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Saturday, December 5, 2020

December 05, 2020

(Dailymail) - The Mayor of Liverpool has been sensationally arrested in connection with bribery and witness intimidation offences as part of a fraud probe, it was revealed today.

Joe Anderson, 62, was arrested by Merseyside Police alongside four other men as part of a police investigation into building and development contracts in the city.

Anderson shot to prominence in October after slamming the Government's old tiered lockdown system for offering little financial support to Northern businesses facing collapse under the harshest restrictions.

Police have not confirmed the Mayor's identity, but said a 62-year-old was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

The 62-year-old is believed to be Anderson, who has since been suspended from the Labour Party following the arrest, sources said.

It is understood that the veteran Labour politician was held at his home address in the Old Swan district around 7am.

Anderson hit the headlines in October with his vocal criticism of the Government's tiered lockdown system, which he branded a 'shambles'.

Liverpool was the first English region to be put into the top Tier Three - prior to the country's second national lockdown - as cases surged in the city.

He accused the Government of railroading through its Tier Three measures for the city without local leaders agreeing to anything back in October.

His pushback came alongside criticism from Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who also blasted the rules - with affected vast swathes of the North.

Alongside the 62-year-old, four others were also arrested.

A 72-year-old and a 25-year-old were arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.

Two other men - aged 46 and 33 - were accused of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

The arrests come as part of Merseyside police's Operation Aloft - a 15-month operation looking into agreements between property developers and the council.

Developer Elliot Lawless, 32, and director of regeneration at the council Nick Kavanagh, 50, were arrested on suspicion of fraud in 2019 - but both were released without charge.

Mr Kavanagh - along with four other people - was rearrested in September on suspicion of bribery and corruption but was, again, released with no charge.

They have both denied any wrongdoing.

Councillor Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool, said if the arrest was confirmed Mr Anderson should stand down from official duties.

In a statement, he said: 'Firstly, mayor Anderson must follow precedent and immediately stand down from all official duties until cleared or convicted. We all have deputies capable of carrying out our work.

'Secondly, we must allow the police to carry out their enquiries. They have been working for 18 months now on a series of allegations relating to problems within the regeneration directorate in relation to the awarding of contracts and property disposals.

'This is a complex matter and takes time.

'Justice is best served by not speculating on any potential issues as these might compromise subsequent trials.'

A spokesman for Merseyside Police said: 'Five people have been arrested by detectives in connection with offences of bribery and witness intimidation as part of an investigation into building and development contracts in Liverpool.

'The arrests are part of an ongoing investigation.'

Mr Anderson was elected mayor of Liverpool in 2012, having been on the council since 1998.

The father-of-four was in the Merchant Navy and worked as a social worker before taking up the role.

He stood to become the Labour nomination for metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region in 2016 but was beaten by the then Walton MP Steve Rotheram, who currently holds the post.

A Liverpool City Council spokesperson said: 'Liverpool City Council is co-operating with Merseyside Police in relation to its ongoing investigation. We do not comment on matters relating to individuals.'

In October, Mr Anderson revealed that his eldest brother Bill died after being admitted to intensive care with coronavirus aged 70.

Bill Anderson was a former chairman of the Merseyside Merchant Navy Association,.

Condolences for Joe Anderson poured in, including from MP David Lammy, Everton FC star Yannick Bolasie and Liverpool City Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham.

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