The recruitment company that employs private investigators to probe the conduct of British troops in Iraq has been received more than £20 million in taxpayers money, it can be disclosed.
Ministers revealed the huge sums paid to Red Snapper Recruitment amid growing calls for the inquiry into alleged historic abuse be shut down.
Mike Penning, the armed forces minister, said in a parliamentary written answer that Red Snapper had been paid £20.8 million since winning the contract to provide staff for the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) in 2013.
The scale of the payments has appalled MPs calling for Ihat to be closed down.
Sir Henry Bellingham, Conservative MP for North West Norfolk who asked the parliamentary question, said he was “staggered, flabbergasted and appalled” by the amount.
“It seems to me that the sole purpose of this recruitment drive is to find people who want to go out and destroy the lives of our brave veterans,” said Sir Henry, “All of the alleged crimes have already been fully investigated and what the Iraq Historic Allegations Team and Red Snapper are doing completely breaches our basic laws of natural justice.
“I cannot think of another country in the world that would treat its veterans in this way.”
Johnny Mercer, Conservative MP and chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into the treatment of troops under Ihat investigation, said: “Ihat has been a spectacular failure. It has failed to complete its core function of prosecuting those who have broken the law; it has taken a devastating toll in the – at times unlawful – pursuit of those who have done no wrong; and it is an appalling waste of public money.”
Red Snapper supplies 127 investigators, many of them retired police officers on full pay, to Ihat. The company’s founders – Martin Jerrold and his wife Helen – have paid themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds in dividends since winning the Ihat contract in 2013 after a bidding process. Mr Jerrold insists the contract returns a small profit of three percent and that the company has other successful contracts besides Ihat.
The contract is worth just under £5 million a year – equivalent to about 12 per cent of Red Snapper’s total turnover. It is not clear why Red Snapper has received £20.8 million since 2013 but it is possible it has received extra payments for processing travel costs and expenses on which it makes no profit.
Ihat is investigating almost 1,500 cases of alleged abuse in Iraq. Since it was set up in 2010, no soldier has been prosecuted as a result of an Ihat investigation.