Monday, 20 June 2011

Ex Lord Advocate challenged over Pan Am 103 bribery

[This is the headline over a report published today on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. It reads as follows:]

The former Lord Advocate Lord Fraser of Carmyllie has been challenged by Dr Jim Swire to explain his position after he told an Al Jazeera documentary film crew that he accepted a key witness in the Pan Am 103 trial was bribed by Scottish Police.

Fraser, who was Lord Advocate at the time proceedings were raised against Abdelbaset Al Megrahi and acquitted co-accused Lhamin Khalifa Fhimah, acknowledged that Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci appeared to have been offered financial inducements for his testimony, which ultimately placed Megrahi in Malta, purchasing clothes linked to an explosive device.

Dr Swire said he had watched the documentary, which disclosed the revelations contained in police diaries, in "astonishment", and said that it added to "defects evident in the trial itself, which indicate a dire need for reappraisal of the trial verdict."

"The Al Jazeera programme used material from the diary of Detective Chief Inspector Harry Bell, who had performed a key role in the Scottish police inquiries in Malta. The documentary also highlighted the astonishing provision of 'all expenses paid' holidays in Scotland for the shopkeeper, before he gave his evidence," Swire said.

"During this documentary Lord Peter Fraser, who was Lord Advocate at the relevant times, explained that he was unaware of this offer of money to this key witness, at the time of the trial, but now that it seemed to have been shown to have been the case, he did not believe that the bribe, for such it surely was, had affected Gauci's evidence given under oath in court.

"It would appear to a layman that a bribed witness's evidence should be of little value in a criminal court where 'reasonable doubt' has to be excluded.

"Perhaps initially Lord Fraser would care to explain the position he took 'on camera'," Swire concluded.

Lord Fraser has not made any comment following the broadcast.

The Parliament's petitions committee will hear the fourth presentation from the Justice for Megrahi committee of their application for a full inquiry into the debacle on 28 June.

Swire's letter can be read in full, here.


  1. Did Lord Fraser actually say that he did not believe the bribe had affected Gauci's evidence? Astonishing. Surely (as in the case of Majid Giaka ) payment is dependent on the witness telling only the version of events that suits the prosecution case without doubt or qualification.

  2. He may be relying on the fact that Gauci was very tentative in his identification, and assuming that someone who was securely bribed would have seemed more certain.

    This of course is simplistic. The probability is that Tony never remembered the man's face very clearly - he was taking in height and build, checking him out for the fit of clothes. What little memory he did have was then hopelessly corrupted by both time and repeated exposure to multiple images of men looking a bit like his description (and the actual process of creating the photofit and artist's impression, which has been shown to degrade memory in itself). I seriously doubt he'd have been able to recognise the real customer if he'd been trotted up at Zeist in 1999, whoever he was.

    An honest Tony would have admitted this. He'd have said, look, I don't know. I can't tell. It's too long ago and I've seen too many pictures and I'm completely confused. However, this would have had two consequences. One, that he lost all hope of the money - and the family firm was in financial difficulties, and his brother had been coaching him to recognise Megrahi specifically to achieve the reward. And second, that the case would have collapsed.

    Tony is likely to have believed the police knew what they were doing and would have charged the right man. Consider his eagerness to identify Abu Talb when he had a photo of him in front of him identifying him as the police suspect. And then his pick of Megrahi from the photospread, when again it was fairly obvious from the state of the picture and the police reactions that this was the picture of the current suspect.

    So Tony is a good, if dim, witness. He doesn't want to be single-handedly responsible for letting the Lockerbie bomber go free. And he doesn't want to face Paul if he blows the chance of the money. So instead of admiting he hasn't a clue, he shuffles and equivovates and fingers the man he knows he's supposed to finger, although without ever declaring certainty.

    Well, it makes sense to me. I don't know how Peter Fraser views it, but then I don't know how Peter Fraser views a lot of things. He seems a bit "tired and emotional" in most of these interviews.

  3. Once again "The Firm" plays loose with the facts. I do not recall Lord Fraser saying that any witness was "bribed." However, the al Jazeera piece was a bit slanted and focused on that issue as well as the date of the discovery of Pt-35. Somehow a big deal is being made between two dates May 1989 and January 1990. The fragment of the shirt was probably identified by Hayes when he said it was (assume May) and the information was not shared with the American or German colleagues until January 1990--no mystery despite the focus on that event. Gauci may well have been "given all expenses paid trip to Scotland" to be debriefed and this is permissible. I believe that I and any of my Scottish colleagues coulod well have testified in Zeist that no witness asked for, was promised or paid money in exchange for saying anything anything.

