Detectives 'key culprits' in cash for information claim

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Media captionJames Ibori was jailed for 13 years for laundering millions of pounds in the UK, as Mark Easton reports

Two Scotland Yard detective constables and a former detective inspector have been named as "key culprits" in bribery allegations revealed to MPs.

The Home Affairs Select Committee was told about "apparent corruption right at the heart of New Scotland Yard".

Officers investigating Nigerian fraudster James Ibori were accused of taking cash payments for information.

The former inspector has denied any wrong-doing and the two serving officers have declined to comment.

The allegations surfaced during a parliamentary hearing on the role of private detectives.

During evidence from lawyer Mike Schwarz from solicitors Bindmans, MPs were told of documents which allege that private investigation firm, Risc Management Ltd, was involved in "wining and dining and paying" officers working on the James Ibori case.

Ibori was the former state governor of the oil-rich Delta region in Nigeria, a corrupt official who stole hundreds of millions of pounds from his homeland. He was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment last month after pleading guilty to laundering millions of pounds in the UK.

Anonymous documents

Mr Schwarz, representing Ibori's London lawyer who was jailed as part of the case, said: "The key culprits appear to be the key players who are the senior investigating officer, DI Gary Walters, and two of the key investigators who are DC John McDonald and DC (Peter) Clark."

Mr Schwarz told the committee there were records that "show about half a dozen payments totalling £20,000 over eight or nine months."

The allegations were originally made in an anonymous bundle of documents sent to former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) last summer.

In October last year, the IPCC instructed the Metropolitan Police's Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) to conduct an internal investigation.

The paperwork included what purported to be detailed invoices and expense ledgers from Risc Management Ltd, headed at the time by two former Scotland Yard detectives, Keith Hunter and Cliff Knuckey.

Among the entries in the documents are details of what were said to be payments made to sources for confidential information about the on-going police investigation into Ibori.

One entry, dated shortly before police were due to interview James Ibori's London solicitor, reads: "Engaged with source in eliciting information re: forthcoming interviewing strategy to de (sic) deployed by police."

Immediately below, the entry states: "Cash payment made to above source for information provided. £5,000.00."

The DPS has said it has "an open mind" as to whether the documents are genuine or an elaborate forgery designed to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Schwarz criticised the internal inquiry into the corruption allegations as having "huge failings".

Image caption The two serving officers have not been questioned over the allegations

"Two of the key officers are still on duty on the same case and one has retired and joined Risc Management," he told the committee.

In a statement the Metropolitan Police said: "The MPS is investigating an allegation that illegal payments were made to police officers for information by a private investigation agency.

"The DPS referred the matter to the IPCC in October 2011 which agreed to supervise a DPS investigation into the allegations.

"This is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage whilst the investigation is under way."

The BBC has confirmed that in the seven months since the DPS inquiry was launched, neither Risc Management, nor the law firm who hired them on behalf of James Ibori, have been contacted. No police officer has been asked about the allegations.

Already under fire for not properly investigating allegations of phone hacking, and with officers facing allegations they accepted cash from News International journalists, the new claims heap further pressure on the Metropolitan Police.

It is not possible to be certain whether the documents at the heart of the corruption allegations are genuine or elaborate fakes nor whether corrupt payments were actually made.

Risc Management denies it has ever paid money to any police officer.

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