London, Jan 11: An elderly former postmaster of Indian-origin has revealed that Princess Kate and the Middleton family stood by him when he was accused of stealing 16,000 pounds in the Post Office accounting scandal.
Hasmukh Shingadia, 63, served the Middleton family at the Spar (convenience store) and Post Office in Upper Bucklebury, Berkshire, where Kate and her sister Pippa grew up.
He got suspended in 2010 over a scandal in which hundreds of post office managers across the UK were wrongly accused of theft and fraud because of a software glitch.
According to The Sun, Shingadia would serve sweets to the princess, her sister and even Prince William during the early years of the royal romance.
A grandfather now, Shingadia said Princess Kate, who celebrated her 42nd birthday on January 9, and her family continued to frequent his Spar and Post Office even after his conviction.
"Not everybody did that, and some locals shunned me," he said, talking about the hard times. He was even invited to the Royal wedding in 2011 along with his wife, Chandrika. "It meant so much to us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which they gave me despite the charges," he told The Sun.
"For them to have done that for us, it was tremendous. I’ve known them more than 25 years, and they have always been such kind and welcoming people," he said.
After his name was cleared at the Court of Appeal in 2021, Michael Middleton (Kate's father) was overjoyed and said, "well done".
"I am really grateful to the wider family for standing by me. They are really good people," he was quoted as saying by The Sun.
The Duchess of Cambridge celebrated her 42nd birthday on January 9.
Months after the royal wedding, he was handed an eight-month suspended sentence at Oxford crown court, ordered to pay more than GBP 2,000 in costs and do 200 hours' community service.
"It was horrible, not only for me, but my family as well. We all went through hell. I had suicidal thoughts. I'm still dealing with the fallout emotionally and mentally," he told The Sun.
Shingadia is now urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to exonerate all 736 sub-postmasters convicted from 2000-2015.
On Monday, convictions of 12 people, who were convicted based on evidence from the faulty IT system used by the Post Office from 2000, were overturned.
Sunak has confirmed a new law would be introduced so people wrongly convicted in the scandal are "swiftly exonerated and compensated".
A public inquiry is also underway, and recently London's Metropolitan Police also opened a new investigation into the Post Office over potential fraud offences.