honeymoon.

Kent's wife Sarah, 36, also worked for SLSC where he was her boss.

Sentencing was adjourned after she admitted one charge of money laundering.

Sidhu, 44, of Walsall, West Midlands, was jailed for three years for four counts of corruption, two of which he had admitted.

Image caption Paul Kent gave presents of sports cars and designer watches

He received more than £266,000 from SLSC for his work as a consultant and service provider and paid Kent about £80,000 in backhanders.

Ford, 57, a businessman of Shrewsbury, admitted five counts of making corrupt payments to Kent.

Graphic designer Rebecca Hoyle, 45, of Stroud, Gloucestershire, was given a one-year suspended sentence after she admitted three counts of making corrupt payments to Kent.

The offences occurred between June 2003 and August 2005 and were brought to the attention of SLSC by a whistle-blower.

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