Ibori cash for information scandal: Police accused of plot to hack phone of British Minister and top police officer
- Category: GENERAL
- Published on Sunday, 24 June 2012 11:01
- Written by Admin
[dailymail.co.uk] Scotland Yard detectives plotted with private investigators to hack a Government Minister’s emails and mobile phone, a whistleblower has claimed. They are also said to have targeted the most senior policewoman in the country and a top civil servant. It is claimed the detectives involved were part of a
Metropolitan Police anti-corruption and money-laundering unit, SCD6, which is already being investigated over bribery allegations.
Scotland Yard refuses to say whether the hacking claims are also being investigated.
Target: Labour's Lord Malloch-Brown and Scotland Yard's chief Cressida Dick are part of an investigation in which Scotland Yard allegedly tried to hack their emails and listen to phone messages
SCD6, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), investigated foreign politicians who laundered stolen assets through Britain.
In 2009, there were fears that DFID was about to withdraw its financial backing. It is claimed this prompted a private detective agency ‘with the assistance’ of serving officers to try to intercept the ‘communications’ of three powerful individuals who might have knowledge of the threat to the unit.
They were Lord Malloch-Brown, then a Foreign Office Minister; Cressida Dick, then a Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Yard; and Nemat Shafik, Permanent Secretary at DFID.
Last night Scotland Yard declined to answer questions about the hacking allegations. It said: ‘We are not prepared to discuss any details within letters or documents passed to, or seized by, the Metropolitan Police Service.’
RISC Management, the private detective agency alleged to be involved, said it has ‘never been instructed to intercept communications’.
Investigation: Whistleblower told police about 'communications interceptions'
Sensational claims that Scotland Yard detectives and private investigators plotted to hack a Government Minister’s emails and mobile phone have been made by a whistleblower.
Britain’s most senior policewoman and a senior Whitehall civil servant were also said to have been targeted.
The whistleblower told police about alleged ‘communications interceptions’ in two cases and an ‘attempt’ in another. It is claimed the detectives involved were part of an elite Metropolitan Police anti-corruption and money-laundering unit called SCD6.
Last night the Met declined to say how seriously it is taking the claims or to what extent, if any, they form part of a wider inquiry into the activities of SCD6.
The inquiry – which centres on bribery allegations and has so far led to four arrests – was triggered by evidence supplied by the same whistleblower.
Funded by the Department for International Development, SCD6 investigated foreign politicians who laundered stolen assets through Britain. In 2009, however, there were fears that DFID was about to withdraw its financial backing because of concerns about the unit’s performance.
It is against this background, alleges the informant, that a private detective agency and serving officers tried to intercept the ‘communications’ of three powerful individuals who, it was thought, would have knowledge of the plans threatening the unit’s survival.
One was Lord Malloch-Brown, then a Foreign Office Minister who was ‘routinely briefed’ about the progress of SCD6 investigations.
The other two were Cressida Dick, then a Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Yard, and Nemat Shafik, Permanent Secretary at DFID. Although Scotland Yard was first alerted to the claims last July, Lord Malloch-Brown, the former UN deputy secretary-general, knew nothing about them until contacted by The Mail on Sunday last week.
He said: ‘I do anticipate pursuing this and finding out more. If true, if rogue officers would do something like this to senior Government figures, then that’s pretty alarming.’
The hacking claims were first raised in a letter sent anonymously by the whistleblower to the then Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson. It said RISC Management, a London-based private detective agency, along with ‘certain serving officers attempted to intercept email and telephone communications of Cressida Dick’.
The whistleblower, who claims to be an RISC insider, said this happened after Ms Dick had been ‘approached to investigate the activities of certain officers’.
The letter went on to say that ‘other communications interceptions appear to include’ Lord Malloch-Brown and Ms Shafik.
Explosive: Extracts from the whistleblower's letter sent to the then Metropolitan Police commissioner last July
It was accompanied by a detailed dossier containing claims that officers were paid cash by private investigators in return for information about a notorious Nigerian . This would later form the basis of the Met investigation into SCD6.
Ms Shafik, who is now deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, also knew nothing about the claims until last week. Her spokesman said she did not wish to comment, adding: ‘It’s a police matter.’
Around the same time that the Met received the letter to Sir Paul Stephenson – he had retired a few weeks previously – the whistleblower passed a similar dossier to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
For reasons which are unclear, this did not include the hacking allegations.
It referred to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal but said ‘a wider and more lucrative area is the provision of sensitive police case intelligence to businessmen and other wealthy individuals who are the subject of police investigations’.
In October it was decided that the IPCC would supervise an investigation by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards into the illegal payments claims.
The following month the Commission confirmed it had not received the letter to Sir Paul Stephenson mentioning hacking but was ‘aware’ of it.
Scotland Yard said at the time that it would concentrate only on the bribery claims because there was no evidence ‘at this time’ to suggest hacking took place. A serving officer and three ex-officers turned private detectives were arrested last month in relation to illegal payments. Two of the three were arrested at RISC’s offices in London.
