The black economy run by corrupt police

The Guardian - by Graeme McLagan

21st September 2002

Internal documents from an investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s elite anti-corruption squad provide a remarkable insight into the murky world of some private detectives and their relations with police and tabloid newspaper journalists. The purpose of the huge CIB3 bugging and surveillance operation - codenamed Nigeria - was two-fold: to pursue the unsolved murder of Daniel Morgan, a private detective killed in 1987, and to gather evidence about continued allegations that his detective agency was involved with corrupt police officers and former detectives who supplied confidential information and did other favours.

One of CIB’s principal targets was Jonathon Rees, Morgan’s former partner who continued to run Southern Investigations after the murder. With the backing of the Met’s then commissioner, Sir (now Lord) Paul Condon, warrants were obtained for the planting of listening devices in Southern’s offices in Thornton Heath, south west London. CIB officers were warned not to leave the tiniest sign that anyone had been inside the premises, let alone planted a bug. “They are alert, cunning and devious individuals who have current knowledge of investigative methods and techniques which may be used against them,” said an internal report. “Such is their level of access to individuals within the police, through professional and social contacts, that the threat of compromise to any conventional investigation against them is constant and very real.”

Rees and others whose conversations were picked up during the police bugging operation at the offices were given pseudonyms - the names of rivers - in the transcripts of the recordings. Rees was referred to as Avon.

By early 1999, the various bugging devices were clearly working well. Visitors to the premises had asked Rees to obtain blank police charge sheets; he had agreed to pervert the course of justice over a theft; and he was waiting for police contacts to give him information about the desecration of the street memorial to the murdered black teenager, Stephen Lawrence.

“Rees and (others) have for a number of years been involved in the long-term penetration of police intelligence sources,” one progress report stated. “They have ensured that they have live sources within the Metropolitan Police Service and have sought to recruit sources within other police forces. Their thirst for knowledge is driven by profit to be accrued from the media . . .”

Examples of those media contacts were revealed over the following few weeks. In April, Rees was heard expressing concern over CIB’s arrest of a long-time associate, ex-Detective Constable Duncan Hanrahan, who ran his own private investigation company, Hanrahan Associates, with another former DC, Martin King, who was later jailed for corruption. Although Hanrahan had turned supergrass, giving information about others, including King and Rees, he was jailed for nine years after confessing to a string of corruption and conspiracy charges, including his involvement in a plan to rob a courier bringing £1m in cash through Heathrow airport.

Rees appears to be explaining to someone over the phone that Hanrahan is passing information to them about CIB’s questioning. According to the transcript, Avon (Rees) says: “Hanrahan said what (CIB) want to do is fuck us all. He said they keep talking about the fucking Morgan murder every time they see me.” But later in the same taped conversation Rees also talks about having sold a story to a reporter. The intelligence he sold concerned Kenneth Noye, the notorious criminal then being held at Belmarsh top security prison, following extradition from Spain to face trial for the M25 road rage murder. Rees says he provided information about how GCHQ was involved in tracking down Noye. He also claims to have given a reporter information about what he calls “personal services” being provided to Noye in Belmarsh.

In another conversation, Rees calls a source and asks: “How are you getting on with that story?” The ensuing conversation is summarised in the CIB transcript as having included mention of David Copeland, the neo-Nazi London nailbomber, then also in Belmarsh awaiting trial. Copeland was said to be in a cell next to a black prisoner. The pair hated each other. Rees asks the caller if he can find out more about Copeland and the messages he’s receiving from God.

A serving police officer was passing information to Rees about the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, according to a CIB report for May. The report continues: “Rees and (others) are actively pursuing contacts with the police and business community to identify potential newsworthy stories. They then sell the information to the national media. The investigation has so far identified a serving police officer who has supplied confidential information and private investigators who can supply phone and bank accounts details of any person.”

In another telephone conversation, Rees tells a Sunday newspaper reporter that he is obtaining information about the former Chilean dictator, General Pinochet, then under house arrest in Surrey, pending an extradition hearing.

Into the frame in May came a serving police officer, DC Tom Kingston, from the elite South East Regional Crime Squad. At that time he was suspended, awaiting trial with other corrupt officers over the theft of 2kg of amphetamine powder from a drugs dealer. Later found guilty, he was sent to prison. On May 25, Kingston - given the river codename Ganges - was in Southern’s offices telling Rees about a Scotland Yard contact who was keeping “his eyes and ears open” for information. He says this officer could do vehicle checks for him on the Police National Computer (PNC).

In a telephone call on the same day to another detective agency run by a former police officer, Rees discusses newspaper editors wanting information to expose top people. During an incoming call, Rees discusses a story involving a major TV and radio personality.

