[In the context of tomorrow's session of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the release of Mr Megrahi, I think it worthwhile to share the contents of a letter sent by Dr Jim Swire on 28 July 2010 to The Herald but never published.]
In April 1991, before Mr Megrahi had even been indicted, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Bell of the investigating Scottish police was on Malta, and went to interview Vincent Vassallo, manager of the airport cafe at Luqa airport (Malta).
On page 7642 of the publicly available trial transcripts, in giving his evidence Vassallo says:
"What I remember is that when they came to my office, Harry Bell asked me -- he said 'Try to remember well. You know there is a large reward, and if you wish to have more money, perhaps go abroad somewhere, you can do so.'"
So potential monetary rewards seem to have figured in the process from before even the issue of the indictments against Fhima and Megrahi which occurred at the end of 1991, and of course long before the actual trial.
Harry Bell was keeping a diary, but its contents were not divulged to the court, since he had 'left it in Glasgow', though its existence was known to the court, nor was the above allegation from Vassallo taken up by the defence nor the judges.
The contents of the Bell diaries are now in the public domain on the web. They show that DCI Bell was aware of the US reward offers of $10,000 dollars 'up front' with $2,000,000 to follow, and that Gauci, the key Maltese shopkeeper witness had become increasingly aware that money was on offer. The FBI officers involved in the case, according to Bell, did not record what role, if any, they had played in the reward scenario. The US organisation 'Rewards for Justice' however records Mr Megrahi's name as someone brought to 'justice' by their payments.
I had hoped to persuade Senator Kerry [Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who has, however, delegated the role in relation to the Megrahi issue to Senator Robert Menendez] to raise his sights to the question of whether Megrahi really was guilty or not. That sadly has not happened, but seems rather more important than attempting to link BP to Megrahi's compassionate release.
However perhaps the senators could re-ignite their inquiry by arranging to pay each of those they wish to interview a similar amount for flying over to give evidence to them, though for senior British poIiticians or BP CEOs they might have to request a good deal more money from their 'Rewards for Justice' source, than was on offer to a humble Maltese shopkeeper.
Man, think of the deep-fried Mars bars you could get for that sort of money.
According to my father's edition (1933) of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, one definition of a bribe is " A reward given to pervert the judgment or corrupt the conduct (1535)", but then I don't think there were any senators around in 1535 were there?
Seriously, the situation is that whether the senators wish to address the issue of guilt or not, someone must do so and Scotland has a problem.
Our SCCRC found that the trial might have been a miscarriage of justice, yet by withdrawing the second appeal, which had been authorised by the SCCRC's findings, Mr Megrahi has effectively blocked the obvious route to a full and honest re-examination of the whole case, since the defence materials remain his property.
We must find a route to re-assess the validity of the verdict, that route must depend on a rigorous reappraisal, under the highest standards of Scots law, but on neither politicians nor bribery.
Justice and truth are beyond price.