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Ibori: London trial collapses over police corruption

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The UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is facing serious questions over an alleged cover-up that could jeopardise the high-profile conviction of a billionaire Nigerian politician.

The crisis follows the dramatic collapse of a case involving Bhadresh Gohil, a lawyer who represented James Ibori, a former governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State. Gohil was cleared at Southwark crown court last week after the CPS withdrew a charge of perverting the course of justice.

Gohil had been accused of leaking fabricated documents to media organisations including Elombah.com and MPs on the home affairs select committee. The documents claimed a police officer involved in the Ibori inquiry had received corrupt payments from RISC Management, a private detective agency that worked for Ibori.

The decision to prosecute Gohil backfired however when CPS lawyers were accused of withholding key documents which would have proved Police corruption. 

The MET Police investigated Elombah.com at that time over allegations of aiding Gohil to spread the publications, but the charges were found to be baseless.

ABOVE PHOTO: Ibori: jailed for 13 years after admitting money laundering 

BELOW RIGHT: Ibori’s lawyer Bhadresh Gohil was accused of spreading corruption allegations about the Metropolitan police, but was acquitted last week.

Criminal trial prosecutors have been accused of suppressing evidence of police corruption in what has been called “misconduct of a particularly serious nature”, a report in the UK Guardian states today.

CPS Lawyers are alleged to have covered up evidence that police received corrupt payments from a firm of private investigators in return for confidential information.

gohil

The accusation has been made in the trial of two men charged with fabricating claims of corruption involving Metropolitan police officers. The trial collapsed last Thursday at Southwark crown court in London after senior lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to abandon the case. The CPS said new information had come to light, but did not elaborate. It did not comment on the allegation of serious misconduct.

The accusation was made by Stephen Kamlish, QC for one of the men, Bhadresh Gohil, who had been accused of perverting the course of justice. Gohil, 52, a solicitor, was charged with producing false allegations of police corruption and distributing them to the media and MPs. In his legal submission, Kamlish said the CPS was prosecuting Gohil “in the knowledge that there is clear and compelling, direct and circumstantial evidence of a corrupt relationship” between police and the firm of private investigators. The acquittal of the two men is the latest twist in a drama that saw Gohil jailed in 2012 for seven years for helping to launder money stolen by a notorious fraudster. James Ibori, a Nigerian politician, had embezzled more than £150m from the African state. The conviction was hailed as a triumph for a Scotland Yard anti-corruption unit.

After the convictions, however, allegations were made in the press and parliament that private investigators hired by Ibori had paid up to £20,000 to officers in the unit for inside information about their investigation. MPs were told by a lawyer involved in the case that the alleged payments amounted to an undetected case of “apparent corruption right at the heart of Scotland Yard”.

An investigation by the Met’s anti-corruption unit said these claims were baseless. In July 2014, Gohil was charged with fabricating the allegations in what was said to be an attempt to overturn his conviction for money laundering. In his legal submission, Kamlish said the “non-independent” investigation by the Met’s anti-corruption department had been “deliberately designed from the outset to find no evidence of corruption” on the part of the police officers. He alleged that the Met prosecuted Gohil for perverting the course of justice “simply for making the allegations, regardless of whether they were true or not”. He alleged that prosecutors deliberately covered up, until a later stage, evidence of police corruption in what he said was “prosecutorial misconduct of a particularly serious nature”.

Kamlish outlined evidence of corruption between police officers and the firm of private investigators, known as Risc Management, including at least 120 telephone calls between them over six years. He also alleged that Risc had made 120 payments to sources between 2006 and 2012.

He alleged that the prosecution “in bad faith” failed to investigate these payments because it feared that it would transpire that these sources were police officers – information that would be “fatal” to the prosecution of Gohil.

The CPS said: “As a result of new information that came to the attention of the CPS on 13 January 2016, the case was reconsidered in accordance with the code for crown prosecutors. As a consequence of this, the crown offered no evidence in court because there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.”

The second man who was cleared, Cliff Knuckey, a former Met detective, said he was mystified about why he was prosecuted for allegedly faking documents involving payments totalling £11,500.


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