A major fraud probe has been launched at the RNLI following the arrest of one of the lifeboat charity’s employees, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Dorset Police have confirmed a 53-year-old Wareham man has been arrested on suspicion of fraud and bailed until next March.

Police became involved after the RNLI made a complaint to Action Fraud, the UK’s national centre for reporting fraud and internet crime.

The maritime rescue charity, based in Poole, is remaining tight-lipped about exactly how much money is involved in the alleged fraud – but the Echo understands it could be a considerable amount.

It is also believed the relatively long time the suspect has been released on police bail – until March 2015 – signifies the complexity of the investigation.

Both the RNLI and Dorset Police have confirmed a joint probe has been launched.

In an official statement the RNLI said: “We can confirm that a member of staff has been arrested in connection with an alleged criminal offence.

“The RNLI takes any allegations of criminal behaviour very seriously and we are working closely with the police as well as conducting our own internal investigation.

“As this is a criminal investigation, we are unable to provide further information at this moment.”

Meanwhile, Dorset Police also confirmed: “The RNLI made a complaint of fraud to Action Fraud which was referred to Dorset Police on May 8, 2014, to be investigated.

“As a result of the investigation a 53-year-old man from the Wareham area was arrested on suspicion of fraud and has been released on police bail until the middle of March, 2015.”

Action Fraud is run by City of London Police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

Charity costs £385k per day

IT COSTS £385,000 per day to run the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), and all of this is donated by generous members of the public.

Last year’s national RNLI total income stood at £182.7m, a £16.2m increase on the previous year.

The charity is currently financing a number of ambitious new projects, including boathouses and the building of state-of-the art lifeboats.

The volunteer organisation’s capital expenditure for 2013 was £48m.

Overall, last year’s running costs worked out at £144.6m.

The maritime rescue charity’s people power is comprised 95 per cent from volunteers.

They include 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew and an additional 3,000 shore crew.