Detective Sergeant John McDonald, a Metropolitan Police officer on secondment to the National Crime Agency’s International Corruption Unit, has been transferred to Scotland Yard and “subject to an internal review of [his] status” following allegations of corruption.
McDonald was part of a Department for International Development-funded team targeting misappropriation of monies by African officials and politicians. Operations by this squad resulted in the conviction of billionaire James Ibori, ex-West London Wickes cashier and former governor of the Nigerian black gold Delta state. Ibori – who owned homes in London’s Hampstead and Regents Park, a £120,000 Bentley, a fleet of armoured Range Rovers, a private jet and sent his children to top British boarding schools – was sentenced to 13 years prison in 2012 for fraud and money laundering. The investigation and trial cost £50 million.
Allegations of corruption first surfaced in 2011 when an anonymous bundle of documents suggesting Met Police malfeasance was sent to both Sir Paul Stephenson (then Commissioner) and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
An investigation by the Met’s Directorate for Professional Standards concluded that invoices detailing payments from Risc Management Ltd (a firm of private investigators then headed by ex-Scotland Yard detectives Keith Hunter and Cliff Knuckey) to Detective Sergeant McDonald were forgeries.
The Mail on Sunday revealed that current Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was warned personally three years ago that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in the Ibori case. And Met Commander Peter Spindler had earlier told the BBC that the corruption claims were false, despite not checking the veracity of the documents.
Allegations of police misconduct reappeared earlier this year when Bhadresh Gohil, Ibori’s former business lawyer who himself was jailed for seven years, stood trial for perverting the course of justice by forging the above documents. According to the Sunday Times:
The decision to prosecute him backfired in January when the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] was forced to produce documents, which it had previously told the court did not exist, that appeared to support Gohil’s claims of police corruption. The judge directed that he be found not guilty after the prosecution abandoned its case.
Evidence of bent behaviour includes 19 unexplained payments of around £500 each into McDonald’s bank account in 2007 and 120 phone calls from Risc to Met officers over the course of the Ibori operation.
Caution must be exercised when exploring allegations of bribery. Malicious and false charges of corruption are a tried-and-tested means of questioning the integrity of legitimate investigations. Yet given the Met’s chequered history in dealing with police malpractice, the IPCC needs to institute an inquiry.
As to the safety of Ibori’s conviction, a former CPS employee informed the Sunday Times:
This is potentially very significant. If it is true that a police officer in a major corruption investigation was himself corrupted, then I would have thought the Court of Appeal would regard that as very much calling into question the proceedings.
- Mark Easton, “Met Officer Removed from Corruption Post over Nigeria Case”, BBC News, 20 May 2016 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36347380
- __________“Detectives ‘Key Culprits’ in Cash for Information Claim”, BBC News, 23 May 2012 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18158372
- Tom Harper, “Police “Bribe” puts Conviction of Billionaire Governor at Risk”, Sunday Times, 22 May 2016
- David Rose and Martin Beckford, “Met Police Chief under Fire again over Claims that Officers were Bribed during the Investigation into Nigerian politician Jailed for Fraud”, Mail on Sunday, 14 February 2016 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3446061/Met-police-chief-fire-claims-officers-bribed-investigation-Nigerian-politician-jailed-fraud.html