  4. Either way the whole thing smacks of duplicity duplicity

  5. I have been asked by Steven Raeburn, editor of The Firm, to post the following response to Richard Marquise's above comment:

    "Mr Marquise,

    Please kindly identfy which of the facts in The Firm's report you believe are incorrect.

    I will consider your silence a withdrawal of your defamatory remarks.

    Steven Raeburn."

  6. Oops, I waited too long to post this.... readers man rewind.

    Good evening Mr. Marquise, I trust you are well. I just bought your book, and it's an masters-level education in cherry-picking, I have to say.

    Congratulations on spotting the blindingly obvious error in the Aljazeera film. You yourself mention in your book that Stuart Henderson told you about the timer fragment on 10th January 1990, and I see no reason to disbelieve you. The (later) January date given by the German police for the "discovery" of the fragment is quite clearly the date they were first made aware of it by the Scottish police. Whoopee and so what.

    There is no reason I can see to doubt that Allan Feraday sent Willie Williamson a covering note with one or more polaroid photographs of the fragment on 15th September 1989. Before that - who knows? With a provenance like that, it would be a bloody miracle if the thing was on the level. The catalogue of altered labels and page numbering and the way the dates don't match up in Dr. Hayes's (loose-leaf) notes should themselves have caused that piece of evidence to be thrown out of court. And that's before you factor in the good doctor's track record with the Maguire Seven and so on.

    I wonder how his second career in chiropody worked out for him?

    I wonder why anyone who had an MST-13 timer in his possession decided to set it for only 48 minutes after the earliest possible time PA103 could have left the ground. At Heathrow, in the middle of winter. With a whole seven hours flying time to play with.

    If the feeder flight had been so late that the transatlantic flight lost its slot, I wonder what time the bomb would have exploded?

  7. Mr Marquise for you to accuse anyone of playing loose with facts would be hilarious were it not for the fact that the issue of which you speak so dishonestly, yet again, involved the deaths of almost three hundred people. You are utterly shameless.

  8. And what about the $3 million to the Gaucis afterwards Mr Marquise? You still not keen to discuss that?

  9. Mr Marquise,

    I would be grateful if you would explain why Tony Gauci was paid at all, briefing/debriefing aside?

  10. "I wonder how his second career in chiropody worked out for him?"

    Rolfe you just made me spill my coffee!

  11. ...and Mr Marquise, did I not hear you on a radio broadcast telling your interviewer that you had never heard that Mr Gaucci had been paid $2m for the evidence he gave. Now that you are aware of this fact, do you think that the evidence should have been accepted in court?

  12. Rewards are offered in criminal cases to encourage people with information to come forward. Frequently, the objective is to encourage low-level conspirators or members of the underworld to grass on their colleagues. It's always possible, of course, that some lucky member of the public might happen on some crucial nugget and cash in when they do their civic duty - but how often does that happen, I ask you?

    What I have never heard of outside of this case is an ordinary witness who was tracked down by the police being rewarded with millions of dollars. Never mind his brother, who didn't even give evidence, getting another million. Wow it was a lucky day for these two when a terrorist walked into their shop. If he did.

    Richard thinks it's permissible to have given Tony an "all expenses paid" trip to be "debriefed". Five-star hotels are all in the package for witnesses, are they? (Usually you'll be lucky to get a damp sandwich, trust me.) And do they do much debriefing on salmon-fishing trips?

    I believe that I and any of my Scottish colleagues coulod well have testified in Zeist that no witness asked for, was promised or paid money in exchange for saying anything anything.

    White man speak with forked tongue. Nods, winks, hints and sodding huge great posters with pictures of sackfuls of money may not be "asking" or "promising" within the strict meaning of the words, but come one Richard, we can read Harry Bell's diaries as well as you can - or better, it seems.

    And nobody has suggested that either Tony or Paul was paid any actual cash before Zeist. So what you might have been able to say at Zeist isn't quite the point, is it?

