13 Jun 2011

Bribery at the heart of Megrahi's Lockerbie conviction?

While Libya continues to burn, an eerie silence has descended over the British media’s interest in reopening the uncertainties surrounding the Lockerbie bombing. The occasional defecting Libyan minister has pretended to hold previously untold secrets, but nothing has come of them.

It was left to Al Jazeera English to try to lance the boil last Thursday when the channel broadcast an explosive documentary on the subject. The programme makers had gained access to the unpublished report of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission into the case.

Even more importantly, they managed to see the notebooks and diaries of the Scottish and American investigators written at the time. These were also in the possession of the Review Commission.

In short, the diaries make a blistering allegation – that the central Maltese witness whose testimony was key to convicting Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – had been bribed. The diaries record the apparent “offer of inducements made to Tony Gauci”, the Maltese shopkeeper who identified clothes that were found in the suitcase that carried the bomb on the plane, as having been bought at his shop by al-Megrahi.

Tony Gauci’s brother, Paul, it is claimed, in the same diaries as having “a clear desire to gain financial benefit”. The Review Commissions’ own report states that after the trial Tony Gauci was paid $2 million, and that brother Paul got $1 million reward money.

If true, these would be completely dynamite revelations. Of course, they would have come out in the appeal that Megrahi’s release prevented happening. It is inconceivable that this Scottish Review Commission’s report would not have surfaced at such an appeal. Does this perhaps explain why he was eventually bundled so speedily out of the country?

But the other question remains… why was it left to Al Jazeera to make these allegations?

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25 reader comments

  1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    In short how do they prove bribery?

    Off to meeting where turning truths around and corruption may be the tabla rasa of the UK.

  2. Mudplugger says:

    Anyone reading Private Eye over the years on the Lockerbie fiasco/fraud will be well aware of why it was considered necessary to ‘engineer’ the urgent freedom of Al Magrahi – any formal appeal would have risked revealing the depth of multi-governmental deceit and spin.

    No doubt many of the current NATO air-strike targets will actually be locations of those who know the truth, thus explaining the cynical enthusiasm of our own leaders to be in the vanguard of the assault.

    Maybe one day soon they’ll find Gadaffi lying dead in a grassy field, having consumed innocuous drugs and slashed his bloodless wrists with a blunt knife………

    And meanwhile, Al Magrahi (the man with a 3-month terminal illness, two years ago) still draws breath every day.

  3. adrian clarke says:

    Undoubtably there was something wrong,but Al Jazeera???.It obviously was not from Wikileaks or it would have been in the Telegraph.
    I have many times proposed the easy remedy for such cases.
    Death for murder.I say death because these days there is no need for hanging.Perhaps we could forge a hand written note from all murderers requesting Euthanasia.A quick bullet to the head would be fine except Jon would create a series out of it alleging genocide.
    Perhaps cyanide in a last sumptious meal,or just an injection whilst strapped into a cardboard coffin.
    If we did away with the costs of looking after murderers we could afford to jail more crooks

    1. Jo says:

      “….or it would have been in the Telegraph.”

      Words fail me!

  4. bankieboy says:

    Sorry, but how can the allegation that Gauci was bribed be classed as a relevation when it has been in the public domain for years?
    The revelation is that a broadcaster in the UK like yourself might now begin to question Megrahi’s guilt.
    About time.

  5. Unclemash says:

    Form your blog I have the understand that the Government new about it but were part of the cover up. I will be surprised if the international community will stop funding Scottish project because of corruption.

  6. Tanya Spooner says:

    I was shocked to learn that the Scottish medical authorities had not treated Al Magrahi for his cancerous prostate, but claimed instead that it was untreatable. I heard an oncology consultant, on Radio 4, saying that this was “an old-fashioned approach” to the condition. He is being treated for his cancer in Libya and presumably that is why he is still alive. Since many people do not believe he was guilty of the crime for which he was fitted up, then I do not understand why so many people wish him dead. Even if he were guilty, which I find impossible to believe, it was shameful and inhumane not to treat him for the illness he was suffering.

  7. FredHead says:
    1. adrian clarke says:

      Fred , no one or less than 1% of the population read the Guardian

  8. BenSix says:

    Thanks for raising these points, John.

    Other case materials make for fascinating reading. Professors Tim Valentine and Steven Clarke, experts in the field of witness identification, analysed the process by which Gauci – tentatively – picked out Megrahi and said they were “unfair”, suggestive of “bias” and likely to create “a serious risk of a mistaken [ID]”. (They had, for example, used an old, grainy photo of the Libyan that, frankly, wasn’t a close resemblance.)

