Nick Wallis Profile picture
Mar 17 54 tweets 11 min read
London putting on a bit of razzle dazzle this morning. My destination is in the shadow of St Paul’s.

Okay the inquiry is going to get underway with the evidence of Chirag Sidhpura - he’s just been sworn in. You can read his story here:…

Chirag is the former Farncombe Subpostmaster. Thread...
Catriona Hodge is asking questions for the inquiry. Sir Wyn Williams is dialled in remotely.

CH starts with questions about CS’s background - he has a computer engineer looking after 30 sites - servicing the infrastructure.
He started working after that as an assistant in his father-in-law’s branch in Reigate and then decided to branch out on his own. Took over Farncombe branch 21 Jan 2013
“I felt great. It was like a milestone in my life that I could really make a difference to a small...
… community”

[BTW only words in direct quotes are direct quotes. The rest is a summary of what is being said]
This is Chirag, btw when I met him in 2018.
Chirag got £35k as Subpostmaster. A cash machine was installed in his branch after the Lloyds bank closed down in 2013. His cash machine (ATM) instantly started dispensing between £50k - £60k a week.
Says business performed well when he took over. Describes it as an “affluent business… it’s still an affluent business”

[Chirag lost his job as Subpostmaster due to a £57k discrepancy but still works there with a family member as a nominated SPM - more on this later no doubt]
Chirag describes the effect of Network Transformation on his business. The old-style fortress counters were removed, open counters were added and he lost £12k from his core payments. The business then work on 100% commission thereafter.
He also increased his opening hours. Says his counter training after Network Transformation was “fine” - taught to upsell stamps etc. Training on his ATM was “quite a lot to remember” because it worked “completely independent” to the PO’s Horizon IT System.
Thought at first the training was “adequate enough”, but his first week of balancing he managed to create a £10k surplus. Chirag called the helpline and his trainer Cindy Kennard [sp] came out to tell him if he followed the instructions on his "blue and white sheet” he...
… “wouldn’t go wrong.”

Chirag was first audited 4 months after taking over his branch. He had a discrepancy because the lottery scratch card sales were out of sync with Horizon - he was told to make good the £100-odd discrepancy immediately, which he did.
He was next audited on 10 Oct 2017. Two auditors Jim Sperry and Popendra Shah [SP?!] attended. They put up a posted to say the branch would be closed till the afternoon. CS was told to create a login for them both and show the where everything was.
The audit concluded with the two auditors [definitely not Jim Sperry!] saying CS had a £57k discrepancy.

“At first I though they were actually joking but he said no I’m serious, there’s a fifty-seven-and-a-half thousand pound shortage at which point...
… my heart literally hit the floor.”

CS was suspended immediately without pay pending further investigation. His contracts manager Anita Bravata [Sp?] was called. The branch was closed. CS asked for a temp to come in. The PO put the word out to try to find a temp...
“I had two contractors contact me asking me the times of the branch opening hours and if there was an ATM machine or not. When I told them the opening hours and there was an ATM machine installed, they literally hung up on me."
Then the NFSP got involved:

“I was advised by the lead auditor to contact the National Federation of Subpostmasters which I did do. I spoke to a guy called Keith Richards…”
CH “What advice did you receive…”
CS “Once I had spoken to Mr Richards and told him my full story...
… I was advised at the end of it to get a criminal solicitor.”

The day after his suspension CS was contacted by a Post Office investigator, Matt Mowbray.

“At that point he gave me two options. Option 1 was pay back the money immediately or I’d be looking at a 2 year prison...
… sentence.”

CS “I panicked. I literally called as many people as I could from my phone book to get money together to pay the PO back. My last and final phone call was to my father-in-law. I explained the whole situation, who then called up the following day on...
… 12 October to repay the full amount with a debit card.”

CS was not permitted to return to work after paying the sum. He was then invited to a criminal interview under caution. He was interviewed by Matt Mowbray and a Mr Watson.
CS contacted the NFSP again who said “If I was going to challenge the PO on this alleged shortfall they would not be able to assist and to get a criminal solicitor which they wouldn’t assist in or get me… assistance under the Federation. I then contacted the National...
… Retail Federation who appointed me a criminal solicitor.”

CS got Michelle George from Blackfords. CS was “very anxious” about the interview but Michelle “comforted me in every step of the interview."
CH “what did you tell the Post Office investigators?”

CS “They kept asking me where’s the money gone - what have you done with it? I said, “I haven’t taken anything? I don’t live a plush lifestyle. Where would I hide 57 thousand pounds in cash? I said there’s got to be some...
… problem in the Horizon System to which his reply was “everyone says that.””

In December 2017 CS was told there was going to be no further criminal investigation.

CS “At the end of the interview...
… i was actually supposed to be provided with a copy of the recording of the cautioned interview. Unfortunately the recording device had actually malfunction so no recording was available. On numeroius occasions, I then challenged the PO and asked them for a transcript...
… of the interview, which was denied, saying that it was commercially privileged documentation.”

CS was then summoned to “an informal meeting” with a PO contracts advisor called Paul Souterin at PO HQ to discuss his shortfall. CS prepped for this by taking a statement...
… with him saying there’s got to be “some sort of error within the computer system Horizon” and accepting he may have “entered a figure wrong because it tallied up to be a week’s worth of money for the ATM machine.”

CS was asked to provide every printout of the ATM and...
… the Horizon System relating to the ATM from 2015 - 2017.

