EXCLUSIVE: The Only Way is Gangland... Four TOWIE stars' dads named as suspected organised criminals
WOWIE: Four dads and uncle of past and present TOWIE cast are named in corruption report (ITV)
FOUR dads and an uncle of past and present cast members of reality TV show The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) are named as suspected of being serious gangsters in a secret Met Police corruption report, we can exclusively reveal.
The explosive Operation Tiberius report accuses the five men of involvement in major drugs supply and money laundering, while two of them were linked to extreme violence. Three of the men, who are all named in the Tiberius report, are said to be linked to the crime syndicate run by the murdered gangster John Palmer. The two others are connected to another syndicate said in the report to be run by David Hunt.
There have been more than 100 cast members of TOWIE since the series began in 2010 and the new season starts later this month.
We are not naming the cast members or their relatives who are implicated for legal reasons.
Operation Tiberius was produced by the Met Police in 2002, eight years before the TOWIE show started, to investigate the level of corruption linked to organised crime gangs in east and north-east London. The operation was carried out after a series of gangland murders were compromised and one senior detective said corruption was so bad it had become impossible to conduct an adequate murder investigation.
Much of what is reported in Tiberius comes from police covert intelligence and sources and what is stated could not necessarily be proved in a criminal court. Two of the dads are described as "top echelon criminals" in the area of London. One of those, and another of the men, were also registered police informants at the time, according to the report.
According to Tiberius criminal syndicates used police informants to try to corrupt and get information from the police rather than providing them with credible intelligence on rivals.
SYNDICATE: One of the TOWIE dads was working for David Hunt, said Tiberius (PA)
One of the TOWIE dads, who we will refer to as Melvyn, was a registered police informant since February 1998.
He allegedly got information from a named suspected corrupt detective to pass back to Mr Hunt and his syndicate about investigations police were carrying out. Mr Hunt, 57, from Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, denies any involvement in organised crime and has no serious convictions. He tried to sue the Sunday Times, which exposed him as an organised crime boss, but in 2013 High Court Judge Peregrine Simon threw out his claim, saying he was the head of organised crime network and capable of sudden violence. The Tiberius report said that the Hunt syndicate had established an "extensive criminal empire" which had evaded "significant penetration from law enforcement" through "a mixture of utilising corrupt police contacts and the intimidation of witnesses" who had been brave enough to give evidence against it. Many of Mr Hunt's associates, including Melvyn, were recorded during an undercover operation into the organisation called Operation Blackjack, which ran from 1998. The report said: "The Hunt Syndicate is one of the most violent groups in north east London and has been responsible for a series of vicious assaults against debtors and rivals.
CONFIDENTIAL: The Met Police will not comment on the contents of the report (Met Police)
"Substantial source sensitive intelligence is held detailing the information supplied to the syndicate via (Melvyn) and (name removed), both of whom were handled or controlled by the officers detailed above. "These compromises included identifying tracking devices on behalf of the syndicate, leaking information about Operation Blackjack and the witnesses they intended to interview, leaking financial investigation intelligence and conducting PNC and other database checks on behalf of the syndicate." It said a former detective, whose name we have changed to DS Knobby, "was the main source of their information and since his recent retirement he will undoubtedly maintain links with serving officers." "During Operation Blackjack, bugs were set up in a number of business premises used by the syndicate. The report said: "Various of the Hunts' criminal associates were recorded during the operation, but one in particular was of interest in relation to corruption, (Melvyn). It described Melvyn as "an upper echelon criminal operating" in the north east, and east end of London, with contacts throughout the UK and Europe. Tiberius said: "The listening device provided details of conversations where either (Melvyn) or other criminals involved, talked about him having a police source." One phone call on November 20 1998 was recorded.
The report said: "David Hunt is on the telephone to (Melvyn). The one-sided overheard conversation suggests that (Melvyn) has been talking to his police contact. "The conversation suggests that (Melvyn) is telling Hunt that his source has told him that Hunt is being looked at while at the yard and that the police are investigating a loan he has taken out. "Both these facts were correct and undertaken as part of Operation Blackjack. "The other criminals discussed (Melvyn) having a `cozzer snout' and 'having help'." Another probe called Operation Nike identified three suspected detectives at one east London source handling unit, including Melvyn's alleged handler DS Knobby. HM Customs & Excise Professional Standards Unit also made an allegations about Melvyn being corrupt to the Met Police, Tiberius said. Customs suspected DS Knobby to have obtained information about a missing vehicle tracker from it before passing the information to Melvyn. The Met Police looked at the timings of contact between DS Knobby and Melvyn on the day in question and established it was likely that the former had phoned customs to find out if a tracker found on a suspected criminal's car in Barking, east London, belonged to them. Once he found it probably was he passed this onto Melvyn, Tiberius said. The report said: "This sequence of events casts considerable doubt upon the relationship between DS Knobby and his informant (Melvyn). "At best DS Knobby is allowing sensitive intelligence to be drawn from him by (Melvyn) and at worst he is corruptly passing the intelligence to (Melvyn), to the benefit of organised crime in east London." Tiberius recorded another incident involving DS Knobby and both the TOWIE dads who were registered informants - Melvyn and another we have called Gilbert. On April 8 1999 DS Knobby received intelligence from informant Gilbert, saying that Melvyn was involved in the importation of cannabis into the UK Gilbert said Melvyn was due to take a large sum of money out to the Netherlands to finance a drugs importation and to meet a British contact who would arrange the importation. Gilbert asked DS Knobby if he could go to Holland with Melvyn, and was told in reply that he had no authority to participate in the deal, but "there was nothing stopping him traveling with Melvyn on the basis of 'eyes and ears only.'" Tiberius concluded: "This is a clear breach of informant handling guidelines and effectively gives (Gilbert) participation authority to show verbal enthusiasm. (DS Knobby's) actions effectively give Gilbert a defence should he be arrested." Tiberius includes a section which is the notes taken of a debriefing of another East End gangster who turned informant on other criminals in January 2001. He told of a cannabis deal involving Melvyn when he took possession of 100 kilos of the drug and was stopped by police outside London in June 1999. Arrested alongside him were Melvyn and two brothers. They were all charged with drug supply but pleaded not guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court and were later acquitted.
