4 Apr, 2024 @ 15:15
3 mins read

Gibraltar holds its breath as the McGrail corruption inquiry finally gets underway next week – with the eyes of the world watching

AMID a swirl of accusations and recriminations that have seen the Rock likened to a ‘banana republic’, the long-awaited McGrail Inquiry is finally set to go ahead next week.

The public hearings will investigate the circumstances surrounding the resignation of former Gibraltar Police Commissioner Iain McGrail in June 2020.

Lawyers acting for the former police chief have accused Chief Minister Fabian Picardo of interfering in a police investigation into his old boss at the law firm where he worked for 20 years.

The high-stakes inquiry has the Rock increasingly on tenterhooks, as the eyes of the world start to take notice of what is going on on the tiny peninsula.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo will give evidence to the McGrail Inquiry into whether he forced the police commissioner to resign

Even the Times of London, following on from what the Olive Press has been reporting since the furore first broke out four years ago, dispatched their Chief Reporter to Gibraltar.

Meanwhile, Rory Stewart tackled the topic on the Rest is Politics podcast, observing that Gibraltar is ‘tiny beyond imagining, where everybody knows each other.’

Global attention is starting to focus on the path that has brought the participants to the eve of the Inquiry, which has been fraught with threats, delays and controversies.

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

Among them are allegations of evidence fabrication, witness inducements, and, most recently, rushed through legislation that grants the government – a ‘core participant’ – increased control over the inquiry. 

Adam Wagner, a barrister representing McGrail, accused the government of having an order to restrict evidence from the public ‘ready to go’ when the new bill is passed.

He called it the ‘sole or major purpose’ of using emergency powers to pass the bill just days before the inquiry begins.

The government argues the new Inquiries Bill will ‘modernise and align Gibraltar law with UK law’, giving the upcoming inquiry the best possible platform to succeed.

Opposition leader Keith Azopardi had arranged a meeting with Governor Vice Admiral Sir David Steel last Thursday – the day the bill was due to be passed – to highlight the ‘conflict of interest’ it entailed.

Ian Mcgrail Rgp
Former Police Commissioner Ian McGrail is set to get his day in court over allegations the Chief Minister forced him to resign at the age of 56

READ MORE: OPINION: Are the games finally over? Gibraltar’s McGrail corruption inquiry set to go ahead next month after two years…

The GSD leader described it as an ‘ugly power grab’ designed merely to give the government – and therefore Picardo himself – powers to ‘sidestep’ the Inquiry chairman, Sir Peter Openshaw.

However, in a back-and-forth slanging match, Picardo slammed Azopardi as being ‘disloyal’.

He accused his opposition counterpart of seeking to quash Gibraltar’s constitutional democracy and re-impose direct rule from London in order to stop the bill passing.

“Mr Azopardi will go down in history as a Leader of the Opposition who put his own party and political interests ahead of the public interest in seeking Direct Rule, in a manner that would have reversed 50 years of constitutional development in Gibraltar,” the Chief Minister stormed.

Azopardi angrily hit back, dismissing the allegations as ‘pure invention and misinformation.’

“This is just a desperate Chief Minister who doesn’t know what to do to distract from the festering conflicts of interest he is immersed in. 

Opposition leader Keith Azopardi, who has launched furious attacks on the government’s legislation

“He doesn’t know how to get out of all this or how to distract people from the real issues.”

Despite helming the Gibraltar government for four consecutive terms since 2012, Picardo remains a partner at the prestigious law firm Hassans.

There he worked under senior partner James Levy, who Picardo’s lawyers have described as his ‘friend, colleague and mentor.’ 

McGrail’s lawyers allege that Picardo called him into a meeting with the Attorney General Michael Llamas to rage at him in May 2020.

The cause of his wrath stemmed from the police chief sending his officers to carry out a search of Levy’s offices and home as part of a criminal investigation. 

Operation Delhi was looking into the alleged awarding of a government security contract to a company partially owned by the partners of Hassans – including Picardo and Levy.

The allegations conclude that Picardo forced McGrail’s resignation in June 2020 in order to protect himself and Levy, among other suspects, from the investigation.

Lawyers for the Government have strongly refuted this version of events, insisting that it had made it clear in writing the contract would not be awarded to a company partners from Hassans had an interest in.

The government has stressed that it was Picardo himself who initiated the McGrail Inquiry, while Levy was never charged and the investigation discontinued in January 2022.

Walter Finch

Walter - or Walt to most people - is a former and sometimes still photographer and filmmaker who likes to dig under the surface.
A NCTJ-trained journalist, he came to the Costa del Sol - Gibraltar hotspot from the Daily Mail in 2022 to report on organised crime, corruption, financial fraud and a little bit of whatever is going on.
Got a story? [email protected]
@waltfinc

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