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Met detective investigating politician was 'paid to leak information about the probe' court

'PAYMENT' Former DC John McDonald

A MET police officer “may have been fortunate to escape prosecution” after allegations he took a bribe from private detectives in a case about a high-ranking politician, the High Court has heard.

The police corruption claims were examined as James Ibori, former Governor of the Delta State of Nigeria, appealed a multi-million pound money laundering conviction.

Ibori, 59, was jailed for 13 years at Southwark Crown Court in 2012 after he pleaded guilty to laundering cash in the UK from an £68 million scam to defraud the Nigerian state and the V Mobile phone company.

He used public funds to buy luxury homes, top-of-the-range cars and a private jet, but served just four years before returning to Nigeria.

During the appeal, it emerged that HMRC passed police intelligence that DC John McDonald, who was investigating Ibori, received a suspected corrupt payment from a former detective he knew who was now running a firm of private investigators.

APPEAL: James Ibori alleged police corruption during his investigation and it should quash his conviction

The HMRC intelligence suggested Mr McDonald took a payment to leak information about inquiries he was making into Ibori, the appeal heard.

At the centre of the appeal were claims that private eye agency Risc Management, run by ex-Met detectives, including former DCI Cliff Knuckey, paid Mr McDonald for information about the probe.

Ibori's legal team claimed a failure by the CPS ahead of his prosecution to disclose the source of the intelligence about Mr McDonald was an abuse of process.

Ibori claimed he would not have pled guilty had the source of the intelligence been disclosed, and that there had been a deliberate CPS "cover up".

The judges looked at evidence from Ibori's legal team which suggested he used information gleaned from Mr McDonald to try to thwart investigations into him in Nigeria and the UK.

SCANDAL: Corruption claims have dogged the MET Police for decades

A 2007 police report on the HMRC intelligence described it as uncorroborated, but said: "It indicates that Knuckey is currently in contact with officers working on the Ibori investigation and has recently met with DC John McDonald and paid McDonald money for information."

Of further information, it added: "This new intelligence clearly indicates that Knuckley is currently engaged in an ongoing and corrupt relationship with McDonald and that presents a potential risk to the investigation.

"Other intelligence sources have indicated that Knuckey has told third parties that he has met with McDonald and paid for information, but there is no evidence or other intelligence to corroborate this."

The court heard Mr McDonald faced two anti-corruption probes, but was never arrested.

The appeal heard the Met professional standards unit carried out a covert investigation into allegations of a corrupt relationship between Risc and serving officers, including Mr McDonald, but the probe closed with no arrests.

After allegations of corruption resurfaced from one of Ibori's fellow defendants, solicitor

CASE DISMISSED: Solicitor Bhadresh Gohil

Bhadresh Gohil the matter was reinvestigated in 2013.

Mr McDonald was exonerated, and, instead, Mr Gohil was charged with perverting the course of justice and Mr Knuckey with false accounting.

During the corruption inquiry Mr McDonald denied being paid by Mr Knuckey who said he invented invoices, that appeared to pay his friend and former colleague £5,000, to compensate himself for a missed holiday.

However, just before Mr Gohil and Mr Knuckey's trial began in January 2016, the CPS offered no evidence after the significance of the intelligence coming from HMRC was admitted.

Ibori claimed in his appeal the source of the intelligence had been deliberately withheld to mislead the original court.

He said although he was aware Mr Knuckey and Mr McDonald were meeting, he was unaware of any corruption or cash changing hands.

But, the court looked at emails and communications between Mr Ibori, his solicitor, Mr Knuckey and Mr Gohil between April and September 2007.

One email from Mr Knuckey said Mr McDonald's investigation could not be "neutralised in the UK" but it may be possible from Nigeria, as the investigating officer had told him of a

CONVICTED: James Ibori vowed to take his case to Europe

lack of evidence from Nigerian banks.

Another confirmed Mr McDonald as the source of information on the investigation and spoke of a £5,000 payment.

One said Ibori had influenced the Nigerian Attorney General to try to frustrate the UK probe.

In a judgement, rejecting Ibori's appeal, Lord Justice Peter Gross, Mr Justice William Davis and Mr Justice Neil Garnham said: "It may be that Mr McDonald was indeed fortunate to escape prosecution, having regard to the totality of the material before us, but we cannot say that the decision taken was not tenable, especially bearing in mind the distinction between intelligence and evidence.”

Ibori's appeal was rejected on grounds that if corruption took place, it was at his instigation, and it would be wrong for that to lead to a quashing of the conviction.

Mr Knuckey and Mr McDonald were unavailable for comment, but have both previously denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Ibori is considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

TOP SECRET: Operation Tiberius says former detectives are a threat to the force

In September it emerged that Operation Tiberius, a secret Met Police corruption report produced in 2002, showed former officers who teamed up with organised criminals were one of the biggest threats facing the force.

One Former Met detective said: "The Ibori case shows similar claims of corruption identified in Tiberius were still being made five years later, but it appears they were still not properly addressed. "There needs to be a Government inquiry into levels of police corruption linked to organised crime."

A Met Police spokesman said: “We recognise the risks posed by former officers who seek to exploit existing relationships or corrupt serving officers and staff.

"This sits as a specific strand within the counter corruption strategy and a full range of education, prevent and detect measures are used to combat this.

"We are committed to ensuring the highest professional standards of our staff and have the capability to target individuals suspected of wrong doing.”

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