The death of another TV presenter, Jill Dando, is discussed in a phone call on June 4. Rees says he knows how one paper is obtaining information about the police investigation into her murder, and explains that he is trying to do the same. “There’s big stories . . . nearly every day with good information on the Jill Dando murder. We found out one of our bestest friends is also on that fucking murder squad, but he ain’t told us nothing. We only found out yesterday after that torrent of abuse we initially gave him. He’s going to phone us today.”

On June 14, Rees tells a caller that he’s owed £12,000 by one tabloid, and more money by another. What he or Southern had provided to these newspapers is not made clear. In telephone conversations two days later Rees discusses delivering a bag containing a hidden camera to one tabloid, and in July he says he is also owed £12,000 by that paper.

Also in July, Rees took a phone call from Kingston during which the suspended officer passed on scandal allegations concerning a minor royal couple. The information had come from one of Kingston’s friends still serving in the Met. According to the CIB transcript of the conversation, Rees asks if the couple “are still living together and states that they are in debt a lot”. Immediately after the call ends, Rees phones a reporter and states that his source on the Noye story has come up with more information.

Two days later, Kingston was in the Southern offices, expressing great concern when told by Rees that a report given to a journalist had been lost. Rees explains that the reporter and his editor were so desperate to find the report that they spent an evening going through the editor’s house, garage and dustbins. Kingston responds: “Get me that one back. Get him to do what he's got to do. Otherwise we ain’t getting no more.”

Rees then tells the officer that he does vehicle checks for newspapers and demonstrates how his computer can do vehicle searches. He can obtain a vehicle’s details, value, insurance class, mileage as well as its VIN and chassis numbers. He says he has to be registered under the Data Protection Act, which costs him £400 a year and he also has to have a consumer credit licence. The transcript states: “Avon does a check on Ganges’ car - NOT 100Y - and gives the result that it is a cherished transfer, guide value £3,150, insurance group 15, and not on finance. If it was on finance it would give full details - agreement number, etc. . . Ganges says: “Fucking brilliant”.”

The pair then talk about how easy it would be with new computer equipment to reproduce a police warrant card. Kingston reveals he lent his warrant card to an ex-officer who was doing private inquiry work after being forced out of the police in 1997.

Later in July, Buckingham Palace is again mentioned by Rees to Kingston, who is in the Southern offices. It appears that an officer with the Diplomatic Protection Group is in trouble because he has been taking steroids. Rees is prepared to offer him work. Avon: “If your mate just gives us the bird he was shagging - was she a bird in Buckingham Palace?” Ganges: “Yeah, I’ll get a little bit more out of him.” Avon: “No, no, don’t ask him. If he just gives us her name or his name and then that’s all we need . . . Has the bloke been suspended?” Ganges: “No, he had his pink certificate (firearms authorisation) taken away.” Avon: “I thought he went sick.” Ganges: “I don't know. I shall find out more?” Avon: “Yeah, especially if he went sick, but especially shagging the women in there.” Ganges: “It doesn't make him a bad person.” Avon: “No, no. He’s a good man . . . He can join our gang any time.” According to the transcript, in a phone conversation a few days later, Rees tells the caller about the “super stud” police officer at Buckingham Palace and how he injects steroids. There is discussion about how much they will get for the story. On July 28, the story appeared in a tabloid.

There were more conversations picked up about the buying and selling of confidential information. CIB mounted a separate operation against two people alleged to be supplying Southern with illegally obtained banking information. The anti-corruption team were hopeful of being able to charge a reporter involved with the agency. “There will be a high level of media interest in this particular investigation, especially when involving journalists,” one report states. “The Metropolitan Police Service will undoubtedly benefit if a journalist is convicted of corrupting serving police officers. This will send a clear message to members of the media to consider their own ethical and illegal involvement with employees in the MPS in the future.”

But it was not to be. No journalist was charged over dealings with Southern Investigations. The bugging operation against the company was to end in September 1999 after anti-corruption officers finally obtained solid evidence of Rees’s serious criminality. He had become involved in a complicated plot with corrupt police to plant cocaine on an innocent woman, a former model, Kim James. The aim was to discredit her prior to divorce hearings, so she would lose custody of her baby to her husband, Simon James, a businessman.

James, 35, had asked Rees for help in getting evidence against his wife, who he alleged, incorrectly, was involved in drugs dealing. Rees agreed, but at their second meeting, the CIB tape records him telling James: “One of our surveillance team is a police motorcyclist on the drugs squad, and he works for us on the side. It’s a couple of years before he retires from the squad. He did a check on her, but there’s nothing on the files. She doesn't come up associated with any drugs dealers.”

Over the subsquent weeks, drugs were planted in Kim James’ car. Another serving detective constable, Austin Warnes, who had worked with Kingston on the regional crime squad, was involved in providing false information about Kim’s drugs activities. CIB officers listening in as the conspiracy developed realised that they would have to make arrests.

In September, the police moved in on the agency and some of its associates. Twelve suspects were arrested and 23 premises raided. Just over a year later, three men, Rees, DC Warnes and James were each given long prison sentences at the Old Bailey.

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