Wednesday 27 January 2016

Treats for testimony

[On this date in 2002 the Scottish edition of the Mail on Sunday published a long report on the “treats” provided to the Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci in connection with his evidence at the Lockerbie trial. That report is no longer available online, but the story was immediately followed up by other news media. What follows is the text of the article that appeared in The Guardian:]

An investigation has been demanded following a claim that a witness in the Lockerbie trial enjoyed police hospitality in Scotland.

Evidence given by Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopowner, helped to convict the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. It is alleged that Mr Gauci was brought to Scotland five or six times, taken salmon fishing and hill walking, and put up in an expensive hotel.

He is also said to have been taken to Lockerbie, to see where the wreckage of the bombed Pan Am airliner landed in 1988, before last year's trial got under way.

Yesterday the Labour MP Tam Dalyell said he would raise the issue as a matter of urgency with the prime minister and foreign secretary.

The claim comes days after the start of al-Megrahi's appeal. Last January the Libyan former intelligence officer was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the bombing, which killed 259 on flight 103 and 11 on the ground.

Last week his legal team said a rebuttal of Mr Gauci's evidence would form a plank of its case.

Mr Gauci was the sole witness to link al-Megrahi directly to the bombing of Pan Am 103. He told the trial that al-Megrahi "resembled a lot" a man who bought clothes from Mr Gauci's shop that were later discovered to have been packed around the bomb.

Yesterday the Scottish Mail on Sunday reported that an undercover investigator had travelled to Malta and secretly taped conversations with Mr Gauci, owner of Mary's House clothes shop in Sliema.

Mr Gauci claimed that police had flown him to Scotland on five or six occasions, and taken him to Lockerbie to be shown the damage. He also claimed that the hospitality of the Scottish police had been extended to four others in his family.

He talked in the tape of being taken into the mountains, visiting Aviemore ski resort, fly-fishing for salmon, and bird-watching. On at least one occasion he stayed at the Hilton in Glasgow.

Dumfries and Galloway police and Strathclyde police refused to discuss the claim yesterday, saying only they could not comment on issues concerning witness protection.

Mr Dalyell said that the reports, if true, would have profound implications for al-Megrahi's appeal. "If Gauci was brought to Scotland before the trial at Zeist, why were the defence and the judges not told? If Gauci came after the trial, what is the purpose of the ongoing relationship?"

Robert Black, professor of law at Edinburgh University, said that Mr Gauci's trips needed to be investigated during al-Megrahi's appeal, adding that he knew of no other Scottish murder trial witness being taken on fishing trips by police.

No comments:

Post a Comment