Thursday, 9 April 2015

“At the meeting on 9 April, I proposed that US $2m should be paid to Anthony Gauci"

[What follows is excerpted from a report published in the the Maltese newspaper The Sunday Times on 24 November 2013:]

The lead investigator in the Lockerbie bombing personally lobbied US authorities to pay two Maltese witnesses at least $3 million for their part in securing the conviction of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, documents published today in The Sunday Times of Malta reveal. (...)

In one of the documents, Detective Superintendent Tom McCulloch, from the Scottish Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, wrote to the US Department of Justice on April 19, 2002, making the case for Maltese witness Tony Gauci and his brother Paul to be compensated for their role in the trial from the US Rewards for Justice programme.

McCulloch wrote: “At the meeting on 9 April, I proposed that US 2 million dollars should be paid to Anthony Gauci and US 1 million dollars to his brother Paul. However, following further informal discussions I was encouraged to learn that those responsible for making the final decision retain a large degree of flexibility to increase this figure.”

The letter followed on from a meeting with the Justice Department and the FBI and another letter sent a year earlier in which Mr McCulloch first made his plea on behalf of the Gaucis.

In this first letter, he wrote: “There is little doubt that (Tony Gauci’s) evidence was the key to the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohammed Al Megrahi. I therefore feel that he is a worthy of nominee for the reward...”

Mr McCulloch said he had discussed the reward with the Crown Office (the prosecution) but they would not offer an opinion on whether the Gaucis should be paid as this was deemed “improper”.

“The prosecution in Scotland cannot become involved in such an application,” Mr McCulloch wrote. (...)

Mr Gauci himself gave evidence before the commission and stressed that he had never shown any interest in receiving payment. To sustain his point, he underlined the fact that he had turned down various offers for payment by journalists, who had been hounding him and his brother for an exclusive, over the years.

He had also turned down an offer made by an unidentified Libyan man for compensation from the Libyan regime.

However, extracts from a diary kept by Dumfries and Galloway Inspector Harry Bell give a different picture. In a note dated September 29, 1989, early into the investigation, Mr Bell noted that FBI Agent Chris Murray had told him he had “the authority to arrange unlimited money for Tony Gauci” and that he could arrange for “$10,000 immediately”.

Moreover, there are also various entries in the classified documents in which Scottish police describe Paul Gauci as being very forceful about seeking some sort of financial gain and also that he influenced his brother greatly.

“It is apparent from speaking to him for any length of time that he has a desire to gain financial benefit from the position he and his brother are in relative to the case. As a consequence he exaggerates his own importance as a witness and clearly inflates the fears that he and his brother have...” (...)

Robert Black, an emeritus professor of Scots law, who is widely credited as having been the architect of the non-jury trial at the neutral location of Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, said he found one of the documents shocking.

In this document, dated January 12, 2001, the officer, whose name was redacted, writes: “(the Gauci brothers) will maintain their current position and not seek to make adverse comment regarding any perceived lack of recognition of their position. Nor is it anticipated would they ever seek to highlight any remuneration perceived”.

Reacting to this passage, Prof Black said: “It is no part of an investigator’s or prosecutor’s function to seek to secure that a witness maintains his current position.

“To try to influence a witness, or secure benefits for him, to achieve this result is grossly improper. The passage also recognises that it is important that the remuneration arrangement should not be ‘highlighted’. This manifests a clear, and correct, understanding that the arrangement is not one that would meet with legal or public approbation.”

The act itself of paying out money to a witness is no longer illegal under Scottish law, although it once was. However, Prof Black insisted, it is something that should always be disclosed to the defence.

“In this case, the authorities did everything in their power to conceal it, including ‘mislaying’ Harry Bell’s diary until it was eventually unearthed by the SCCRC in the course of their investigation of the Megrahi conviction.”

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