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June 17, 2024
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Alan Cook oversaw the prosecution of innocent postmasters, rolled out smart motorways, and tried to sell LV to US private equity predators… So how DID he get away with it?




The man who tried to sell LV to private equity vultures has been thrust back into the spotlight by the Post Office scandal.

Alan Cook was managing director of the Post Office between 2006 and 2010 when the private prosecution of hundreds of innocent postmasters over a glitch in the Horizon IT system began.

He oversaw 161 prosecutions for alleged theft that saw 141 people convicted and 57 imprisoned.

He went on to be chairman of Highways England where he had a role in adjusting the design of controversial smart motorways, including cutting the number of life-saving refuge areas.

Cook then took over as chairman of LV and tried to sell the 179-year-old mutual insurer to US buyer Bain Capital for £530m before his deal was rejected by the group’s 1.2m members after a successful Daily Mail campaign.

Members of the mutual said they were ‘dismayed and bewildered’ that Cook was allowed to head a financial institution after his involvement at the Post Office.

He oversaw 161 prosecutions for alleged theft that saw 141 people convicted and 57 imprisoned

Despite the controversies, he has escaped public glare in regard to the Post Office scandal, with much of the fury being directed at former chief executive Paula Vennells. MPs and victims now want Cook to be held to account for his role in the ‘biggest miscarriage of justice’ in British history.

The postmasters scandal saw more than 700 innocent people convicted – 263 of them jailed – and threw hundreds more into bankruptcy and financial ruin.

Last night, former sub-postmaster and victims campaigner Chris Trousdale said: ‘We want everyone, from the top to the bottom, to be held accountable. People keep asking if this kind of thing could happen again.

‘If people like Cook keep being given senior positions in big companies, then of course it could. The public should be very concerned these types of people are still running major institutions.’

Gareth Thomas, shadow minister for international trade, said: ‘It is absolutely time that he is held to account.’ Cook, who lives in a £1m house near Milton Keynes, was appointed managing director of the Post Office by then chief executive Adam Crozier who was impressed by Cook’s turnaround at National Savings and Investments, where he had been chief executive since 2002.

Crozier wanted him to ‘freshen up’ the Post Office. By the time Cook had retired 161 postmasters had been prosecuted, with 141 convicted and 57 imprisoned. He defended the Horizon computer system in a letter to MP Brooks Newmark in 2009 when questions were raised about its reliability.

When he left in 2010 Crozier praised him for his ‘fantastic contribution’ to the Post Office.

Cook is currently a board member at Milton Keynes College.

In 2021, a spokesman for LV said that Cook had ‘deep sympathy for those postmasters wrongly prosecuted’.

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