Saturday, November 14, 2009

Conservative Councillor - Fraud

Former £127,000-a-year deputy mayor Ian Clement takes a break from painting a lavatory block wearing a “community payback” jacket.

The Standard's exclusive pictures show Boris Johnson's former right-hand man for the first time since he was convicted of fraud over his City Hall expenses.

Five months ago Clement, 44, was one of the most powerful political figures in London. He flew around the world helping plan the 2012 Olympics and represented the capital at the 9/11 memorial service in New York.

But in a sharp fall from grace, he is now completing 100 hours of community service and living with a suspended 12-week prison sentence, a 9pm curfew and an electronic tag.

Unemployed, Clement's 27-year political career is over. He is pictured helping refurbish the lavatories and changing rooms at King George's playing fields in Sidcup, Kent.

He spent more than an hour labouring outside with a handful of other offenders on community service, who were taken to the grounds by bus.

A friend today said Clement is “totally destroyed” by the conviction.

Clement, a former Bexley councillor, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by false representation last month after using his City Hall credit card to entertain his girlfriend and another woman. Two other charges were ordered to lie on the court file. He was given a corporate card to cover any “exceptional” expenditure while abroad on City Hall business.

But he used it to pay for two meals with 23-year-old Claire Dowson — for whom he left the mother of his son — and a dinner with PR assistant Joanna Laban. He lied and said he had dined with Tory council leaders. The three meals cost £156.70.

Clement was first suspected of impropriety last November when he started sending cheques to City Hall to cover personal spending he had made on his work credit card. He initially used it to upgrade tickets for himself and a colleague on a flight to the Beijing Olympics. Clement then ignored a series of warnings and continued to use the card for more than £2,300 of personal spending, racking up bills in excess of £7,000.

His spending included £535 of work to his Jaguar and two £100-plus meals at Le Pont De La Tour restaurant at London Bridge, all of which he has since repaid.

When the spending was revealed, the Mayor initially decided his friend had made an error of judgment but, following warnings, demanded his resignation on 22 June. The Greater London Authority referred the matter to the police two days later.

Sentencing Clement, Judge Quentin Purdy said he had “flagrantly and arrogantly” misused taxpayers' money.

He told Clement he had come “very close indeed” to being sent to prison. “You knew full well what you were doing was dishonest and it is your fault and your fault entirely,” the judge said.

Clement, a former postman from Crayford, publicly apologised to Mr Johnson outside Westminster magistrates' court, saying he was “truly sorry”. He admitted he had “let down” taxpayers and colleagues.

Last month Clement's lawyer, Jim Sturman, QC, said his client was “innately a good man” and that “his life is ruined and he has to rebuild it, but he accepts it is his fault”.

A close friend of Clement today said he is completing his punishment without complaint but believes his behaviour was not as bad as some of the expenses claims by MPs that are being investigated.


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