Ex-Fujitsu boss admits calling Horizon ‘Fort Knox’

Mr Tait said he was sorry for the damage that has been done to the sub-postmasters

A former head of Fujitsu UK has admitted that he told former Post Office boss, Paula Vennells, that the Horizon IT system was like "Fort Knox".

However, Duncan Tait told the BBC he was referring to “the cyber and physical security of Horizon and was unrelated to the remote access issue”.

Ms Vennells informed MPs in 2020 that she was told branch accounts could only be changed by sub-postmasters.

However, it has since emerged the accounts could be accessed remotely.

More than 900 sub-postmasters and postmistresses were prosecuted after the faulty Horizon software wrongly made it look like money was missing from their branches.

Some sub-postmasters and postmistresses were jailed, others were bankrupted and some have since died following what has been described as the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history.

Last week, Nick Read, chief executive of the Post Office, was criticised for not knowing when the company first knew that remote access to sub-postmasters’ Horizon systems was possible.

When prosecutions were taking place, Fujitsu had told the Post Office that no-one, apart from sub-postmasters themselves, could access or alter Horizon records – meaning the blame for mistakes could only rest with sub-postmasters. But that turned out to be untrue.

Speaking to MPs on the Business Committee four years ago, Ms Vennells said: “I remember being told by Fujitsu’s then chief executive when I raised it with him that the system was ‘like Fort Knox’.

“He had been a trusted outsource partner and had the reputation of a highly competent technology sector chief executive. His word was important to me.”

  • Latest updates from Post Office inquiry
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The scandal has been pushed back into the spotlight following the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office.

In a statement to the BBC, Mr Tait said: “As I have said before, I am appalled by the harsh treatment of the sub-postmasters and postmistresses.

“As the public inquiry is already aware, I did refer to Fort Knox in a conversation with Paula Vennells – this was in relation to the cyber and physical security of Horizon and was unrelated to the remote access issue.

“I fully support the inquiry and it would be inappropriate for me to comment further ahead of giving my evidence.

“This has been a terrible miscarriage of justice and like others at Fujitsu, I am sorry for the damage that has been done to the sub-postmasters and postmistresses’ lives and any role that Fujitsu played in that.”

Last week, the boss of Fujitsu’s European arm, Paul Paterson, told the public inquiry into the scandal that the company had “clearly let society down, and the sub-postmasters down”.

Mr Patterson admitted there had been “bugs, errors and defects” with the Horizon software “right from the very start”.

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