  13. Rolfe, I think your assessment of Gaucci's position is excellent and it fits in well with how I have always found the Scottish police to work in such situations. Something along the lines of "look, Tony, we know he's guilty! There's a mass of evidence that we can't bring out in court. But we owe it to the families of the victims to bring Megraghi to justice!" And if that doesn't do it, "hasn't Mr Marquise told you about the $2m?" might just do the trick.
    Of course, Mr Marquise couldn't tell Tony about the $2m because nobody had told Mr Marquise.

  14. Well, except it was $4 million, and there were sodding great posters all over the place advertising it. Complete with the photo of Megrahi they didn't show Tony.

    I don't even think the police needed to be quite as up-front as you suggest. Tony seems conditioned to believe that the person the police suspected was the real culprit. He was awfully keen on the photo of Abu Talb when it had "bomber" emblazoned across the corner, although he seems not to have managed to pick a different picture of him out of another photospread. It has been speculated that when he picked out the appalling likeness of Megrahi he might have thought he was picking Abu Talb again.

    Tony wanted to help these nice policemen, even when Edward and Paul were telling him to stop talking to the cops. And when it turned into fishing trips (literally as well as metaphorically) and it became obvious there might be shedloads of money "somewhere over the rainbow", well, great.

    I don't think anyone would even have needed to tell him there was evidence they couldn't bring to court. Just the inference that the person charged is of course the culprit, don't let us down here Tony, would be enough.

  15. Isn't it weird that Mr Marquise only ever drops in here fleetingly and then vanishes to escape too many difficult questions?

  16. It's almost always a hit-and-run, but I also note that he only appears when an article contains obvious errors. Any one of us could have picked up the same errors in that article, it's hardly rocket science. But instead of considering whether the basic points being made are valid, Richard takes a couple of cheap shots and then vanishes, as if that's all it takes to prove his bizarre conspiracy theory true.

    And he never comments on articles that he can't nit-pick.

  17. I suspect Mr Marquise reads the blog fairly regularly. If that is so, why would that be?

    As Rolfe points out, why focus on the inconsequential when there are so many substantial aspects of the case that are screaming out for attention? Too difficult, perhaps?

  18. Would you be so kind as to add a comment to your blog for me, on the
    same story as before?

    The comment is:

    "Dear 'Rolfe' and others,

    If you believe there are any "obvious errors" in the article, please email me at Steven[@] and I will address them.

    I will consider your criticisms withdrawn in the interim.

    Steven Raeburn"

  19. The article with the "obvious errors" I was referring to was the one entitled "Forensic report on the Lockerbie bombing", which Richard commented on. Also, in the context of comments under this blog post, the Aljazeera documentary referred to in the text, which Richard also commented on above.

    Some people need to stop being quite so touchy, methinks.

  20. I think it is relevance that Majid Giaka was not paid his reward money, not because his evidence was untrue but because he did not lie convincingly. Strangely Giaka never made his fortune by publishing his memoirs and is supposedly still in the WPP. I suspect he is dead.

    I believe there was another paid witness, Ian Spiro, who up to his death was living in an expensive rented villa in San Diego with no apparent means of support. This was a man who a a "deep cover agent" in the Lebanon supposedly came into contact with Libyan intellience and learned from them the names of Megrahi & Fhimah which he passed to British and US intelligence before fleeing the Lebanon. (I doubt he ever set foot there.) In the televised 1994 Reith lecture Dame Stella Rimmington claimed it ws MI5 who "identified the two Libyan culprits".

    The multi-aliased Spiro may also have been "David Lovejoy" who supposedly betrayed the travel plans of the several US agents who perished at Lockerbie (supposedly including the son-in-law of the CIA's D/Ops Thomas Twetton.)

    Spiro supposedly murdered his family with a magnum revolver supposedly lent to him by his neighbour before committing suicide by ingesting potassium cyanide given to him by a "jeweller friend". (statement from San Diego County Sheriff's Department.)

    In a letter e-mailed to the Michican Daily News in 2003 a man using the nom-de-plume "Epiceraser" claimed he had been involved in a UC (undercover?) operation to "track and trace Spiro's chilling activities on behalf of his covert client Libya" and claimed Spiro and his family were murdered by Libyan agents.

    However "Epiceraser" claimed to have met Spiro the day before his death and was also the vendor of some sapphires online. (Spiro's "jeweller friend"?) An internet search of the name "Epiceraser" discloses this persons true identity.

    Was Spiro and his family murdered by Libyan agents or by agents of the US Government?