    Much of the evidence that Gauci offered also implied – as the SCCRC ruled – that he’d sold the clothes on the 23rd of November, when Megrahi was elsewhere. The Court’s decision to affix it to the 7th of December, then, seems to have been premised on no more than the Libyan’s presence in Malta at that date.

    To be clear, I’m not alleging that he wasn’t guilty. Hey, he might have been for all I know. But we do need an inquiry to (a) test the prosecution’s case (which, in 2001, at least, was flimsy) and (b) look at misconduct in the investigation.



  9. Calum Cashley says:

    It’s not new information, it’s at least three years old, US officials admitted the payments yonks ago.

    Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds did not prevent his appeal.

    He was taken straight to the airport as a security consideration.

  10. Rolfe says:

    The fact that the Gauci brothers received at least $3 million between them, with all the detail from Harry Bell’s diaries, has been in the public domain for nearly two years. It’s an open secret that has often been referred to. So why is this suddenly an “explosive revelation”? Oh yes, and that’s not even mentioning the rest of the scandalous problems with Megrahi’s conviction, like the circular reasoning, or the fact that there’s no evidence the bomb was ever anywhere near Malta and a lot of evidence it was introduced at Heathrow.

    Jon, have you been under a rock or something?

    The Aljazeera documentary was good, but it should have been made by the BBC or Channel 4, instead of these bodies constantly mouthing the mindless mantra that Megrahi is “the Lockerbie bomber”.

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      I agree in the main with you but circumstantial evidence is not proof, although I am sure you have researched and taken heed of events and are therefore in a better position to judge.

      I take from my experiences where corruption and big business turn the truth around with support from the money makers.

      We also could assume that Jon was taking time back to see if there was an alternative slant on the bombings , with our responses playing a part.I suppose that is what they call investigative journalism.

  11. CWH says:

    “”Of course, they would have come out in the appeal that Megrahi’s release prevented happening.””

    No it did not prevent it happening. Megrahi could still have continued with his apeal. IF, however, he had been released under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement as Tony Blair and Labour wanted then he would have had to drop his appeal because prisoners canot be transferred under a PTA if they are involved in any ongoing legal proceedings.

    The news about the bribe is not new and has been written about in various places if you had been paying attention. It was also mentioned round aboutthe time of Megrahi’s release.

    As to Megrahi dying within 3-months, the Scottish Justice Secretary said in his statement about the release that Megrah might die within 3 months OR might live for longer. It was never said that he would definitely die within 3 months.

  12. Matt Berkley says:

    Did delay plus lack of information stop appeal?

    I am a “Lockerbie relative” who was surprised at the meeting on 1 July 2009 that Mr MacAskill seemed bizarrely relaxed about getting on with the job. Following a call to his adviser Dr Burgess, I warned him by email and in person of the risk that delay without information might induce Mr Megrahi to drop the appeal in vain.


    With the ever-present temptation on Mr Megrahi to drop the appeal in hope of transfer, how was it proper for Mr MacAskill to:

    – wait till day 48 to begin confirming a UK government view on commitment to detention in Scotland,

    – keep confirming until day 90,

    – delay till day 92 for a prison visit,

    – delay further even when Mr MacAskill knew the prisoner had set an appointment to drop his appeal,

    all for a prisoner who was ineligible anyway because of the appeals, in addition to the problem about the UK commitment?

    In September 2009 I collated information about delay and partial information to the prisoner from the Scottish Government documents:


  13. Rolfe says:

    What is wrong with the press in this country anyway? Three years ago the flaws in Megrahi’s conviction were all over the news, as his appeal was coming to court. None of that changed just because he had his arm twisted to drop the appeal.

    But now, all we hear is “the Lockerbie bomber” this, and “the Lockerbie bomber” that. And speculation about whether Gaddafi ordered him to do it. For God’s sake, IF he had done it, of COURSE it would have been by Gaddafi’s orders, what is wrong with you people? The real story is that HE DIDN’T DO IT! (Sorry, BenSix, but unless you can place him at Heathrow that afternoon, he didn’t – and we know he was in Tripoli.)

    A journalist interested in this subject said to me recently that he was having enormous difficulty placing any story about Megrahi’s miscarriage of justice in any mainstream press outlet. Nobody wants to know. And now Jon Snow thinks this old news is an “explosive revelation”.

    What is wrong with you people?

