[This is the headline over a report (behind the paywall) in today's edition of The Times. It reads as follows:]
The revelation that Moussa Koussa met top British and US officials at a
Cotswolds hotel in 2003 will fuel suspicions that the Government shielded
the former Libyan spy chief from prosecution after he
defected to Britain in March.
For three decades Mr Koussa was a member of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s inner
circle. He was expelled from Britain in 1980 for ordering the assassination
of regime opponents. He was suspected of involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie
bombing and other terrorist atrocities. He was Libya’s spy chief for 15
years, and witnesses recently told the BBC’s Panorama that he was present
when 1,200 inmates were massacred at Abu Salim prison, Tripoli, in 1996.
Since 2001, however, he was a key player in Libya’s rapprochement with the
West, negotiating his country’s abandonment of weapons of mass destruction
and providing intelligence on al-Qaeda.
On visits to Britain he met officials at places such as The Travellers Club in
Pall Mall and, as
The Times reveals today, the Bay Tree Hotel in Burford, where he
negotiated with Sir Mark Allen, then head of counter-terrorism at MI6 and
now an adviser to BP, and Steve Kappes, a CIA agent who resigned as deputy
director last year.
The cosiness of the relationship was laid embarrassingly bare in letters found
in Mr Koussa’s office after the fall of Tripoli in August. In one, Sir Mark
trumpeted Britain’s cooperation in forcibly repatriating a regime opponent,
saying that was “the least we could do for you”.
When Mr Koussa fled Libya on March 30 he was flown in a private plane to
Farnborough Airport and taken to a safe house.
David Cameron and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, both denied that he
had been granted immunity from prosecution, and he was questioned by
Lockerbie investigators. But within days the EU unfroze his assets at
Britain’s request and he left for Qatar. He has lived in the Four Seasons
Hotel, Qatar, ever since.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office insists there were no grounds for
detaining him. But officials also accept that prosecuting Mr Koussa would
have deterred other defections, and silenced a priceless source of inside
information about Gaddafi’s regime.“I can’t say there was a deal, but it was
very convenient for the Government that Moussa Koussa moved to Qatar,” Guma
el-Gamaty, the former coordinator of Libya’s National Transitional Council
in Britain, said. “If he’d stayed any longer the Lockerbie investigators
were coming in to demand he should be investigated.”