SURVEILLANCE: John Palmer's TOWIE associates were found by a covert operation (PA)
Two other TOWIE dads and an uncle are also named in Tiberius as being associates of the Late John Palmer crime syndicate. Palmer, 64, once Britain's richest criminal with a £300 million fortune made through a timeshare racket, was shot dead in the garden of his Essex home in June 2015. His killer is still at large. The TOWIE dads linked to him were identified by a National Crime Squad (NCS) covert listening investigation - Operation Alpine set up from 1999 to identify, locate and seize the criminal assets of Palmer. It was run from the RAF Spadeadam base in Cumbria by the NCS, due to concerns about Met Police corruption linked to Palmer, and continued until his death. Tiberius said: "The NCS Alpine team had identified a group of criminal associates from London who were believed to be laundering some of Palmer's money through their own network. The launderers were thought to be one TOWIE dad, we have named Cuthbert, and an uncle of a TOWIE cast member, we have named Malcolm.
Both were described in the report as "accomplished and extremely violent career criminals who had well established links with the highest echelons of the London criminal underworld."
Two other men were said to be involved. Cuthbert was said to have been so high in the syndicate he had travelled overseas with Palmer. In 1986 Cuthbert and Malcolm were involved in a fight which saw a man stabbed to death. They were each charged with murder, GBH with intent, and possession of an offensive weapon. They were cleared of the first two offences and found guilty of the third, receiving just a 12-month conditional discharge each. In 1990 Cuthbert was jailed for four years after he threw ammonia in the face of a police officer. The report said there were suggestions they were "also involved in the organised importation and distribution of cannabis and cocaine across north east London and
PLUSH: The Palmer Syndicate was active in TOWIE hotspot Chigwell, said Tiberius (Geograph.org)
Essex," with their main areas of activity being centered on TOWIE meccas Chigwell and Buckhurst Hill. They were thought to be laundering cash through a bar the syndicate purchased, the report said. Undercover officers were placed into the bar said to "have an almost exclusively criminal clientele and to operate like a private members club with very little cash being paid over the bar."
However, the undercover officers were unable to establish exactly how the cash was being laundered. Tiberius said: "Emphasis was initially placed on (Cuthbert), who was thought to be the most active drug trafficker of the syndicate members, and because of his known links with Palmer. Most of the gang were found to be living well beyond their means, the report said. In December 2000 Malcolm moved his family from a council house to a detached property on the outskirts of London, but detectives could get no firm evidence of what he was doing in the syndicate. Malcolm had also taken his family to Barbados over Christmas, at a cost of £13,400, and on his return had bought a £19,000 BMW, paying £11,000 towards it in cash, Tiberius said. He also booked two more Caribbean holidays at a cost of £26,200, it said. Tiberius said a fourth father of a TOWIE star, we have called Rupert, was a "close associate of the Palmer syndicate" and a regular at the bar. The report said Rupert was suspected of being a drug supplier in London, and that he had provided Cuthbert with identity documents in Rupert's name to allow Cuthbert to fraudulently obtain work due to his criminal convictions. Operation Tiberius identified ways the Met could clamp down on eight named organised crime groups, including those said to be run by Palmer and Mr Hunt, and the corrupt police and former detectives that aided them. However, a number of retired Met detectives have since said the report was "buried" and little action was taken, leaving the gangs to become more powerful. There have been calls for a Government inquiry into links between police corruption and organised crime as a result. The Met Police will not comment on Operation Tiberius due to its classified nature, but said it takes all claims of corruption by police seriously and has robust measures in place to root it out.
It is not the first time a parent of a TOWIE star has been caught up in organised crime.
In April 2012 David Chatwood, 65, stepfather of former TOWIE stars Sam and Billie Faiers, was jailed for four years for his part in a £1.1 million bullion robbery stolen from a lorry in Antwerp, Belgium.
The five men named in the report were contacted in writing.
Only Melvyn responded via lawyers, who threatened seeking an injunction against publication if he were named.