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Old 30th September 2010, 06:46 AM   #214
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Rewards and bribery

There's been more stuff today about the matter of the bribery of witnesses by the US Department of Justice in the Lockerbie case. I was thinking about this anyway, as I examined the pdf Bunntamas showd us a few posts back. How comfortable are those who believe in Megrahi's guilt with the amount of bribery that was going on?

Rewards for information are a recognised part of crimefighting. They're often aimed at people in the underworld themselves, or on the fringes of it. If people with that sort of inside knowledge see more benefit to themselves from turning "grass" than from their criminal activites, they may squeal.

That sort of information has to be taken with a huge health warning of course. Petty jealousies and feuds may easily lead criminals to invent false allegations against their colleagues. So it has to check out. Give us the information, yes, but be prepared for it to be scrutinised and verified and corroborated before you'll see a penny.

Ordinary members of the public might get such a reward too, but what for? Not for simply telling the truth about what they know after the police have approached them about a matter. In that case, you'll be lucky to get your bus fare to court and a limp sandwich for lunch. These rewards are for crucial information the police hadn't found out for themselves, and which leads on to the Big Breakthrough.

And again it has to be corroborated and verified. Nobody gets millions of dollars or pounds for simply making stuff up to suit what the police want them to say.

Or do they? What really happened in the Lockerbie case?

Regarding the Gauci brothers, it's a matter of public record that they eventually received (probably more than) $3 million. This is not in respect of approaching the police with any new or valuable information, but simply for giving an account of a clothes purchase Tony recalled, after the police had identified them as the vendors of the clothes by independent means.

It has been hotly denied that this was ever promised in advance, and indeed there was probably no actual promise. However the documents now available show a lot of evidence that Paul in particular was very much interested in receiving money for giving evidence, and that heavy hints were dropped. Start at page 90 of the pdf, page no. 149 of the document. A couple of extracts.

on 28th September 1989 the FBI discussed with the Scottish Police an offer of unlimited money to Tony Gauci, with $10,000 being available immediately.

And later, in relation to a luxury holiday in Scotland that was given to Tony and his father in 1991.

He wondered how he would explain the cost of such a trip. He was told [by Godfrey Scicluna] to suggest the National Lotto as having won a prize!

How is this possibly be justifiable, if the only interest is in ensuring the witness gives as accurate an account of what he saw as possible?

And Tony wasn't the only one having hints about large sums of money dangled in front of him. At Zeist, Fhimah's business partner Vincent Vassallo gave evidence. He knew Fhimah very well, but only met Megrahi on 20th December 1988. He was pressed on a number of matters, including whether either of them had a bronze Samsonite suitcase with them that day. If he had chosen, he could have "remembered" stuff that would have been highly incriminating. Here's part of the transcript.

Q Mr. Vassallo, do you recollect that in April 1991 you were approached by a number of police officers at Luqa Airport in Malta?
A Yes.
Q And in particular, a number of Scottish police officers, including a Mr. Bell?
A Yes.
Q And do you recollect being interviewed by those police officers at Luqa Airport on 18th April 1991? [7642]
A I do not remember the exact date, but that they had met me the first time at Luqa Airport, I do remember.
Q And do you recollect them discussing Lamen Fhimah when they interviewed you?
A Yes.
Q And do you recollect them referring to Mr. Baset [Megrahi] when they interviewed you?
A I don't remember.
Q Do you recollect if the subject of a reward or money was raised with you?
A What I remember is that when they came to my office, Harry Bell asked me -- he said "Try and remember well. You know there is a large reward, and if you wish to have more money, perhaps go abroad somewhere, you can do so."
I am not saying, to be clear, that Harry Bell was offering me something. He was simply telling me what the conditions were; that for information that I might be able to give, there is a large reward. And I also read it, and I also heard it on the news.
To be clear, he didn't say "Here, this is the money," to give the wrong interpretation. He only said "There is a reward, and if you for any reason wish to be more relaxed with money, we would not find any [7643] difficulty, even if you do not wish to give us information here"; that is, in Malta.