The Mail on Sunday understands that while one of the four was being interviewed, he was shown a copy of a third letter sent to the deputy mayor of London, who is responsible for policing. The letter mentioned the alleged attempt to hack Ms Shafik’s email and phone but the private detective was not asked about this.
Last night Scotland Yard declined to answer questions about the hacking allegations or whether they now formed part of the SCD6 inquiry.
It said in a statement: ‘This complex investigation continues. We are not prepared to discuss any details within letters or documents passed to, or seized by, the Metropolitan Police Service.’
Scotland Yard declined to comment on the documents which have now triggered an independent police complaints query
The serving officer arrested last month was a 45-year-old detective constable. He was questioned about claims that he was given cash in return for providing information about SCD6’s investigation into James Ibori, a former Nigerian politician jailed for 13 years in London for fraud and money-laundering.
The detective’s arrest came the day after a lawyer, Mike Schwarz, told the Home Affairs Select Committee of possible cash payments made by RISC to sources ‘who were presumably police officers or those close to the investigation’.
Mr Schwarz, who represents Ibori’s co-accused, said that records, seen by this newspaper, showed roughly half a dozen payments amounting to £20,000 over an eight-month period. RISC had been hired, he added, by Speechly Bircham, the law firm representing Ibori.
In a statement Speechly Bircham said that when Mr Schwarz spoke to the Select Committee ‘his evidence did not suggest this firm was party to illegal or corrupt payments’.
It added: ‘This firm is not aware of any payments having been made to police officers by RISC Management Ltd. RISC Management Ltd was engaged by Speechly Bircham between 2006 and 2008 on behalf of our firm’s former client, James Ibori. We continue to be willing to assist the police with their investigations, but we believe the allegations are now for RISC Management and the Metropolitan Police to answer, so it would be inappropriate for us to say anything further.’
The dossier sent to the Met and the IPCC also alleges illegal payments were made in five other cases. RISC is said to have paid £9,000 to other officers for information to help a named African client facing deportation – and more than £60,000 to serving Inland Revenue officers for ‘information and intelligence’ to help clients under investigation.
An RISC spokesman said: ‘No evidence has been produced to substantiate these anonymous and false allegations. RISC does not and has never made payments to serving officers or other government officials. RISC has never been instructed to intercept communications.’
SCD6 first began investigating Ibori in 2005. According to the whistleblower, because of the unit’s DFID funding and the lack of ‘a tiered supervision structure’ its relationship with other Scotland Yard departments was always ‘tense’.
‘It effectively operated outside the parameters of the police hierarchy and governance guidelines. It was therefore not accountable,’ said the whistleblower. It was set up as part of the then Labour Government’s programme to deal with international corruption and money-laundering, with a focus on Africa.
Ibori, one of Nigeria’s richest men, was jailed after pleading guilty to ten offences involving about £50 million, although it is thought the actual sums involved could be in excess of £200 million.
Sentencing him at Southwark Crown Court in April, Judge Anthony Pitts said he was a ‘man of corruption lining his own and his family’s pockets with single-minded devotion and determination’.
The court heard that Ibori bought six properties outside Nigeria worth £6.9 million, including a flat in St John’s Wood, a £2.2 million house in Hampstead and a house in Regent’s Park. He also bought a fleet of cars and ran up a £920,000 credit card bill. In 2005 Ibori instructed a London solicitor to buy a private jet costing £13 million and called himself His Excellency.
According to the dossier both DFID and Lord Malloch-Brown, now chairman of an American corporate investigations and consulting group, were ‘routinely briefed in respect of the progress of the UK investigations and in reality steered the course of the investigations’.
Lord Malloch-Brown said last night: ‘My relationship with the unit was indirect. I was heavily involved in the Ibori case because there was tremendous anxiety from the Nigerian government about it.
‘Their argument was that surely you should respect Nigerian justice and if there is a case it should be prosecuted in a Nigerian court. So I found myself talking repeatedly to the most senior levels of government in Nigeria, making the case that it was important to hear the case in Britain.
‘I defended the unit and what it was doing at diplomatic levels.’
He added that he had initially been surprised when he first learned DFID was funding SCD6.
‘This was because if the offences were prosecutable in a UK court it struck me it was the core job of the British police to pursue this and not something for the UK’s development budget,’ he said.
‘I was quickly persuaded by Foreign Office and DFID officials that without this support this complex and expensive investigation would lapse.
‘As someone who believes that accountability and the rule of law are key to successful development, I concluded that this was a good use of taxpayer funds as it could be a powerful blow against corruption in Nigeria. As a consequence I became a champion of this investigation and prosecution in Whitehall and Nigeria where it was bitterly contested by some. The current turn of events is very disheartening.’
Asked about the hacking claims, a DFID spokesman said: ‘This is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.’
DFID still funds the unit, which has since changed its name to the Proceeds of Corruption Unit.
Culled from dailymail.co.uk