Senior army officer court martialed for alleged £48,000 fraud

The most senior army officer to face a court martial for more than two centuries has been accused of defrauding the taxpayer out of almost £50,000 to pay for private school fees.

Maj Gen Nick Welch allegedly abused army allowances when he took on a senior role at the Ministry of Defence in London.

The two-star general is said to have claimed that his wife, Charlotte, would be living at his new London home – which meant he could claim an allowance for two of his children’s education, who attended private schools in Dorset.

In fact she spent most of her time at their £800,000 country cottage, complete with swimming pool, in Dorset while they boarded at schools nearby, the prosecution claimed.

Welch, 57, becomes the most senior British officer to face a court martial since 1815, when a lieutenant general was convicted of abandoning his siege guns in the Napoleonic wars.

He is accused of fraud amounting to just over £48,000 from December 2015 to February 2017.

On the first day of his four-week trial at Bulford military court in Wiltshire, the court heard Welch relocated to London when he began the job at the MoD.

Continuity of education allowance (CEA) is offered to soldiers to help fund children’s education when they relocate on assignment. But the court heard that rather than living in London as she needed to for him to be eligible for the allowance, his wife stayed at their cottage in Dorset, close to the two schools where their children were sent.

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Opening the case, prosecutor Sarah Clarke QC said: “He should not have been claiming the allowance. He dishonestly wanted to continue to keep the privilege of having his two children in private education.”

Clarke said Welch first claimed CEA in 2007. She said: “He has been signing up to CEA repeatedly since 2007 so there can’t be any doubt that he’s not fully familiar with the rules.”

The court was told that in February 2017, when Welch heard there had been a complaint about the alleged fraud, he had his wife hurry to London.

Clarke said: “She cancelled her plans, drove up and spent the week going out and about being seen and being visible in the local area.”

The barrister added: “He had an obligation not only with the army, but the public too to comply with the regulations. And, let’s face it, who is really going to question the word of a major general?”

Welch denies one charge of fraud. The court martial continues.



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