A LAWYER has admitted he may have committed a criminal offence by knowingly allowing false information about Edinburgh’s tram contract to be submitted to the council.

Andrew Fitchie, who was seconded by lawyers DLA Piper to work for council-owned Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE), formed to manage the project, told the tram inquiry that he accepted the legal implications amounted to fraud.

The inquiry, chaired by Lord Hardie, was set up to establish why the scheme went over budget from £375million to more than £1billion and opened three years behind schedule.

Mr Fitchie also accepted that he allowed information about changes in the burden of risk in part of the contract to be submitted to Edinburgh City Council in May 2008 despite knowing it was false and knew that was potentially a criminal and civil offence.

He told the tram inquiry that senior people at Tie would also have known the information presented was inaccurate.

Later Mr Fitchie said when the documents were read as a whole he did not think they were deliberately misleading.

Chair counsel Jonathan Lake QC asked: “Going back then to May 2008, you would have been aware that they were knowingly providing false information to the Council.

Mr Fitchie said: “You’ve used a strong word, “false information”. And you’ve said, I believe, “knowingly providing false information to the Council. I would have been aware that they were knowingly providing false information. I would hesitate to go as strong as that agreeing with you. I agree that the information in those - in those close reports was deficient.

Lord Hardie added: “Well, it’s more than deficient, isn’t it? It wasn’t accurate.

Mr Fitchie said: “Yes, my Lord, it was not accurate.

Lord Hardie: “It wasn’t true.

Mr Fitchie: “Correct.

Lord Hardie: “So it’s false.

Mr Fitchie: “Yes.

Mr Lake QC added: “Because - you hesitate there because you know the legal significance of knowingly providing false information to someone, don’t you?

Mr Fitchie: “I do.

Mr Lake QC added: “Because it amounts to fraud, doesn’t it?

Mr Fitchie replied: “It potentially is a criminal offence, yes. And a civil one as well.

Mr Lake: “And you were aware of that in May 2008 - you were aware that’s what was happening?

Her replied “I read those documents. They were provided to me. I had to form a view as to whether they were fit for purpose.

“My Lord, I have answered your question as to whether that information was false. I am unwilling to accept the question to me that I knowingly let this go.

Lord Hardie asked: “I think yesterday you may have accepted that you knew that the information wasn’t accurate when it was being submitted to the Council.

He replied: “I did.

Lord Hardie pressed him: “So does it not then follow that you knowingly permitted this to be submitted to the Council in the knowledge that it was false?

He added: “I allowed that information to go to the Council together with DLA Piper’s letter which we’ve discussed. I think that’s my answer.”

Police Scotland did not respond to inquiries about whether Mr Fitchie will now be investigated for fraud.

The inquiry continues.