The government of Gibraltar prepares for a public investigation to hear allegations of corruption

The government of Gibraltar prepares for a public investigation to hear allegations of corruption

The government of Gibraltar prepares for a public investigation to hear allegations of corruption

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The government of Gibraltar is preparing for an explosive public investigation into its police commissioner’s controversial early retirement, allegedly being subjected to “inadequate pressure” over a sensitive investigation involving a security contract.

A retired judge and a prominent UK human rights lawyer were flown for investigation, which will resume with a preliminary hearing this month and hear allegations of corruption in British overseas territory.

Ian McGrail stepped down as commissioner in June 2020. At the last preliminary hearing in July, Caoilfihionn Gallagher QC, an England and Wales bar attorney representing McGrail, said: “His main allegations are that ( A) has been subjected to inadequate pressure [at the highest levels of government] in connection with the conduct of a criminal investigation; and (B) was subsequently put under pressure by the same people to ask for early retirement against his will. “

In heavily written memoirs, Gallagher said the corruption allegations were “a substantial part of the subject of the investigation.”

The investigation comes at a difficult time for Gibraltar, which was added to the global money laundering supervisory body’s list of “most monitored jurisdictions” and “strategic deficiencies” in June.

Gallagher acted for the family of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during the public inquiry into her assassination, which found last year that the state of Malta – itself with corruption issues – was guilty.

Famed human rights attorney Adam Wagner, Gallagher’s colleague at Doughty Street, is also part of McGrail’s legal team. The inquiry is chaired by Sir Peter Openshaw, a retired high court judge in England and Wales.

Sir Peter Caruana QC, the former prime minister of Gibraltar and agent for the incumbent, as well as the deputy governor and attorney general, said they all denied putting pressure on McGrail and said he “chose to withdraw because he knew that, having lost the confidence of the governor and the prime minister, his position would become unsustainable ”.

The “factual background” section in the remarks for McGrail is fully written. However, discussing the newsrooms, Caruana referred to a decision not to prosecute, adding: “If the subject of that paragraph became public at this stage, Her Majesty’s lawyer would be in dire straits.”

The Attorney General issued a decision in January not to prosecute three men, including one of the territory’s highest officials, accused of conspiring to defraud Bland Ltd, a 200-year-old company with deep ties to Gibraltar society and politics.

The government paid over £ 55 million to Bland for services between 2011 and 2021. The men were accused of undermining Bland’s ability to execute the national central intelligence system’s contract with the government, including the ANPR registration (automatic license plate recognition) of the number plates of vehicles crossing the border.

When the case was dismissed for reasons of unspecified “public interest”, Gibraltar’s opposition party, the Gibraltar Social Democrats (GSD) said: “It is an open secret that this case may give rise to evidence related to politically awkward larger ones that remain pending or ongoing which have also been invoked the shield of public interest such as the early departure of Commissioner McGrail.

He also said it had the effect of “burying politically inconvenient or harmful material” for the country’s prime minister, Fabian Picardo.

Explaining his request for the newsrooms, Caruana said he wanted to protect the government and its clients from the “public contempt it attributes, despite the positions they hold, to public opinion exposed prematurely to accusations of one party”.

A spokesman for the Gibraltar government expressed confidence that the investigation, which is expected to begin in earnest next year, will establish that McGrail’s withdrawal was in the public interest.

“There is no truth in the false allegations made by the GSD in relation to the Bland case and the action taken by the Attorney General in that matter,” they said.

“There is absolutely no link, in fact or in law, between the action taken by the Attorney General in the Bland case and the commission of inquiry into the retirement of the former commissioner.”

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