Ibori: How Cliff Knuckey, Keith Hunter and DC John McDonald colluded to suppress Illegal payments to police officers
- Category: SPECIAL REPORTS
- Friday, 15 June 2012
- By Palmer Ogheneyole Nathaniel
IBORI - Documents obtained show how UK police officers DC McDonald, DC Greenwood and DC Irons colluded with Cliff Knuckey and Keith Hunter to suppress illegal cash payments to police officers in 2008- This is another significant story to break on Elombah.com showing how UK Police officers investigating James Ibori colluded with
Risc Management Limited to cover up the bribes from becoming exposed in 2008.
Copies of these documents exclusively obtained by Elombah.com and shown here for the first time, reveal the staggering lengths to which the corrupt police officers went to in attempting to cover-up the illicit pay offs.
The documents indicates that at least two officers in the Ibori investigation, DC Ben Irons and DC Nicholas Greenwood and possibly others knew of the illegal payments in May 2008. Such were their suspicions they obtained court orders for the production of the financial records from Risc and Speechly Bircham in respect of the payments.
Elombah.com can exclusively report that “there is a distinct possibility" that at least two more officers in the anti-corruption Unit involved with the Ibori investigations are likely to be implicated.
Recall that last month we reported that three former Scotland Yard police officers and a serving detective were arrested as part of an investigation into allegations that members of the force's anti-corruption unit were paid thousands of pounds in bribes from James Ibori.
The Metropolitan police have since confirmed that a 45-year-old male detective, understood to be DC John McDonald was arrested on suspicion of receiving payments for information while two former police officers, Gary Walters and Keith Hunter were arrested during raids on suspicion of bribery of a police officer. The third former police officer, Cliff Knuckey was also arrested on suspicion of bribery of a police officer.
The bribery allegations formally surfaced during a Parliamentary hearing on the role of private detectives. During evidence from lawyer Mike Schwarz from solicitors Bindmans, MPs were told of documents which allege that private investigation firm, Risc Management Limited, was involved in "wining and dining and paying" officers working on the James Ibori case.
These latest damming revelations will be yet another self inflicted blow at the heart of the Ibori investigation team. The officers have already been criticised by British ministers dismayed with the claims. The documents show how Hunter/Knuckey used their influence over Walters and McDonald to suppress the incriminating invoices from ever surfacing.
It is now becoming apparent that the reason for these orders was that a number of the officers had become aware of the illegal cash payments. It appears they were disgruntled at the payments not being shared fairly and wanted to know just how much money had actually been received by McDonald and Walters.
The Police Cover-Up
Documents obtained by this reporter and shown here illustrates how the corrupt officers wanted to know just how much money had been paid by Ibori to colleagues obtained the production orders which gave them immediate access to Ibori’s financial records held by his London solicitors, Speechly Bircham and Risc Management Limited.
The following appears to be the sequence of events that occurred surrounding the incriminating documents:-
a. In April 2008, two specific Production Orders were obtained on the same day, before the Blackfriars Crown Court. They both reference the “financial records/ledgers” etc. of Risc and Speechly Bircham. The incriminating Risc invoices would almost certainly have been produced under these orders. It was within these invoices that several of the illegal payments to DC McDonald and DI Gary Walters had been recorded.
b. DC Ben Irons and DC Nicholas Greenwood were the officers who obtained and served the Production Orders.
c. Both officers were working closely within the Ibori investigation code-named Operation Tureen and on the V- Mobile matter, code-named Operation Augen, but more importantly under the supervision of DC McDonald and DI Walters.
d. Analysts say the Production Orders were exceptionally draconian in that they required all the financial documents to be seized “immediately”. I was told that for a judge to have granted such orders, especially against a law firm like Speechly Bircham, the allegations raised by the officers must have been very compelling. Ordinarily, the production of such material is usually within 7 days. This is only fair on professional organisations, but for some reason this was not the case here.
e. As to the material to be seized, reference was specifically made only to financial issues and ledgers, etc and the payments made under the Speechly Bircham invoices as disbursements, which incorporated the illegal payments made by Hunter and Knuckey.
Once all the documents and Risc invoices had been produced what happened next can only be described as devastatingly shocking. The documents were completely suppressed. These documents never saw the light of day. They were buried. This was a complete cover- up!
It is now clear that at the very least by May 2008, DC Irons and DC Greenwood knew what was happening as they would have seen the hugely incriminating invoices identifying £20,000 of illegal payments to their colleagues. They should have reported this unlawful conduct, instead the criminality was suppressed and the course of justice perverted.
It is now believed that the Crown prosecutor in the case, David Williams and Counsel Esther Shutzer-Weissman were made aware of the illegal payments in the middle of 2008 but they both actively encouraged their concealment as the consequences to their case would have been disastrous.
A source suggested that these highly incriminating documents would have been fatal to the continuance of the Ibori and related prosecutions had they been exposed.