CS “I got assistance from my brother-in-law to come int to literally sit with me all night to not only photocopy every single piece of paper but to put together an Excel spreadsheet to track the ins and outs of the...
… ATM machine.”

CS then met Mr Southerin in Dec 2017 in a garden centre in Norwich. He presented his spreadsheet to him. The Post Office didn’t appear to have done any investigation into CS’s situation and as CS says...
“Post Office have access to everything from A to Z in the back office of the system. I don’t. I’m completely locked out. I wasn’t allowed to use the system, I wasn’t allowed to log into the system, my username was deleted from the system. So I was left to my own resources...
… to try and establish what had happened… I discovered potentially there could be a £53k shortfall from the ATM machine but it’s not a physical cash shortfall. It’s a miscalculation of figures from the ATM machine.”

CS presented his evidence to Southerin. He was sacked...
… in a three page letter in Feb 2018.

CS was “Heartbroken. Heartbroken to the degree I didn’t know what to do. Didn’t know which way to turn, who to speak to… I tried to appeal the decision, but I was told that I have no right to an appeal."
CS was undeterred. He escalated his case. He contacted Paula Vennells who referred it to Al Cameron. CS received an email from a “flag case advisor” who told him that as he couldn’t explain where the £57k had gone, reinstating him “would be a risk to Post Office funds...
.. and brand damage. Putting me back in would be brand damage because what if it happens again?”

CS got Jeremy Hunt, his MP. JH contacted Paula Vennells again and PV agreed to an independent review of CS’s case.
The person conducting the “independent” review was Angela van den Bogerd, who in just over a year would be found to have tried to mislead a judge at the High Court and presented evidence which "was extraordinarily conscious of the need to protect the Post Office’s position...
…. which led to a disregard for factual accuracy.”

Some independence.

CS persuaded an NFSP rep Nilesh Joshi to come along to his meeting with Angela van den Bogerd. He also did a subject access request so he could have all the info the PO held on him.
On reading his case file CS found that “they had already made their mind up that they were going to terminate my contract from day one.”

One of the auditors who had suspended Chirag had called up the Post Office and the call logs showed he said his branch was going to be...
… "closed for the forseeable future”. CS also says that Paul Southerin “had written a report based on lies that I had allegedly owed my father-in-law the 57.5k that he had paid which was not true.”

CS was told by Nilesh Joshi from the NFSP that “the Horizon system isn’t...
… wrong, [it] doesn’t get it wrong. 2 plus 2 equals 4 as far as the Horizon system is concerned.”

Angela van den Bogerd concluded the decision to sack Chirag was correct. CS called her afterwards...
“I said I’m still not happy with the outcome because you still haven’t provided me with any evidence fo where this money has gone and her words were that money doesn’t have legs. It can’t run away. So where has the money gone?”

CS says van den Bogerd “said you need to stop...
… dwelling on the past and think about hte future because you could get a family member to apply to be a Subpostmaster at the branch.”

[this is eventually what happened. when the branch was reopened there was an opening audit to tally the cash and stock in the branch...
… with Horizon. The safe had not been opened since Chirag was suspended. It had a tamper-proof seal on it. There was a £5000 loss]

CS the auditor “was quite shocked himself at first. He called the original auditor… he was on loudspeaker on the phone then said to me that I’m...
… liable for that shortfall. That I’ve got to put the money in… I said I’m not paying a single penny”

This was reported by CS to AvdB who spoke to the auditor. An investigator from the safe manufacturer was brought in to check it had definitely not been tampered with...
… Once this had been confirmed, the PO just wrote off the £5k with no further investigation.

CS was asked about the impact on his life.

“I’ve had to pull away from everyone. I turned to alcohol to give me comfort. My marriage has broken down. I stay away from home...
… as much as I can. I just want to be left on my own.”

“It made me feel stupid, worthless, incompetent. I’d regarded myself as - I’m an educated person, I have a degree, I went to school, I was very academic, but it just made me feel I was worthless."
“It affecteed my eldest child quite a lot because htere was rumours going around. She used to come home and say ‘daddy are you going to jail?’ what response can I give to that?”

CS is now in the Historical Shortfall Scheme [another worrying mess] “at first I didn’t...
… join the scheme and… put in an application for judicial review for the historical shortfall scheme being led by… Herbert Smith Freehills who were involved in the HBOS scam and the Lloyd’s Bank compensation scheme. Not only that but once you joined the historical...
… shortfall scheme and the Post Office give you an offer whether it be £1 or whether it be £1m you are bound in that scheme and you lose your civil rights. I don’t see why I should lose my civil rights but I’ve been forced now to join that scheme and I’m waiting."
CH So your application has been accepted?
CS As a late applicant, yes.
CH have you had a response
CS “I haven’t had any response”

[Beyond shocking, isn’t it? They’ve destroyed him and he’s still not been offered a sniff of redress.]
Chirag is now on his closing statement which I’ll see if he’ll give me after he’s finished. It is very strong, as you might imagine.
CS has finished Sir Wyn Williams says he is “very grateful” to CS for his “participation in the inquiry”.

I am speaking at an event with Chirag tomorrow in his home town of Farncombe. If you’d like to come along and meet him, pls DM me.
If you want to read another powerful closing statement, please do have a look at this post I put up earlier today:…
I’ll be pausing the live tweets till @ArchNichola gives evidence this afternoon.

Thanks for reading this far!


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Mar 15
Attn twitter friends based in or near South West Surrey, UK:

This Friday evening (18 March) I'll be speaking at St John's church in Farncombe, Surrey about the Post Office Horizon Scandal.…

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