British police have been called in to investigate a data breach as part of a public inquiry into allegations of corruption at the top of Gibraltar’s government.
The development is the latest twist in the inquiry, which is to hear explosive allegations from former British Overseas Territory Police chief Ian McGrail.
He claims he was forced into early retirement after trying to execute a search warrant against someone who had a close relationship with Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.
The Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) have already arrested two people in connection with the alleged data breach but, with the ex-force commissioner at the heart of the investigation, they have asked their British counterparts for support in the interest of “transparency”.
A RGP spokesperson said: “The criminal investigation into the alleged data breach is continuing. Following our request to the UK National Police Co-ordination Center for Mutual Assistance, a senior investigator from the Northern Ireland Police Service has been notified and provided with all necessary documents to enable them to carry out the investigation.
The alleged breach of inquest documents is considered a matter of “the highest gravity and urgency” and has led to the postponement of the inquest’s main hearing, which was due to take place in March.
Even before the breach, piracy was already an issue that the investigation had to deal with. The search warrant under review related to the alleged hacking and sabotage of the National Security Centralized Intelligence System (NSCIS) and a conspiracy to defraud Bland Ltd, the private company that operated the system, for the benefit of another company, 36 North Limited.
Picardo, a solicitor to the king, was co-owner of 36 North Limited, which also entered into security contracts with the government. McGrail’s statement of facts to the inquiry says the Chief Minister “therefore also stood to gain financially from the alleged fraud”.
In January, Gibraltar’s Attorney General issued a decision not to prosecute three men, including one of the territory’s top civil servants, who were charged with conspiracy to defraud Bland.
The government’s statement of facts to the inquest says Picardo’s intervention regarding the alleged fraud was “to ensure that those who might have wished to benefit from it did not, ensuring that the NCIS contract remained with the holder, Bland and only with them (sic)”.
It further indicates that McGrail chose to retire because he knew he had lost the trust of the governor – not Picardo – for reasons unrelated to the investigation into the fraud, known as the Delhi operation.
Those reasons, which predate Operation Delhi, are believed to include its handling of previous investigations and its “fractured and almost hostile relationship” with the Gibraltar Police Federation, which represents officers in the territory.
The draft list of survey questions includes all of these questions.
With regard to the fraud investigation, he sets out the following question: “Does the MA [attorney general] and/or CM [chief minister] put inappropriate pressure on Mr. McGrail regarding the investigation or otherwise interfere with the investigation, and in particular the decision to execute the search warrants? »
The government parties are represented by Sir Peter Caruana KC, himself a former Chief Minister of Gibraltar. McGrail is represented by well-known human rights lawyers Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC and Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers in London.
Gallagher represented the family of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia at the public inquiry into her murder, which concluded last year that the State of Malta was guilty.
The inquiry, chaired by former UK High Court judge Peter Openshaw, who presided over the trial of the police chief responsible for the Hillsborough disaster, commissioned a report from an expert computer forensics/cybersecurity firm on the nature and extent of the alleged data. violation, which should be completed in the new year.
The outcome of the investigation is likely to have a significant impact on Gibraltar’s reputation, which is already tarnished. In June, it was added to the global money laundering watchdog’s list of “jurisdictions with heightened scrutiny” and “strategic gaps”.