The anonymous paperwork sent to the UK Police included what purported to be detailed invoices and expense ledgers from Risc Management Ltd, headed at the time by two former Scotland Yard detectives, Keith Hunter and Cliff Knuckey.
Among the entries in the documents are details of what were said to be payments made to sources for confidential information about the on-going police investigation into Ibori.
One entry, dated shortly before police were due to interview James Ibori's London solicitor, reads: "Engaged with source in eliciting information re: forthcoming interviewing strategy to de (sic) deployed by police."
Immediately below, the entry states: "Cash payment made to above source for information provided. £5,000.00".
Ibori was the former state governor of the oil-rich Delta region in Nigeria, a corrupt official who stole hundreds of millions of pounds from his Delta State. He was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment last month after pleading guilty to laundering millions of pounds in the UK.
Mr Schwarz, representing Ibori's London lawyer who was jailed as part of the case, told MPs: "The key culprits appear to be the key players who are the senior investigating officer, DI Gary Walters, and two of the key investigators who are DC John McDonald and DC (Peter) Clark."
A UK Parliamentary committee is currently holding an inquiry into whether private investigators should be subject to statutory regulation. Schwarz, who represents Bhadresh Gohil, a London-based solicitor jailed along with Ibori for orchestrating his money-laundering scam, told MPs the case amounted to an undetected case of "apparent corruption right at the heart of Scotland Yard".
Some of the affected Police Officers have denied any wrong-doing, but Mr Schwarz told the Parliamentary committee there were records that "show about half a dozen payments totalling £20,000 over eight or nine months."
The allegations were originally made in an anonymous bundle of documents sent to former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) last summer.
According to the UK Guardian, It was another three months before the force's directorate of professional standards (DPS), which investigates internal corruption, opened an internal inquiry. This investigation is being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which had been anonymously posted the documents around the same time.
Until recently, the Met had not contacted RISC Management or interviewed any of the police officers suspected of taking bribes.
Up till early May this year, the Police indicated to the Guardian that it had "uncovered evidence that casts doubt on the credibility" of the allegations against police officers. However, that position changed on Tuesday, 22 May 2012, when the force issued a statement suggesting new developments in the investigation.
A Scotland Yard source with knowledge of the arrests confirmed that the central London premises raided by the Police last month belonged to RISC Management, a firm of private investigators that worked for a notorious Nigerian fraudster, James Ibori. The arrested 53-year-old was understood, the source said, to be Keith Hunter, the chief executive of RISC Management and a former Met detective.
The Met confirmed investigating allegations that RISC Management may have paid bribes to police officers in the Met's proceeds of corruption unit.
Ibori was recently jailed after pleading guilty in the UK to laundering £150m. He was under investigation by the Met anti-corruption unit around the time RISC Management is alleged to have made the payments.
Hunter, from Banstead in Surrey, claims to have worked on "high-profile investigations of national and international organised crime" at Scotland Yard before entering the private investigations industry in 1997.
Prior to his arrest, Hunter denied allegations of wrongdoing, telling the Guardian: "RISC management does not need to pay serving police officers for confidential information as we pride ourselves on our ability to provide positive solutions and accurate information legitimately. RISC Management has a highly respected reputation for conducting professional investigations."
Hunter added that his company was "proud to have a network of highly professional consultants, contacts and resources". He said: "These individuals are hired precisely because of their unique skill set and expertise."
Giving evidence to the home affairs select committee about the case, Mike Schwarz from Bindmans solicitors, a lawyer for one of Ibori's co-accused, gave details about a set of invoices he said suggested RISC Management had paid around £20,000 to sources close to the police investigation into Ibori.
In October last year, the IPCC instructed the Metropolitan Police's Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) to conduct an internal investigation.
The DPS has said it has "an open mind" as to whether the documents are genuine or an elaborate forgery designed to pervert the course of justice.
But Mr Schwarz, Gohil’s lawyer criticised the internal inquiry into the corruption allegations as having "huge failings". He said the two serving officers had not been questioned over the allegations" Two of the key officers are still on duty on the same case and one has retired and joined Risc Management," he told the Parliamentary committee before their arrest.
A BBC report confirmed that in the seven months since the DPS inquiry was launched; neither Risc Management, nor the law firm who hired them on behalf of James Ibori, were contacted, and no police officer were asked about the allegations.
Already under fire for not properly investigating allegations of phone hacking, and with officers facing allegations they accepted cash from News International journalists, the new claims heap further pressure on the Metropolitan Police.
In a statement released last month after the exposure, the Metropolitan Police said: "The MPS is investigating an allegation that illegal payments were made to police officers for information by a private investigation agency.
"The DPS referred the matter to the IPCC in October 2011 which agreed to supervise a DPS investigation into the allegations.
"This is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage whilst the investigation is under way."
Risc Management denies it has ever paid money to any police officer.