Oh sure, this isn't a policeman offering a bribe to a witness to invent incriminating evidence against a suspect. Of course it is. If Vassallo had been greedy enough, and clever enough to take the hints he was offered about what sort of things the police would like him to "remember", he could have joined the Gaucis in Australia and never worked again.

And then there was Giaka. There's tons about that in the records. I'll post Paul Foot's version of it, which I think is accurate.

Originally Posted by Paul Foot
It was obviously important for Giaka to impress his CIA contacts. He depended on them for money – he got a thousand dollars a month rising to $1500. The CIA showered him with gifts of clothing and radio sets, and even arranged for sham surgery to his arm. [To avoid conscription into the Libyan army.] But in spite of this largesse the CIA handlers in Malta got increasingly fed up with Giaka’s prevarications, and started to conclude he was not worth the money. By December 1990, their cables decribed Giaka as “desperate”. Somehow he managed to keep the CIA’s confidence all through the Gulf War but by July 1991 his situation seemed to be even worse.

The CIA contacted him in Libya, and he returned to Malta to meet them. He was told that a meeting had been set up with officials from the US Department of Justice, and that his future depended on what he disclosed at that meeting. Almost at once he started to barter with his handlers, only to be met with a threat that unless he could come up with something about his former colleagues in the JSO [Megrahi and Fhimah] that might incriminate them in the Lockerbie bombing, he would be abandoned in Malta and cut off without a penny.

Not a single statement about having any information about Lockerbie until 1991, despite much questioning. Then when he's threatened with loss of his income (not even getting his fare back to Tripoli) if he doesn't come up with something, he "remembers" a bunch of fairy-tales.

Originally Posted by Paul Foot
[William Taylor, QC for Megrahi] “You see the documents speak for themselves. They build up to a crescendo as I’ve described. It’s not me that is doing it. It’s the documents that are doing it. And lo and behold the deafening silence (about Lockerbie) ends the very next day, when you come up with a brown Samsonite suitcase and this rubbish about Customs. The very next day is the first mention by you, Giaka, of these matters. What do you have to say about that?”

Giaka could only stammer: “When I met with the representatives of the Department of Justice, they are very good investigators, and they can distinguish truth from lies. One way or another, they can obtain what they want.”

Giaka was immmediately, that very day, spirited out of Malta and en route for the USA where he was given a luxurious new life in the witness protection programme.

Giaka's evidence was actually the main basis of the indictments issued later that year. Tony's tentative "well he looks a bit like the purchaser" would never have been enough. It was entirely down to Giaka that Megrahi and Fhimah were charged at all. And we must remember what happened after that. Libya tried to adhere to the terms of the international convention whereby their own nationals were entitled to be tried in their own courts. The USA refused to hand over the evidence Libya would have needed to try them, and insisted on the accused being handed over instead. Stalemate, the result of which was a 10-year international blockade of Libya, keeping out essential goods and medical supplies, and resulting in thousands of preventable deaths.

All because of Giaka, and the evidence given under the circumstances outlined above.

And then, in court, the prosecution fought tooth and nail to conceal from the defence the evidence showing that Giaka had just made it all up for money - up to the point where the Lord Advocate blatantly lied to the court.

Is any of this something people are comfortable with? Note, it's not "I have a new lead that will lead you to the Lockerbie bombers". It's bare-faced solicitation to witnesses to invent details such as the possession of a brown Samsonite suitcase, that will implicate the suspects the police have already decided they want to charge.

So this is the background against which I view Bunntamas's cable pdf. A blatant attempt to provide information naming both Megrahi and Fhimah as involved in the bombing, as invented by someone who is trying quite hard but doesn't have all the details - such as the fact that Megrahi never went near London on 21st December.

I don't think that was given in evidence. I don't see how it could have been, as anonymous uncorroborated tittle-tattle isn't admissible. But that's clearly the sort of "intelligence" the US authorities were dredging up with their $4 million reward offers. They wouldn't touch that one with a barge pole, because of the blatant inaccuracies. But if someone is coached well enough to provide credible detail, as Giaka clearly was, then bingo.

I ask again, is anyone comfortable with this?

"The way we vote will depend, ultimately, on whether we are persuaded to hope or to fear." - Aonghas MacNeacail, June 2012.
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