26 Mar, 2024 @ 17:30
3 mins read

Gibraltar government is rushing through new bill with ‘sole purpose’ of imposing banning order, claims lawyer in corruption inquiry

A LAWYER in the upcoming McGrail inquiry has accused the Gibraltar government of having a restriction order ‘ready to go’ as soon as new legislation is passed.

Adam Wagner, representing former Police Commissioner Ian McGrail in the investigation into the government’s conduct, called this the ‘sole or major purpose’ of rushing the legislation through two weeks before the inquiry began.

The new Inquiries Bill, which is set to be passed into law this week, will ‘modernise and align Gibraltar law with UK law’, according to the government.

However, critics argue it will give the government greater powers into the much-delayed investigation into whether Chief Minister Fabian Picardo placed inappropriate pressure on McGrail, 58, or interfered in police investigations before the latter’s shock retirement in June 2020.

Lawyers for McGrail have alleged that he was forced to resign over ‘corruption at the highest levels of government.’

Fabian Picardo Gib
Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo is preparing to face an independent public inquiry that will seek to investigate the circumstances surrounding the June 2020 retirement of former Police Commissioner Ian McGrail

Wagner said that in his career he had ‘never seen anything like’ what the government was doing with the new Inquiries bill.

“A government, which is a core participant to an inquiry, changing the law to give itself more powers in the Inquiry very shortly before the final hearings,” he wrote on X.

He added that, despite various boasts about the new bill, the government had not ‘identified any actual benefits to the Inquiry.’

“It now appears almost certain that the sole or major purpose of this legislation is for the government to impose a ‘restriction order’ on the inquiry,” he continued in a detailed critique of the government’s position.

The new law grants Picardo the power to restrict what evidence is made public – currently only exercised by the inquiry chair, retired British judge Sir Peter Openshaw. 

“The Commissioner (Sir Peter Openshaw) was not consulted, has not asked for any substantive new powers, and indeed will not obtain any,” Wagner said.

“The only party who will gain any new powers from the legislation is the government.”

In effect, Wagner argued, the Chief Minister was saying ‘trust me bro’ when it came to being able to separate the public interest from his private interest as a Core Participant into an inquiry into whether his conduct was corrupt.

“The ‘trust us’ part of the debate is unreal because the government surely has a restriction order ready to go but hasn’t revealed it,” the barrister summarised. 

“If this is right, it undermines the debate over the bill itself, as Parliament is being kept in the dark.”

Barrister Adam Wagner, who will be representing Ian McGrail

The government has argued that the final decision on what information is made public rests with Supreme Court judges.

In a statement to the Olive Press, the Gibraltar government said it had been ‘clear that the legislative changes proposed ensure that our independent judges will have the final say on disclosures from public inquiries.’ 

“In this we are simply following the law in England and Wales. 

“The Government will also continue to cooperate fully with the Inquiry and will set out all relevant evidence and facts before the Inquiry.

But Wagner was sceptical of this argument, claiming that judicial reviews would ‘significantly delay’ the already-delayed inquiry.

The manoeuvring and broadsides underline what is at stake in the upcoming inquiry, which starts on April 8.

While the government has been keen to stress that it will find that Picardo ‘acted correctly at all times’, were it to find differently it could ‘place Gibraltar’s very future at stake.’

“If the picture that emerges is of a corrupt government that is complicit with organised crime, it becomes harder to sustain the case that such a rogue territory should be permanently attached to the UK,” writes Richard Messick of the Global Anti-Corruption Blog.  

“Spain – supported by its EU partners – hovers in the background for such a moment.”

While the matter of the British military base in Gibraltar might motivate London to hold on to the peninsula, it would likely conclude that the Rock could not be trusted to govern itself.

READ MORE:

Snow and rain coming to parts of Spain this week: South will remain dry and mild
Previous Story

Storm Nelson arrives to Spain: Rain, strong winds and rough seas predicted for much of the country

Next Story

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Wanted accomplice’ and friend of Christian Brueckner speaks out: “He’s a monster and I’m sure he knows what happened to Madeleine McCann”

Latest from Gibraltar

Go toTop

More From The Olive Press