Former Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson who was arrested in a corruption probe last year has insisted he has never taken a bribe.
The city leader, 63, was sensationally arrested in December and also held on suspicion of witness intimidation.
However, Mr Anderson has now broken his silence on the incident, describing it as ‘bizarre’ and revealing that he is suing Merseyside Police for wrongful arrest.
He insists that the allegations are baseless and that he has ‘never taken a bribe in his life’.
The arrests came as part of a long-running police probe into financial irregularities in the awarding of building contracts in the city.
Mr Anderson says he is mystified by the decision to raid his house and suspicious of the timing of his arrest, ahead of mayoral elections in May.
Joe Anderson’s arrest came as part of a long-running police probe into financial irregularities in the awarding of building contracts in the city
He was sensationally arrested in December and also held on suspicion of witness intimidation
He told the Telegraph: ‘I have never taken a bribe in my life. I want to say as much as I’m allowed to say and I want to actually let people know the absurdity of what I’m being accused of. The idea there has been a mass conspiracy to make things happen is quite frankly absurd.’
Derek Hatton, the former Trotskyist deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, was also arrested as part of the investigation.
Mr Anderson described Mr Hatton’s arrest as an attempt to ‘sex up’ the case against him.
The 72-year-old was the ringleader of the Trotskyist Militant tendency in the 1980s which set an illegal budget in Liverpool – causing ‘grotesque chaos’ in the city – and brought about bitter divisions in the party.
The arrests come as part of Merseyside police’s Operation Aloft – a 15-month operation looking into agreements between property developers and the council.
Mr Anderson was elected mayor of Liverpool in 2012, having been on the council since 1998.
His son David, 33, was also arrested over allegations he had benefited from contracts awarded by Liverpool City Council.
Mr Anderson was questioned over the sale of the family’s four-bedroom house to his son for £190,000. The mayor then bought a smaller house close by for £135,000.
Police also asked him about a caravan in north Wales he jointly owns with his son.
These questions were revealed by Mr Anderson who believes that the police think he awarded his son city council contracts in return money.
However, Mr Anderson claimed that his son’s health and safety consultancy had never been awarded a contract by the council.
Derek Hatton, the former Trotskyist deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, was also arrested as part of the investigation
It had gained work from private contractors working on council projects but he said these contracts were won fairly.
Mr Anderson also slammed police for claiming he had received a £20,000 bribe for his mayoral election campaign, claiming they confused him with the Lord Mayor.
He claims police had confused the payment with a £20,000 donation to the Lord Mayor’s fund, a charitable body overseen by someone else.
Mr Anderson also slammed the suggestion he was conspiring with Mr Hatton on the day of his brother’s funeral over a witness intimidation case concerning FOI requests sent to Liverpool council.
Who is Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson?
Joseph Anderson was born in 1958 in Liverpool to a cleaner and a Merchant Navy officer.
He joined the Merchant Navy after leaving school and then went onto work for P&O Ferries
He went to Liverpool John Moores University and got a post-grad diploma in social work. He went onto be a social worker in Crosby.
He became a councillor in 1998 and, in 2003, became the Leader of the Labour Group on Liverpool City Council.
He became council leader in 2010 and then was elected Mayor in 2012.
Last year he secured the Labour Party selection to run to be Mayor of the city for a third term at May’s delayed elections.
It is claimed the FOI requests were sent from fake emails with the intention of undermining the city council’s chief executive.
This was done while the chief executive helped police to investigate corruption within the council.
However, Mr Anderson again refutes the claims he was involved.
In a wide-ranging interview, he also criticised Labour’s leadership and claimed he was dismissed from the party too hastily.
He is even considering running against Labour as an independent mayoral candidate.
Lawyers for Mr Anderson have launched a judicial review in the High Court against the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police.
They argue his arrest was ‘unnecessary and therefore unlawful’.
The ex-mayor added: ‘Nothing has been proven. I haven’t even been charged.’
Mr Anderson hit the headlines in October with his vocal criticism of the Government’s tiered lockdown system, which he branded a ‘shambles’.
Liverpool was the first English region to be put into the top Tier Three – prior to the country’s second national lockdown – as cases surged in the city.
He accused the Government of railroading through its Tier Three measures for the city without local leaders agreeing to anything back in October.
His pushback came alongside criticism from Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who also blasted the rules – with affected vast swathes of the North.