Detectives yesterday went to a controversy-hit free school in Bradford to arrest its principal as part of a fraud inquiry.
Sajid Hussain Raza, 41, the founder of the Kings Science Academy in Lidget Green, was taken to a police station where he was questioned for several hours before being released on bail.
His arrest follows a two-month-long police investigation into the school’s affairs after financial irregularities were uncovered in an audit ordered by the Department for Education.
The auditors found that tens of thousands of pounds of public money had not been used for its intended purposes, amid claims of financial irregularities and nepotism.
The DfE yesterday said it was in the process of “recovering the fraudulently claimed money in full”.
Mr Raza set up Kings Science Academy, a school outside Bradford Council control, in 2011. It has since been praised by Prime Minister David Cameron as being a “flagship” free school.
Announcing the arrest yesterday, Detective Superintendent Lisa Griffin, head of crime for Bradford District, said: “As part of West Yorkshire Police’s ongoing investigation into matters at Kings Science Academy, Bradford, a 41-year-old man has been arrested at premises in Bradford in relation to suspected fraud offences.”
Bradford Council has since offered support to the independently-run school to make sure there was no disruption for pupils.
A DfE spokesman said: “The department acted as soon as it received allegations of wrongdoing. We formally investigated and referred the case to Action Fraud. This resulted in a police investigation which is ongoing.
“Separately, we are recovering the fraudulently claimed money in full.
“All free schools are held to rigorous account. The vast majority are performing well, with three-quarters rated good or outstanding.
“But where there is failure we will not hesitate to intervene.”
Councillor Ralph Berry, the executive member for children’s services at the Council, said: “At this point in time all I can say is we will make sure the school is supported and do all we can to make sure the children there continue to receive their education without any disruption.”
Bradford MPs David Ward and George Galloway have pursued the issue in Parliament, calling for Education Secretary Michael Gove to suspend Mr Raza. Mr Gove has declined to act until the police investigation was completed.
Mr Ward (Lib Dem, Bradford East) said: “I await the outcome of the investigation.”
Mr Galloway (Respect, Bradford West) said: “I am very pleased that police are taking this seriously.”
No-one at Kings Science Academy was available to comment about Mr Raza‘s arrest.