THE four men arrested amid a police investigation into allegations of major fraud at Brighton and Hove City Council housing department have been released on bail.

The men were arrested yesterday morning on suspicion of misconduct in a public office and corruption, following an investigation by the council's internal audit team.

Detectives are looking into allegations of improper awarding of council contracts worth more than £18 million over the past ten years, to a property management company providing the homeless with temporary accommodation.

The arrests followed searches at five addresses at 7am yesterday morning, including one in Holland Road, Hove.

The Argus understands the home is owned by the council’s suspended head of housing, Jugal Sharma.

A force spokesman said the occupant was not in when officers searched the house. He added that they would be looking to speak to him on his return.

After being interviewed in Brighton the four arrested were released on police bail on Wednesday evening until October while the investigation continues.

A 51-year-old man arrested at an address in Balfour Road, Ilford, Essex, is on bail until October 16. The Argus understands he is Mr Sharma’s brother Ashley Parker, formerly known as Ashone Sharma and Ashoni Parker.

He is director - and largest shareholder - of a company called KEM Property Services, based in London.

Fellow KEM director Edward Charles Parker-Bancroft, 57, was arrested at his home in Harlands Road, Haywards Heath, and is on bail to October 17.

Alan Fisher, 67, was arrested at his home in Ashvale Drive, Upminster, Essex, and is on bail to October 14. The Argus understands he is neither an employee of KEM nor the council.

A 53-year-old man arrested at an address in Elms Road, London, is on bail to October 15. His identity is not yet known.

Police also searched a business address in Queens Road, Brighton. No arrests were made.

None of the men arrested are employees of Brighton and Hove City Council.

Computers, other equipment and documents were seized at each addresss for examination.

Detective Sergeant Sally Smith said police wanted to speak to anyone who might be able to help the inquiry.

Council chief executive Penny Thompson said the authority took misconduct allegations "very seriously".

She added: "Following an investigation by our internal audit team we notified police and we are cooperating fully with the police investigation.”

Contact police via 101 or email 101@sussex.pnn.police.ukquoting Operation Parade.