A former Ministry of Defence (MoD) official has been jailed for misconduct in public office after it was found he took £70,000 in secret payments. Jeffrey Cook, 67, received cash payments and cars while employed at the Government department and seconded to a defence contractor called Paradigm.

At the time of the offence, MoD rules banned employees from accepting external paid employment, Southwark Crown Court was told on Friday.

It heard that Cook was in charge of his department's finances and between 2004 and 2008 committed misconduct in a public office by using his position to commission reports from offshore consultants.

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He commissioned ME Consultants Limited, within which he had personal contacts, to create reports for the MoD between 2005 and 2006.

The reports were on the MoD's SANGCOM project, which provided military communications equipment to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, the Serious Fraud Office said.

A total of £702,800 was sent from the Ministry of Defence to ME Consultants' Swiss bank account for the reports, the court was told.
Over an approximately 18-month period, Cook received around £70,000 in return.

He received the money in multiple forms including cars and a series of cash payments to his and his wife's Barclays bank account.
The first sum was sent in early 2006 and the final in mid-2007, the court was told.

Within that period, the official, who started working for the MoD in 1975, also received two cars worth a total of £32,906. Mr Justice Simon Picken added that Cook "augmented" his profit by not declaring the money to HMRC and avoiding tax.

Overall he received 10% of the money made by ME Consultants, the judge said. He added: "You made a personal gain at the expense of the public purse, receiving money that could otherwise have been used for the public in relation to the SANGCOM project or otherwise."

Cook was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and handed a confiscation order to pay £123,813.06 within three months. In mitigation, defence barrister Tom Allen KC said: "These are dramatically old offences that are now standing to be dealt with."

He told the court that Cook - who listened to the proceedings through a hearing aid - has suffered a stroke, heart failure and diabetes during the 12-year period that has passed since investigations were launched. For the latest court reports, sign up to our crime newsletter here

Cook, from Ceredigion, Wales, was first interviewed by police in 2014. Mr Allen said strokes were "caused in part with stress" and therefore Cook's "may not have been unconnected with the first three or four years of the prosecution".

He added: "There has to be some understanding by the court of the immense impact that the 12 years of being under suspicion, and then prosecution, has had on Mr Cook, his family life and his wife. It is the remorseless effecting of a prosecution against him, endlessly."

He argued a suspended sentence would be appropriate because "the antiquity" of the offence was "sufficiently unusual". The court heard he and his wife have a house in West Wales worth around £500,000 and approximately £145,000 in savings.

Mr Allen said: "He's now looking to the end (of life), and his principle concern, and that of his wife, is care. They want to try and stay in that house in west Wales and to put that money into care.

"He contemplates using all that money for that purpose - starting, funnily enough, with a stair lift. It's a very real prospect, it's not some fanciful game they're playing with - it's the reality; they're approaching their 70s and neither is in great shape."

He added: "(His age) is significant in terms of where he goes in his life from here - his capacity to work is effectively over."

In a statement after the hearing director of the Serious Fraud Office, Nick Ephgrave, said: "I am proud of my team for their determination and tenacity in prosecuting a complex case of corruption involving the defence industry.

"Today's sentencing demonstrates the Serious Fraud Office's ability to hold individuals to account, particularly when their actions undermine trust in our institutions."

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