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Home Office £8m deal with crook

Daily Mail Newspaper - May 2008

This story revealed how the Home Office paid £8 million to a firm run by a man jailed for arranging a murder.

Our whistleblower was understandably nervous about telling the story for fear of repercussions.

We sold the story to the Daily Mail newspaper and ensured the person retained their anonymity.

Read the full story below.


The Home Office paid £8million to a firm run by a man jailed for arranging a murder.
The shambolic department failed to make checks on former police officer Mark Ayres.
Although he had been released early, his 13-year-sentence still had two years to run when Government officials signed on the dotted line. His firm ITA (Overseas Escorts) collected the cash over two years for handling the deportation of illegal immigrants. 

It is the latest in a string of scandals to hit the Home Office. Last night Opposition MPs questioned how many other criminals may have won contracts.

Critics said even a cursory check on 46-year-old Ayres would have found he changed his name after leaving jail. 
As Mark Andrew Heaver, he was convicted of arranging for two men to stab and beat 33-year-old Michael Donovan to death at his Merseyside home while his wife and children slept upstairs. 

The killers, who were never caught, left heroin behind to give the impression the April 1994 murder was drug-related. 

The following year Liverpool Crown Court heard that Ayers had wanted sole control of the potentially-lucrative career of a promising boxer Mr Donovan was managing. 
Judge Ann Ebsworth told him: 'This has to be a crime of the utmost gravity.' 
Ayres, who joined Thames Valley police from school but left after only 18 months, founded ITA in January 2006. It was soon awarded a Home Office Illegal Immigrant Deportation Escorting contract. 

The firm, which had 50 staff, handled around 120 illegal immigrants a month, earning £2,000 a time. 

Two escorts and a driver would collect the immigrant from a deportation centre and take him or her to the airport. Whitehall officials accept the work is highly sensitive and involves those who may be determined to escape. 

But they decided there was no need to look at the background of ITA's bosses, who had no contact with immigrants. They simply ran Criminal Records Bureau checks on the 50 guards. 
False claims in Ayers's CV - that he reached the rank of major after serving with the Royal Marines and the Special Boat Service - also went unnoticed. 
ITA (Overseas Escorts) has since gone into liquidation, after Ayres was forced out owing up to £1million in unpaid tax. 
Confronted by the Daily Mail at his home in Basingstoke, Hampshire, Ayres at first claimed he was in 'legal negotiations' with the firm. 

Asked about being Mark Heaver, he began shaking and slammed the door.
The case is the latest in a string of similar scandals at the Home Office. Last December, it emerged that an illegal immigrant with forged papers had been guarding its Whitehall HQ for 19 months. 

He was one of 11,000 suspected illegals granted clearance by the Security Industry Authority - an agency of the Home Office --without proper checks. 

In 2006, five Nigerian illegal immigrants were found working at the Home Office as cleaners. 
Last night the UK Border Agency insisted it had 'a thorough vetting process' and checks were run on the financial viability, company turnover, insurance and bankruptcy protection of contractors.
But Shadow Home Secretary David Davis asked: 'Are they satisfied their vetting procedures pose no risk?' 

The news horrified the family of murder victim Mr Donovan. His brother, Cyril, 49, said: 'Heads should roll over this. It is disgusting. 

Heaver is a prolific conman. He always dressed the part and drove top-of-the-range cars, so it is no surprise to me that he has conned the Government as well.