July 19 2010
last update 27 September (see bottom)
The primary witness that mattered in convicting Abdelbaset al Megrahi for the Lockerbie bombing was, of course, Maltese shopkeeper Anthony "Tony" Gauci. Gauci provided the only link between al Megrahi and the primary suitcase, "identifying" the Libyan as the purchaser of clothes ruled to be inside when the bomb went off. Gauci's evidence and its reliability has come under withering critique from different quarters, and among the more repeated charges in recent years is that Tony was paid - and more importantly offered in advance - $2 million by U.S. authorities for delivering his testimony. The earliest reference I can find is from The Guardian, October 3, 2007:
"The key prosecution witness in the Lockerbie bombing trial was allegedly offered a $2m reward in return for giving evidence, raising fresh doubts about the safety of the case." [source]This was referring to documents held by Megrahi’s leagal team, first uncovered by the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission in its four year investigation. In the end they found six grounds of possible miscarriage of justice to refer the case back for appeal. Four of these were publicized, all dealing with aspects of Gauci's evidence, and two remain secret to this day. The SCCRC's public announcement (PDF) of June 2007 in itself makes no mention of reward concerns, but that might have been one of its secret points. However well-supported, the story was widely repeated in credible reports as an explosive allegation.
Consider this audio discussion from September 7 2009, between Scotish politician/activist George Galloway and Frank Duggan, president of the US families group Victims of Pan Am 103 Inc. Not himself a family member of a PA103 victim, Duggan was a political appointee to liase with them from 1989 on. He wasn't able to cite the number of families he represented in 2009, but was quite clear in stating their unanimity about Megrahi's guilt among that unknown number. "There’s no difference of opinion as to the guilt of Mr. Megrahi."
On Tony Gauci, Duggan said “I don’t know anything about the man. I think he’s an honorable guy just trying to do what he thinks is right,” but admits “I’m not that familiar with what he said.” He also said “Dr. Swire doesn’t believe him and I’m sorry about that, but everyone else seems to believe him who’s looked at this case,” notably the "eight judges" that reviewed the case at trial and appeal. Indeed, they accepted what Gauci said, aside from small details like the buyer’s build and height, his age, and the date of purchase. (see first link).
Duggan correctly notes that Gauci’s "inconsistencies" are the subject of the SCCRC’s publicized grounds of appeal, while incorrectly citing “three or four” grounds total. He chalks up their quibbles to "natural" variation from one interview to the next, while admittedly not knowing what was said. And he misunderstands how many interviews were really done with Tony by the same Scots-Maltese team – at least 23, only indicating Megrahi near the end. Duggan seems to feel each nation was only allowed one interview, and 19 involved nations made 19 interviews.
When Mr. Galloway asked the simple question “why did the US government pay him several million dollars?” Duggan about snapped.
“They never did. Who said that? Dr.Swire? Let me tell you one thing. And forgive me if I raise my voice, ‘cause I really get angry. We keep hearing about witnesses being bribed, witnesses who have new evidence, all sorts of things that are just not true. Who said we paid the man two million dollars? It’s preposterous."
Galloway: “it’s a matter of public record … it’s a commonplace.”
Duggan: “No it’s not. No - it’s - not. … Who said that? Who said that? Who said that? … That’s not so. That’s - not - so.”
Sorry, Frank. I noticed that George said "several million,"and you said "two million," so I know you've heard this before. And yet all you can do in return is call it "preposterous" to pay this witness $2 million. And you’d likely find it crazier yet to pay his brother - who wasn’t even a witness - another $1 million. It would be highly troubling, wouldn’t it? And it happened. Galloway didn't know who to cite, but the SCCRC and Scottish police and US DoJ personnel say so. The two brothers also reportedly moved to Australia in a witness protection plan. That's an aside for the moment, but it gives an idea of the scope of this.
These People Say.
It wasn't until about two weeks after this interview that further support of the two-year old charge became available. After Megrahi’s mysterious release and abandonment of his appeal, he controversially published this information on a website in mid-September. The Grounds of Appeal cite the SCCRC’s findings, based on documents they looked at. The appeal had stuck to the Gauci issue by and large as referred, and it seems the pay-out was one of their areas of great interest:
There is significant evidence regarding the credibility of the witness Tony Gauci in respect of his having a financial interest in, and his having received substantial monetary payment for giving evidence. This interest and payment was not disclosed at trial and the various documents which indicate same were not disclosed at trial.Following are some of the source materials they called on to make these startling (to some) conclusions. This list is more than most people will need.
