‘Phone hacking’ security firm linked to Scotland Yard forced to hand over secret informants list
by Michael Gillard
October 20, 2012
Detectives investigating illegal payments to police officers for inside information are demanding that a private detective agency hand over its list of paid confidential sources.
The list is held offshore and belongs to RISC Management, a London-based agency under investigation for allegedly bribing Metropolitan Police officers on behalf of wealthy clients.
It is believed the list may contain the identity of scores of corrupt officers and Government officials.
Evidence of a confidential source payment system was discovered among computer files and documents recently seized from RISC’s office by the Met’s anti-corruption squad. One invoice suggests that Risk Solutions, a management company in Gibraltar, is paid to keep the list of confidential sources secure.
The discovery is a significant breakthrough in the Met’s year-long corruption probe.
When The Mail on Sunday learned about the list two weeks ago, detectives urged us to delay publication of the report while it carried out an operation last week. The Met refuses to say what steps it took, but a spokesman confirmed last night that detectives would force disclosure of the list through the courts unless RISC handed it over voluntarily.
The Mail on Sunday has spoken to former RISC insiders who described how the ‘source payment system’ worked.
Cash from a well-known bureau de change is couriered to RISC’s office and passed to a small group of senior executives who run and pay confidential sources.
Each source has a codename, for example T43, but only a few RISC executives know their real identity, which is recorded on the list.
The system was set up six years ago. It followed concerns expressed in an internal memo seen by this newspaper that RISC needed a way of dealing with the ‘time bomb’ of large cash payments to unidentified sources in the event of an official investigation into its affairs.
Anti-corruption detectives are examining allegations that two RISC executives bribed officers on an anti-money-laundering unit (SCD6) for information about the case they were building against their Nigerian client, James Ibori, a former state governor, and his British solicitor Bhadresh Gohil.
RISC invoices were sent anonymously to the Met and police watchdog last year. The invoices purportedly detailed £20,000 of payments between 2007 and 2008 to the SCD6 detectives and other ‘confidential sources’ associated with the Ibori prosecution.
In May, RISC chief executive Keith Hunter and former managing director Cliff Knuckey were arrested on suspicion of bribing SCD6 detective constable John MacDonald.
Hunter and Knuckey are former Met detectives. Knuckey trained MacDonald in anti-money- laundering techniques before he left the force in 2003. MacDonald was also arrested and has been placed on restricted duties. All three men deny the charges.
RISC maintains that Gohil fabricated the invoices to assist an appeal against the seven-year sentence he received in 2011 for money-laundering. Ibori pleaded guilty earlier this year and was jailed for 13 years.
However, The Mail on Sunday has learned of another significant discovery among RISC’s seized files that suggests the invoices are genuine.
It is an internal RISC email dated August 5, 2008, and titled ‘0382/C – Invoice Breakdown’.
Attached to the email is a two-page invoice detailing RISC’s work on the Ibori case (Project 0383/C) from March to May 2008.
One entry on April 8 reads: ‘Engaged with source in eliciting information re: forthcoming interviewing strategy to de [sic] deployed by Police.’ The next line records a £5,000 ‘Cash payment made to above source for information provided’.
The invoice is almost identical, including spelling mistakes, to those sent anonymously to the Met more than three years later.
Detectives believe the invoices they received in 2011 are authentic but are a later version, with details of RISC’s work on the Ibori and Gohil case included.
Knuckey maintains that Gohil fabricated the RISC invoices and denies making any corrupt payments.
He agrees that he recommended the offshore source payment system to Hunter but said none of his own confidential sources was registered this way. It is understood that Knuckey left RISC in 2009 after falling out with Hunter over a client invoice.
In a statement, RISC said: ‘RISC’s business relationship with Risk Solutions had no connection or role in respect of the James Ibori / Bhadresh Gohil case whatsoever. The business relationship related to historic and wholly unrelated clients of RISC, the details of which remain absolutely confidential to those clients.
‘Risk Solutions has never made any source payments for or on behalf of RISC for any purpose, in the same way that RISC has never made any unlawful payments to serving police officers.’