Gibraltar: UK police asked to help probe alleged government corruption | Gibraltar | Daily News Byte


UK police have been called in to lead an investigation into a data breach at a public inquiry into alleged corruption at the top of Gibraltar’s government.

The development is the latest twist in the inquiry, which is set to hear explosive allegations made by Ian McGrail, the former police chief of the British Overseas Territories.

He claims he was forced into early retirement after demanding a search warrant be executed against someone with close ties to Gibraltar’s prime minister, Fabian Picardo.

Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) have already arrested two people in connection with the alleged data breach but, with the force’s former commissioner at the center of the inquiry, they have asked their UK counterparts for support in the interests of “transparency”.

An RGP spokesman said: “A criminal investigation into the alleged data breach is ongoing. As a result of our request to the UK’s National Police Coordination Center for Mutual Aid, the Senior Investigating Officer of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has been informed and provided with all necessary documents to allow him to lead the investigation.

Suspected breaches of interrogation documents are considered a matter of “extreme seriousness and urgency” and have led to the postponement of a key inquiry hearing scheduled for March.

Even before the breach, hacking was already an issue that the inquiry had to deal with. The search warrant investigated the alleged hacking and sabotage of the National Security Centralized Intelligence System (NSCIS) and a conspiracy to defraud Bland Ltd, the private company that operated the system, to benefit another company, 36 North Ltd.

Picardo, a barrister who is a king’s adviser, was a part owner of 36 North Ltd, which also has a security agreement with the government. McGrail’s statement of facts in the inquiry states that the Prime Minister “therefore stood to benefit financially from the alleged fraud”.

In January, Gibraltar’s attorney general issued a decision not to prosecute three men, including one of the territory’s most senior civil servants, who were charged with conspiring to defraud Bland.

The government’s statement of facts in the investigation says that Picardo’s intervention in connection with the alleged fraud was “to ensure that those who wanted to benefit did not, by ensuring that the NCIS contract remained current, blended and only with them. (sic)”.

He goes on to say that McGrail chose to retire because he knew he had lost the governor’s trust — not Picardo’s — for reasons unrelated to the fraud investigation, known as Operation Delhi.

The reasons, which are on the eve of Operation Delhi, are said to include his handling of previous investigations and a “fractured and almost hostile relationship” with the Gibraltar Police Federation, which represents officers in the region.

All these are included in the list of tentative points of investigation.

In connection with the fraud investigation, it states the question thus: “Whether Ag [attorney general] and/or CM [chief minister] put any or any undue pressure on Mr. McGrail in relation to the investigation or otherwise interfered with the investigation, and in particular the decision to execute the search warrant?”

The government parties are represented by Sir Peter Caruana Casey, himself a former Chief Minister of Gibraltar. McGrail is being represented by well-known human rights barristers Caolphion Gallagher Casey and Adam Wagner of Dufty Street Chambers in London.

Gallagher acted for the family of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia at the public inquiry into her murder, in which the state of Malta was found guilty last year.

The inquiry, chaired by former UK High Court judge Peter Openshaw, who presided over the trial of the police chief in charge during the Hillsborough disaster, has commissioned a report by a specialist IT forensics/cyber security firm into the nature and extent of the alleged data. The breach, which is expected to be completed in the new year.

The outcome of the inquiry is likely to have a significant impact on Gibraltar’s reputation, which is already tarnished. In June, it was added to the global money-laundering watchdog’s list of “jurisdictions with increased monitoring” and “strategic deficiencies”.


Source link