Navy Officer On Trial Over Expenses

A court martial's heard how a Royal Navy officer abused a Ministry of Defence (MoD) "credit card'' to fund restaurant bills and hire cars while on a work exchange in the US.

Lieutenant Commander Andrew Ball made a total of 4,192 US dollar (£2,653) worth of fraudulent claims while on assignment at the US navy's war college in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, the trial was told.

Captain Stuart Crozier, prosecuting, told the hearing at Portsmouth Naval Base that the 41-year-old faced nine charges of fraud relating to the work placement in 2009.

Four of these involved him using a government procurement card, which is paid directly by the MoD, to pay for personal items which included a 268 US dollar (£169) bill at the Sakura Steak House restaurant, 70 US dollar (£44) bill for the Beaver Bar and Grill and a 1,429 US dollar (£904) car hire bill in Orlando, Florida.

Capt Crozier explained the other five charges related to Ball making authentic claims such as for heating oil using an online expenses system but then paying for the services using the government procurement card.

He said this amounted to the lieutenant commander, who is currently based at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, which is headquarters of the RN Maritime Warfare School and Surface Stream, "dishonestly'' claiming twice for the expenses.

Capt Crozier said: "It was the hire car bill in July 2009 which came to the attention of the British Defence Section and as a result an investigation was launched.''

He added that when questioned by MoD police, Ball said that he only recalled the hire car bill and had expected his debts to have been paid when he returned to the UK.

He also claimed that he had had problems keeping up with the paperwork while in the US.

Capt Crozier said: "He said that his personal administration for the first six months hadn't been as good as it should have been to which he found himself overwhelmed by the administration.''

The trial continues.