10 Apr, 2024 @ 17:53
3 mins read

MCGRAIL INQUIRY: The ‘triple conflicted’ Chief Minister Fabian Picardo forced police boss out of his job ‘to protect the most powerful lawyer in Gibraltar’ 

GIBRALTAR’S Chief Minister plotted with the lawyer of a suspected criminal to have the Rock’s police commissioner fired, it was heard today.

It is alleged that ‘triple-conflicted’ Fabian Picardo was the key ‘decision maker’ who was ‘pulling the strings’ to force Iain McGrail out of his job.

Indeed ‘all hell broke loose’ on the day the police chief dared to order a search at the home of one of Picardo’s close friends.

On day three of the inquiry, McGrail’s lawyers argued getting to the bottom of a search warrant against the boss of leading law firm Hassans was the key to the case.

They insisted that from the moment the warrant at James Levy’s home was issued on May 12, 2020, the clock was ticking.

They claim the next 28 days up to his early retirement on June 9 is the critical time period.

Former Police Commissioner Ian McGrail (far right( arrives at the hearing accompanied by his legal team of Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC (far left), Adam Wagner KC (centre right), and Charles Gomez (centre left). CREDIT WALTER FINCH

READ MORE: Day one of Gibraltar’s corruption inquiry into the retirement of police chief Ian McGrail: Search warrant against high-ranking legal…

According to Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, the government’s official reasons for McGrail’s retirement were a clear ‘smokescreen’.

She insisted it was to protect Picardo’s former boss – the most powerful lawyer in Gibraltar – from a criminal investigation called Operation Delhi.

“No matter where you look in this inquiry, this is always an object of great mass that has a relentless gravitational pull,” Gallagher told the inquiry chair, Sir Peter Openshaw.

“That massive object is the warrant against Levy, which the RGP (Royal Gibraltar Police) attempted to execute on the 12th of May, at which point, to put it frankly, all hell broke loose.”

She added: “When you see that massive object, it’s impossible to unsee it.”

Operation Delhi was investigating an alleged fraud involving a contract for a computer system that monitored the Gibraltar border with Spain.

The RGP believed Levy was involved in a scheme to illegally award the contract – worth €840,000 a year – to a firm that his firm Hassans held a 33% stake in.

In addition, Levy personally owned 10% of the firm while the Chief Minister had 3%, it was alleged.

The government’s legal team, headed up buy former Chief Minister Sir Peter Caruana KC, arrive at the Garrison Library in Gibraltar. CREDIT WALTER FINCH

READ MORE: Spain and the UK ‘are days away’ from signing a post-Brexit Gibraltar deal as negotiations enter ‘sensitive phase’, claim..

This however, had nothing to do with reasons that led to Picardo and Interim Governor Nick Pyle ‘losing confidence’ in McGrail.

They told the inquiry they had a list of ‘issues’ including allegations that McGrail lied about whether he sought legal advice before sending his officers to search Levy’s home and confiscate his devices.

Picardo however admitted he had on ‘on a very large number of occasions’ communicated with Levy about him being ‘a person of interest’ in Operation Delhi in text messages between the pair.

Unlike virtually all other communications between key players in the Inquiry, these have – so far – failed to be handed over.

Gallagher likened the missing communications to the famous Sherlock Holmes story ‘The dog that did not bark’, in which the lack of evidence was the vital clue to solve the mystery. 

But other communications between Picardo and Levy’s lawyer, Lewis Baglietto KC – a close friend of Picardo – have come to light showing them discussing ‘disciplinary options’ against McGrail after the search on May 12. 

McGrail’s lawyers argued that these messages – and others – show that Picardo was clearly motivated to remove McGrail over the search and not the stated reasons.

Sir Peter Caruana KC, representing the government, hit back, asserting that McGrail only took early retirement because he was afraid of losing his pension if he was fired.

Picardo was not a ‘puppet master’ driving decisions alone, he said, but he, the Governor and the Gibraltar Police Association – who had the ultimate power to remove McGrail – had all independently concluded he had to go.

Their reasons included a number of incidents that they believed McGrail had handled poorly, including the deaths of two alleged smugglers in a collision with a RGP vessel in Spanish waters in 2020.

The Inquiry continues.

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]

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