A POLICE investigation into allegations of fraud and corruption against a company involved in a Wirral business support scheme has been scrapped after officers found "a distinct lack of significant evidence."
The inquiry began in March of 2013 when accountants Grant Thornton advised Wirral Council to forward their audit of the scheme to the force's Economic Crime Unit.
Merseyside Police detectives requested more information in June of that year, but since then nothing more had been heard.
Now it has been revealed the probe was wound-up in April this year - and no further action is to be taken.
A letter from the Matrix Serious and Organised Crime Unit to town hall chief executive Graham Burgess informed him: "This investigation has revealed no clear evidence of criminality."
It continues: "Furthermore, it has highlighted a distinct lack of what would be described as key and significant evidence...
"The absence of this material would make an investigation into these matters extremely difficult and it has to be said that professional judgement would suggest any prosecution would be flawed from the outset."
A report to a specially-called meeting of the council's audit and risk committee on Tuesday made public more than 500 pages of documents relating to two business support schemes.
The first is known as the "BIG Fund" - Business Investment Grant - and the second "ISUS" - Intensive Start-up Support. The initiatives were designed to kick-start new companies and help them through the recession.
The controversy centres around allegations made by whistle-blowers formerly employed by the WirralBiz agency, which administered both schemes on behalf of the local authority.
They said they had evidence cash had been handed over to firms without proper checks carried out.
There was "wide-scale systematic weaknesses” and “possible fraud” involving the way applications were handled.
Allegations were made about inappropriate relationships between applicants and officials.
WirralBiz has always strenuously denied the claims and said it has not been involved in any wrong-doing.
The audit and risk committee made no progress and was adjourned after councillors said they wanted more time to study the mountain of documents.
Within the papers though, the "Overall Conclusion" into the ISUS scheme is this: "There is no foundation to the allegations of waste of public money, fraud or corruption."
In fact, a statement by Mr Burgess to the committee said: "The BIG and ISUS schemes have been mostly successful funding programmes and have both had a positive effect on Wirral’s economy and business community."
The Globe has contacted WirralBiz and Wirral Council for a comment and is awaiting their response.