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Caroline Miller explains Judane payments

LERWICK councillor Caroline Miller yesterday (Tuesday) made public the reasons for diverting rent owed to her husband’s knitwear company through one of her own business accounts.

Mrs Miller went public for the first time after last month accusing fellow councillor Gary Robinson and Shetland News of making defamatory statements about her relationship with Judane.

Her comments come after Shetland Islands Council last month agreed to write off two thirds of a £600,000 business loan made by Shetland Development Trust to Judane.

Shortly afterwards it emerged that Judane factory tenant Chris Hodge had paid more than £20,000 in rent to Caroline Miller, trading as Northern Isles Knitwear in 2007, the year she was elected as a councillor.

Councillor Robinson called for a full investigation into the affair, having already voiced his opposition to the council’s settlement with the knitwear firm.

In a letter from Mrs Miller’s lawyers Morton Fraser, of Edinburgh, she explained that the rental payments had been made through her company with the full knowledge of the creditors, including the Royal Bank of Scotland and Shetland Development Trust.

The letter says that the Royal Bank insisted the company change its bank account to a “balance reduction only” account, which meant other creditors could only be paid through a separate account.

The company decided to use a bank account used by Northern Isles Knitwear, a company which was no longer in operation. All the money paid into this account was used to pay Judane’s creditors.

Records of these transactions were submitted to Companies House, met with the satisfaction of Shetland Development Trust and were made in consultation with the Inland Revenue and the local VAT office.

The letter states: “Our client has not benefitted personally in any way from these transactions.”

It adds that Mrs Miller consulted the council’s administration department on disclosures on her Register of Interests “at all relevant times”, pointing out that she had never been a director of Judane.

“The accounting status of the relevant payments was disclosed in the Accounts which were supplied on a frequent basis to the Council and Shetland Development Trust. Nothing in these transactions was hidden from scrutiny by Council Development Officers and Councillors.”

In response, councillor Robinson said that he had asked council officials about Judane’s financial affairs and had not been supplied with any such information.

He added: “All I wanted to hear was some answers and I can’t understand why it’s taken so much grief and over a month to get these answers.”

Mrs Miller tried to have an interdict served on Mr Robinson and Shetland News on 23 December to stop further commenting on her affairs concerning Judane. The request was refused by the Court of Session, in Edinburgh.

A Shetland News spokesman said: “Like Mr Robinson, we find it hard to understand why Mrs Miller chose to go through her lawyers rather than give us the chance of asking her directly about this matter. It could have saved a lot of time and cleared up a lot of confusion.”