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Irish signatures forged in €54m computer conspiracy, court hears

THE Health Service Executive (HSE) is at the centre of a major conspiracy case in London linked to a €54.3m computer system now in use in the Irish health service.

It is alleged that three company directors who were in senior positions in the computer firm iSoft falsely told investors in 2003 it had won a major contract in Ireland to supply computer software systems.

By making the false statements of winning the contract, which allegedly involved forging the signatures of senior executives of the Irish health service, it's claimed the three men won lucrative personal bonuses and also misled investors by transforming what was in reality an £11m (€13.3m) loss on the company books into a profit.

Two years after the alleged deception took place, the firm actually signed the contract and supplied the HSE with computer systems.

A spokeswoman for the HSE told the Sunday Independent that it intended to "co-operate fully with the UK authorities if required" in the case taken by Britain's financial regulator against the three former directors of the healthcare software firm once listed in the FTSE 250.

The HSE also confirmed that it retained "multiple contracts" awarded to iSoft over a number of years but could not comment further because the case is sub-judice.

Among iSoft's Irish contracts was a €50m project to deliver integrated patient management systems to hospitals across Ireland. iSoft provided its iPM PAS computer system.

The iSoft Group is now owned by Computer Science Corporation (CSC), which is not involved or implicated in the current proceedings at Southwark Crown Court in London.

On Friday the prosecution claimed that a "forgery kit" was discovered in a box of documents seized by investigators from the abandoned offices of the former iSoft executives who are now on trial.

It was claimed that the defendants sourced the legitimate signatures of executives of the Irish health service which they then transferred to what purported to be a photocopy of a legally binding contract. They then produced this document to auditors doing the iSoft books as proof that the company could include the contract's revenue in its audited accounts.

It meant the "profit" from the Irish contract was included in the company books from as early as October 2003. In reality, a contract was not signed by the HSE until April 2005 -- just three months after the HSE came into official operation.

On trial are Timothy Whiston, 44, the former CEO of iSoft; Stephen Graham, 48, the company's ex-commercial director and John Whelan, 45, its former finance director.

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All made misleading statements, it was claimed by Richard Latham, a lawyer for Britain's Financial Services Authority.

There was "a massive discrepancy between the reality of that company's position and what was in its public accounts," Mr Latham said on the first day of the trial which began last week.

The defendants made the statements to win a contract from the UK's National Health Service and encourage 2003 merger talks with another company, Mr Latham alleged.

The men had "major remuneration packages, of which a significant portion related to the financial performance of the company," Mr Latham said. It was "spectacularly" in their interest that iSoft reported a profit, he alleged.

Mr Whiston, Mr Graham and Mr Whelan all deny a single charge of conspiring together to make statements, promises or false acts about iSoft Group PLC which they knew to be false, misleading or deceptive.

In a statement to the Sunday Independent, a HSE spokeswoman said: "The health service in Ireland has multiple contracts with companies in the iSoft Group, which is now owned by Computer Science Corporation (CSC). iSoft is a major supplier in the healthcare IT market and, as such, there are a range of contracts for their various services in place across the Irish health services."

Patrick Cryne, iSoft's former chairman and the owner of Barnsley Football Club, has also been charged with the same offences by the Financial Services Authority. He will stand trial later this year after falling ill recently.

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