    1. Jo says:

      Well said Rolfe. And to the person who calls Jon’s approach here “investigative” journalism I would say the word investigative has been sadly lacking in the UK press and media approach to the Lockerbie and the evidence already in the public domain that Megrahi’s conviction was unsound. The SCCRC found SIX grounds to suggest a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. Then came the FACTS, not a “circumstantial” one among them, that the Gaucis had been bribed by the US and there had been a break-in at Heathrow on the very morning of the day Pan-Am 103 went down. If political and judicial establishments have obstructed the course of justice here the UK media has helped them all the way.

  14. Charles Norrie says:

    The Americans, (the CIA and FBI) purchased the verdict they wanted. After all, they can’t really do the truth which is that the destruction of Pan Am 103 was the agreed revenge between the two countries for the deliberate shooting down of IR655, the Iranian Airbus. Vincent Cannistraro who had been head of Iran-contra immediately switched sides when VP Bush seized power in 1987 when Reagan went gaga. VC believed one Ahmad Beladi Behbehani was on IR655 and he had been the Iranian gofer in Iran-contra. However the CIA’s intelligence was faulty (or the Iranians had pulled a fast one) and the wrong Behbehani family (same spelling of the same fairly rare name) was killed, and one three year old girl’s body of Leila Behbehani produced for the world’s media, who did not pick it up. (The story emerged in November 2010 when one Lara Marlowe produced a book of her collected foreign correspondent’s dispatches). Subsequently the CIA tried to change the record by altering her book. Hint to the CIA. That sort of crude editing does not work!

    Charles Norrie

  15. Noel Bell says:

    dynamite is not the word :)

  16. Robert Forrester says:

    I entirely agree with Rolfe’s comments. The UK press and broadcast media should be hanging their heads in shame over the coverage they have given and continue to give over Lockerbie/Zeist. Gideon Levy’s prize winning ‘Lockerbie Revisited’ has never been broadcast in the UK and now we are depending on Al Jazeera to set the record straight. Meanwhile, Scotland’s Lord Advocate seems to have little difficulty in bending the media’s ear to his increasingly desperate sound-bites over putting Gaddafi on trial for Lockerbie and retrying Mr Fhimah under Scotland’s new Double Jeopardy legislation (one of the many new disturbing and draconian laws to have been passed over the last year by Holyrood). Mr Fhimah was acquitted at Zeist and the SCCRC regard the safety of Mr al-Megrahi’s conviction with such concern that it referred the case back to the Court of Appeal on six grounds. Justice campaigners are currently engaged at committee level with the Scottish Parliament in an attempt to have an independent inquiry opened into this shameful saga, with minimal coverage in the media. The Al Jazeera documentary did a fine job, however, those who think these are new revelations have been asleep.

    1. Robert Forrester says:

      Curious. I am unaware that my comment had been sufficiently immoderate to warrant this delay.

  17. Jo says:

    Why is it that every documentary made about Lockerbie has been made by foreigners? Why does no broadcaster here want to expose the lies peddled by governments, by the Scottish Judiciary, by the US Security Services and their counterparts in the UK? Nearly THREE HUNDRED PEOPLE DIED! The biggest atrocity ever in the UK in peace time, and our media ignores evidence that has been in the public domain for four years now, plus more since, that the guy we convicted almost certainly didn’t do it??????

  18. Kes says:

    I would echo Mudplugger’s comment. Private Eye produced an excellent piece of investigative journalism on the Lockerbie bombing years ago. This is not news.

    Incidentally, Private eye also did a superb job on the Deepcut “suicides”, which has been similarly swept under a pile of carpets.

  19. Charles Norrie says:

    I don’t think your comment has been sufficiently immoderate, Robert.

  20. Matt Berkley says:

    Dear Mr Snow,

    Thank you for your interest and your questions.

    The words,

    “shopkeeper who identified clothes…as having been bought…by al-Megrahi”

    may need nuance, and you or your colleagues may like to know why. The trial judges quoted Mr Gauci:


    “He would perhaps have to look about 10 years or more older…of all the photographs I have been shown, this…is the only one really similar…if he was a bit older, other than the one my brother showed me” (1991, paragraph 62);

    “Not exactly the man I saw in the shop…the man who look a little bit like exactly is the number 5” (1999, paragraph 55);

    “He is the man on this side. He resembles him a lot” (2000, paragraph 55).

    For the “not absolute” identification, and contrary evidence on rain, age, height, and skin colour, perhaps paragraphs 55-7, 62-9, 88 and 89; for lack of evidence on method, 38-9 and 82; for a suitcase coincidence at Heathrow, 23-5.

    The comment above (13 June 8.35pm, delayed by moderation) related to your question,

    “Does [the prospect of evidence at the appeal] perhaps explain why he was eventually bundled so speedily out of the country?”.

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