17 Apr, 2024 @ 18:34
2 mins read

MCGRAIL INQUIRY: Gibraltar’s ‘most powerful lawyer’ finally takes to the stand as Hassans senior partner dodges questions on missing messages and casts doubt on police investigation 

HASSANS senior partner James Levy finally gave evidence in the McGrail inquiry today.

The King’s Counsel went toe-to-toe with fellow heavy-weight Patrick Gibbs, the high-profile barrister who got actor Kevin Spacey off his sexual assault charges in a London last year. 

Gibbs quizzed the witness relentlessly on the missing Whatsapp messages between himself, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Attorney General Michael Llamas before and after May 12, 2020.

This was the date that the Royal Gibraltar Police attempted to execute a search warrant on Levy, which ultimately resulted in the Commissioner of Police Ian McGrail’s early retirement four weeks later.

READ MORE: MCGRAIL INQUIRY: Who is Gibraltar’s ‘grey man in the shadows’? Testimony from lead detective sheds further light on events leading up to police chief’s sudden retirement

Levy told the inquiry that his phone with the sought-after messages had ‘collapsed’ and his technical specialists had been unable to recover them.

It is believed that the missing messages might help reveal whether or not Levy unduly influenced Picardo – a close friend – to interfere in a police investigation.

Levy admitted that he called Picardo in the moments after the police had appeared at the Hassans offices with a search warrant.

“I rang the Chief Minister to tell him that I was on my way to the office to deal with a warrant, but it was a two-minute – or less – conversation,” he said.

He clarified that he went on to call ‘a few friends, because I was very shocked.’ 

But explained that he called the Chief Minister ‘as a friend’, adding ‘I didn’t expect anything to happen.’ 

“I was very distraught but I know how to get hold of myself. I wanted [Picardo] to do nothing.”

Levy then admitted that he met with Picardo and Lewis Baglietto, his own lawyer – and another close friend of Picardo – in the Chief Minister’s residence five days later.

While Levy alleges that he ‘voiced my views about the way I had been treated’, he claimed the trio did not discuss the issue of the search warrant or cross any ‘red lines.’

“Frankly, I had enough experience, having been the partner of a Chief Minister for 16 years, and acted for another for eight years, to  know what the red lines are.

When quizzed on what the red lines are, Levy responded: “To be careful not to ask for any information which is not publicly available.” 

READ MORE: Spain and the UK agree ‘general political lines’ on post-Brexit deal over Gibraltar

When asked if his text to the Attorney General the day after the search claiming he had been ‘hung out to dry’ referred to an expectation of being protected, he replied ‘not at all.’

“I had the expectation of being dealt with fairly by the police, which I wasn’t.”

“Are you the most powerful lawyer in Gibraltar?” Gibbs asked him.

“Certainly not,” he replied. “I am the senior partner at the largest law firm, that’s correct, but that doesn’t mean I’m the most powerful lawyer in Gibraltar.”

“Do you consider yourself to be above the law?” Gibbs pressed.

“Certainly not, and I don’t see how you can suggest that,” Levy bristled.

“Do other lawyers have more political power than you?” Gibbs wore on.

“Certainly,” Levy parried. “But I’m not going to name them.”

Levy then categorically repeated on a number of occasions that the police investigation was ‘fundamentally flawed, primarily because it was not led by the police.’

He added: “I hope to show how fundamentally flawed it is.”

More to follow...

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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