Saturday, 26 September 2015

Libyan defector Giaka in the witness box

[On this date in 2000, the Crown’s “star witness” Abdul Majid Giaka started his evidence at the Lockerbie trial. reported as follows:]

Witness number 684, Abdul Majid Giaka, today finally stepped into the witness box at the Lockerbie Trial. His appearance at the trial had been delayed due to legal wrangling over CIA cables.

Today the accused Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, the two Libyans charged with bombing Pan Am 103 came face to face once gain with the man billed by the Scottish Crown and the US Department of Justice as the star witness.

In a surprisingly brief and low key examination, Giaka was questioned by Advocate Depute Alistair Campbell QC, for the Crown.

Giaka said he contacted the US embassy in Malta in August 1988 (four months before the Pan Am attack) after becoming disillusioned with the Libyan security service. He stated that he had worked with the accused, for Libyan Arab Airlines and agreed to stay on at the airport and report to
the CIA monthly.

Earlier reports of these meetings show that while he was acting as a double agent his CIA handlers were not impressed with the quality of his information and were continually asking him for new material.

Giaka told the court that in August 1986, more than two years before the Lockerbie bombing, Fhimah showed him two bricks of what he said was the explosive TNT.

The TNT was in the drawer of a desk in an office they shared with another airline employee.

“Fhimah told me he had had 10 kg of TNT delivered by Abdel Basset (Megrahi). He opened the drawer and there were two boxes which contained a yellowish material,” Giaka said, adding Fhimah kept over $10,000 worth of travelers cheques.

The court referred to a CIA document dated October 5, 1988, in which Giaka recounted how the story of the explosives in the drawer had been relayed to CIA officers.

Continuing his testimony Giaka said Megrahi arrived in Malta from Tripoli on December 7, 1988, and had brought some cabin luggage with him. Two to three weeks later, Giaka said he saw Fhimah and Megrahi take a brown hard-shell suitcase off the carousel at Luqa.

Giaka said," They walked together toward customs. The suitcase was not opened for inspection.”

The witness then recounted another story where he remembered being asked by another Libyan Intelligence officer if it was possible to put an unaccompanied bag on a UK plane.

“My answer was that it was possible to place an unaccompanied bag on the flight,” Giaka said.

William Taylor QC for Megrahi then launched into a fierce cross-examination of Giaka forcing the Crown's star witness in to making several contradictory statements. Taylor was to prove relentless in his onslaught and during questioning, when Giaka would occasionally look over in the direction of the two US lawyers [RB: Brian Murtagh and Dana Biehl] who sit behind the Crown team, Taylor reminded him that they could not help.

Taylor had earlier objected to some of Giaka's testimony, calling it “tittle tattle and hearsay.”

“We’ll see many, many more examples of a story becoming embellished and changed to make it look better,” Taylor said as he highlighted more inconsistencies in Giaka's testimony.

Taylor will continue with his cross-examination followed by Richard Keen QC for Fhimah.

[A verbatim transcript of Giaka’s evidence can be found here.]


  1. An important discovery was the diary of Harry Bell, the senior Scottish policeman who headed the investigation team. His diary and related HOLMES entries contain several references to massive rewards for Tony Gauci, his brother Paul, and CIA informant Majid Giaka.

    Apart from a brief exchange during the trial, the judges and defence were unaware of the existence of Bell’s diary. The SCCRC did not comment on the role of the prosecution team in this. It is however difficult to believe that Lord Advocate Boyd was unaware of its existence.

    In summary, Bell’s diary revealed that:

    • Within two weeks of Bell’s first contact with Gauci, an “unlimited” multi-million dollar payment was on offer from the US.

    • The first occasion on which Tony Gauci identified al-Megrahi coincided almost exactly with insistent demands for money by Tony and his brother Paul.

    • In the words of the US Department of Justice the reward would be paid “only if he gives evidence”.

    Gauci’s first encounter with Bell’s police team was on 1st September 1989. He met them again on the 14th and 26th of that month. Two days later Bell recorded that the US were prepared to offer “unlimited money to Tony Gauci, with $10,000 being available immediately”. It is a reasonable conclusion that the offer was based on discussions that had taken place throughout September 1989.

    Further entries by Bell revealed repeated demands for money. He wrote that Paul Gauci “has a clear desire to gain financial benefit” from his and his brother’s cooperation. Another example included “reward money as a last resort”. We might ask: a last resort for what?

    One entry records that a discussion took place regarding “reward money and the Maltese reaction”. Another records proposed payments to the CIA’s witness Majid Giaka. Bell writes: “The DoJ will pay Giaka $2m... I also clarified with them about the Gauci reward and the response was only if he gives evidence”.

  2. I’m not sure why, but of all the corrupting and distasteful parts of the trial, I find the whole Giaka episode particularly appalling. Perhaps because of the much pre-trial championing of this witness by the Crown and DoJ despite what was privately known; perhaps due to the willingness of this ‘star witness’ to condemn his fellow countrymen in court, and the dire consequences this had had and would entail for his whole nation; perhaps it’s the blatant efforts by the Zeist prosecution to usurp the court by denying access to what they knew was, in contrast to their assurances, highly pertinent evidence.

    Undoubtedly, together with the evidence that was known about the Heathrow, and what was known regarding the metallurgical tests, the whole Giaka episode brought further disrepute to the court and a lasting shame on the Scottish justice system.