A police officer has been removed from a UK anti-corruption unit after claims he was paid for information about a case against a Nigerian politician.
James Ibori is in prison for fraud and money-laundering linked to his time as the governor of Nigeria’s Delta state.
The Crown Prosecution Service says it has intelligence which “supports the assertion” a Met officer was paid for information. He denies wrongdoing.
The CPS previously denied claims it had not handed over all key evidence.
James Ibori, a former governor of one of Nigeria’s oil-producing states, was jailed in 2012 for 13 years for laundering millions in the UK through the purchase of property, a fleet of armoured Range Rovers and a £120,000 Bentley.
The conviction of Ibori was the prize for a government anti-corruption campaign initiated by the Department for International Development (DfID) 10 years ago.
Det Sgt John McDonald, who is accused of receiving payment in return for providing information about the case, headed the police investigation. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
Det Sgt McDonald has been removed from the National Crime Agency’s International Corruption Unit, where he had been on secondment. He has returned to the Met, where a review of his status has begun.
The CPS has also replaced the prosecution team involved in ongoing cases connected to the Ibori affair, although it stressed the lawyers still retained its full confidence.
James Ibori: How a thief almost became Nigeria’s president
‘Whole process infected’
Since Ibori’s conviction, defence lawyers have claimed the CPS “wilfully misled” judges about the existence of evidence that Det Sgt McDonald took money in return for information about the case.
If that was to be accepted, Ibori’s legal team would seek to have their client’s conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal on the basis that there had been abuse of the process.
At a hearing on Thursday, Ibori’s lawyer, Ivan Krolic, said prosecutors had consistently and deliberately manipulated the system.
“Our argument is that the whole process is infected,” he told Southwark Crown Court.
The CPS has now issued a statement confirming that a review is under way into aspects of the Ibori case.
“The CPS undertook to review aspects of the disclosure related to this case,” it said.
“Initial results have found that material exists to support the assertion that a police officer received payment in return for disclosing information about the investigation.
“We are working to establish whether this material could or should have been disclosed earlier.
“Any further material that fails to be disclosed as a result of that continuing review will be done so as soon as possible.”
DfID funded a team of Scotland Yard officers specifically to get Ibori extradited to the UK for a trial designed to send a message to corrupt officials in Africa.
The International Development Secretary at the time of Ibori’s conviction, Andrew Mitchell, said the sentence sent “a strong and important message to those who seek to use Britain as a refuge for their crimes”.
However, before Ibori was sentenced, there were claims that police investigating him had received thousands of pounds from private detectives hired by the Nigerian fraudster.
An anonymous bundle of documents was sent to the Metropolitan Police, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and others.
Among the papers were what purported to be invoices detailing payments of thousands of pounds to a “source for information provided” and claims that the recipient was a police officer.
The allegations were eventually investigated by Scotland Yard’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS), the division responsible for rooting out police corruption in the Met.
The DPS concluded the invoices were forgeries and “no misconduct was identified” in the case of Det Sgt McDonald.
Last week, a letter was sent by the CPS to the Court of Appeal alerting judges to previously undisclosed and relevant documentation.
“There exists intelligence that supports the assertion that, on or about 10 September 2007, JMD [Det Sgt John McDonald] received payment in return for information in respect of the Ibori case,” the letter says.
Following the disclosure by the CPS, the National Crime Agency, which investigates serious organised crime, said it was agreed that Det Sgt McDonald’s secondment to the International Corruption Unit should come to an end and he would return to Scotland Yard.
Confirming that an officer was returning from the National Crime Agency, Scotland Yard said only that an unnamed officer “is subject to an internal review of their status”.
The police statement said that the DPS Anti-Corruption Command had already carried out an investigation into intelligence that suggested a serving police officer had received payment for information.
“That allegation was thoroughly investigated to prove or disprove the evidence of corruption,” the statement said.
“The investigation resulted in no arrests, charges or identified misconduct.”