Devon

Torbay NHS boss 'swindled £20,000 from budget'

Mr and Mrs Vasco-Knight
Image caption Stephen and Paula Vasco-Knight are accused of swindling the NHS

A "dishonest" NHS chief fraudulently paid her husband more than £20,000 from her budget, a jury has heard.

Paula Vasco-Knight, 53, was the national lead for equalities for NHS England, with a budget of £200,000.

Exeter Crown Court heard she commissioned her husband's firm to produce a £9,000 newsletter as part of her equalities work.

She denies three counts of fraud from 2012 to 2013 when she was in charge of South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.

More on the fraud claims, plus more Devon and Cornwall news

Gareth Evans, prosecuting, said Mrs Vasco-Knight's failure to declare interest in her husband's company Thinking Caps was a criminal offence.

The newsletter was commissioned in April 2013 and produced that July, the court heard.

Mrs Vasco-Knight simply described the contractor as 'Steve' to Habib Naqvi, a senior manager in the NHS, and did not mention he was her husband, the court was told.

She later attempted to distance herself from involvement by blaming Mr Naqvi for commissioning the newsletter.

'Dishonest'

The court heard Mrs Vasco-Knight of Runcorn, Cheshire, also used NHS funds to buy a MacBook Pro computer, which she later admitted she never used.

Image caption Businessman Habib Naqvi has denied enabling the offence to happen

She is also said to have paid her husband £11,072 of taxpayers' money to design a 200-page document entitled Transform.

The court heard the document was never submitted to the NHS, with the couple showing investigators a "complete sham" as evidence of it in 2014.

"That is fraud and it is dishonest in the extreme," said Mr Evans.

Stephen Vasco Knight, 45, denies one count of fraud.

Mr Naqvi, 28, of Wells Road, Bristol, denies two counts of encouraging the commission of the offences.

The jury heard Mrs Vasco-Knight was the CEO of the trust, based in Torbay until her resignation in May 2014.

The trial continues.

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