Posted by News Express | 12 October 2016 | 2,312 times
At Friday’s hearing of the Ibori London trial, the Southwark, London courtroom was crowded with media representation. In a press statement of Tuesday 11 October 2016, Ibori’s Media Assistant, Tony Eluemunor, said: “This is the most telling sign that the case has changed, and the erstwhile hunters, the Police and the Prosecution, have turned the hunted as they are defending themselves from charges of corruption and criminal misleading of the court in a bid to secure conviction against Chief James Onanefe Ibori and his associates.”
The journalists came in droves because some 5,000 pages of papers documenting police violations, infringements, deliberate lies and outright malfeasance were promised to be on display to be handed over to the court.
But the journalists were disappointed as the promised disclosure of the incriminating material demonstrating the police corruption and prosecutorial misconduct did not take place. This was because the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had issued a gagging order on the defence teams from disclosing the incriminating material.
This made the media, as represented by Mr. David Rose of the Mail on Sunday, to make a representation directly to the judge for the dissemination of the material disclosed by the National Crime Agency, which carried out the internal review of the Police actions and uncovered the massive police misconduct. Mr. Rose argued in court that “the public has a right to know of the degree and depth of the police corruption in the case.” But the Judge declined the request, saying that “the matter has now been referred to the Court of Appeal and therefore any application should be made at that Court.”
This week’s London Mail provided glaring details of that court session. Its lengthy title was telling: “How top QC ‘buried evidence of Met bribes to put innocent man in jail’: Whistleblower alerted court that ‘organised crime’ had infiltrated police… then they said He had perverted course of justice.”
Right from its opening sentence, the report showed how far and how much the Ibori case has changed: “One of the country’s top prosecutors, Ms Sasha Wass (Queen’s Counsel, QC, British equivalent of Senior Advocate of Nigeria) is facing professional ruin following sensational claims in a London courtroom that she lied to judges in order to hide damning evidence of police corruption – at the risk of sending an innocent man to jail.
At the heart of the growing scandal, whose origins were exposed by this newspaper in February, is Sasha Wass QC, the barrister who prosecuted entertainer Rolf Harris and the £2 billion rogue trader Kweku Adoboli.
A court has heard claims that Ms Wass not only buried an official report by the Metropolitan Police confirming there was evidence that officers in its anti-corruption unit had taken bribes, but that she prosecuted the lawyer who brought the report to the attention of the authorities for perverting the course of justice.
The alleged attempted cover-up almost led to a lengthy prison sentence for the man who blew the whistle, Bhadresh Gohil.
The revelations were contained in a secret 4,300-page dossier cited in court last Friday. They include the results of an investigation by Scotland Yard’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS), which reports to Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. The inquiry, led by Commander Peter Spindler, was said to show that a Met unit set up to investigate financial corruption was itself corrupted by ex-Met officers working for a private investigation firm, RISC Management.
In a sensational volte face, a CPS spokesman (Friday) admitted it is now clear that, contrary to repeated statements by Crown lawyers in court and in legal documents, there is ‘material to support the assertion that a police officer received payment in return for information’.
Mr Gohil’s lawyer, Stephen Kamlish QC, stated in court on Friday that when Mr Gohil was charged, the police, the prosecuting barristers and the CPS all had possession of the file containing the evidence of the Met’s infiltration by RISC. Furthermore, Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders authorised the prosecution of Mr Gohil, and continued to oversee the case until it was dropped 18 months later. Mr Gohil has now been paid £20,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
While Mr Gohil was in Wandsworth prison, he was sent 15 pages of documents suggesting RISC was bribing Met officers including Det Con McDonald, who played a central role in the Ibori-Gohil inquiry. Mr Gohil used them to lodge an appeal, claiming the case against him had been contaminated by the corruption.
During the case former Met commander Peter Spindler confirmed evidence of bribes in report. At the appeal, Ms Wass told the court that his claims of corruption were ‘manufactured really out of nothing and unsupported by any evidence at all’. Although Det Con McDonald had had ‘one contact’ with his former police colleague, Clifford Knuckey of RISC, it was innocent.
There was, she added, ‘an audit trail of openness’ that showed Mr Gohil’s allegations were bogus, and no further documents that ought to be disclosed.
The court accepted everything she said and rejected the appeal. Yet according to Mr Kamlish at Friday’s hearing, weeks before Ms Wass made these statements, Crown lawyers had drafted a memo citing more than 30 separate pieces of ‘evidence of corruption’ and raised the issue of whether they should be disclosed to Mr Gohil.
Mr Kamlish said in court: “The document was tampered with in order to mislead the Court of Appeal. We have come across the clearest evidence that prosecuting counsel, Sasha Wass QC and Esther Schutzer-Weissmann, along with lawyers from the CPS and a number of officers from the DPS all prosecuted my client knowing he was innocent.”
Legal experts said on Monday that for one QC to make allegations of this kind against colleagues was probably unprecedented. But Mr Kamlish said: “Everything I said in court is fully supported by the evidence supplied by the prosecution and is in accordance with my professional duties and responsibilities.”
Friday’s hearing at Southwark Crown Court concerned the Crown’s attempt to confiscate Chief Ibori’s property. But the legal battle is set to move to the Court of Appeal, where Mr Gohil has applied to reopen his money-laundering case. It is likely Ibori and the other defendants will also mount fresh appeals.
Eluemunor added that on Friday “The prosecution sought to impose a cut-off point for the submission of all appeals. The court agreed on the date of 3 February next year, for the next hearing by which all parties who were intending to lodge appeal should have done so.
The Court saw some of the evidence demonstrating the degree and depth of corruption. These were displayed on the court screens. For example, one document showed how the Court of Appeal in the Gohil case was misled by the CPS/Wass /Weissman and Williams doctoring the document and removing very key phrases demonstrating the corruption in the original case. The Court of Appeal was therefore told there was nothing to disclose. It was deliberately misled. (Independent)
•Photo shows James Ibori.
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