The SCCRC has recovered undisclosed material which indicates that:
(a) The witness Tony Gauci had, at an early stage, expressed an interest in receiving payment or compensation for his co-operation in giving evidence, and that this interest persisted until after the trial
(b) that the witness Paul Gauci had " a clear desire to gain financial benefit" from his and his brothers co-operation and that Paul Gauci exercised considerable influence over his brother
(c) that the U.S. authorities offered to make substantial payments to the witness Tony Gauci from an early stage
(d) that an application for reward monies was made on behalf of the SIO of the investigation team of the Scottish police to the U.S. Department of Justice, after the trial, and that substantial payments were received by both Tony (in excess of $2m) and Paul Gauci (in excess of $1m) after the appeal.
Extract from DCI Bell Diary (HOLMES version) (28/9/1989) [SCCRC Appendix: chapter 23/3] which indicates that on 28th September 1989 the FBI discussed with the Scottish Police an offer of unlimited money to Tony Gauci, with $10,000 being available immediately. Thereafter there is a comment about challenging Murray as to what he thought Gauci could give in return that he was not already giving.They had only been speaking with him since September 1, and before the month was out they were discussing money for different/better information. The next is from February 21 1991, six days after Tony had first pointed to a photo of Megrahi and said he was similar to the buyer, but younger.
Memo from DCI Bell to DSIO Gilchrist (21/2/91) [SCCRC Appendix: chapterIt was clearly a service they were grateful for, and the endless visits likely petered off once they had an "ID" that fit with the other new clues. By the end of 1991, a US Grand Jury had looked at the screened evidence of Gauci, Libyan defector Abdul Majid Giaka, and various other circumstantial clues. The result was the indictment of Megrahi and his "accomplice" Fhimah on 14 November, a major goal of U.S foreign policy that would be leveraged into a massive embargo of Libya. The Gaucis thought they deserved something for their important part in that. From DCI Harry Bell's diary, January 8 1992:
23/1] which states that Tony Gauci had expressed an interest in receiving money in recent meetings and that "if a monetary offer was made to Gauci this may well change his view and allow him to consider a witness protection programme as a serious avenue"
“The manuscript version states "Bhiel states DOJ(Department of Justice) will give Magid [Abdul Majid Giaka] $2 million dollars. Advised of our concern." The dictated version has the same first sentence but continues "He was immediately advised of our concern regarding this. I also clarified with him about the Gauci reward and the response was only if he gave evidence." (This last comment is also unredacted in more recently disclosed manuscript version)So as far back as January 1992 the standard $2 million amount was given to liar for hire Giaka, and also for Tony, but only in the future, after some possible, far-off trial. They already had all they needed at the moment, having secured the indictments.
The trial wasn't supposed to happen, but somehow the US was presuaded to agree to a third-couuntry compromise in 1998, and the two accused were flown to the Netherlands and turned themselves in as prisoners awaiting trial. In the run-up to his testimony at Camp Zeist, Tony had concerns, capture in a Strathclyde Police Witness Protection Report of June 10, 1999, which had addressed:
(a) the frustration of Tony Gauci that he will not be compensated
(b) that in respect of Paul Gauci "It is apparent from speaking to him for any length of time that he has a clear desire to gain financial benefit from the position he and his brother are in relative to the case. As a consequence he exaggerates his own importance as a witness and clearly inflates the fears he and his brother have. He is anxious to establish what advantage he can gain from the Scottish police. Although demanding, Paul Gauci remains an asset to the case but will continue to explore any means he can to identify where financial advantage cane be gained."
(c) that the Gauci family had financial problems
Yet his Crown Precognitions of March 18 and August 25 1999 were clear "that Tony Gauci has never at any stage sought to benefit but that Paul Gauci whilst not "openly" seeking a reward has been "more alive to the possibility of receiving substantive assistance" SIO Henderson wrote to Maltese police security branch in August 1999 to say that Paul & Tony had been accepted onto the witness protection program, and have “expressed some dissatisfaction at the Scottish response to their particular circumstances”.
Then the trial, Tony's disastrous testimony, the judges' mysterious acceptance of the Crown reading of it, and the surprise conviction of Megrahi at the end of January 2001. Another piece can be seen in a letter of 1 February from SIO McCulloch to PF Brisbane. On the day after the guilty verdict, he was double-checking with the Crown before applying for the Gaucis' reward money. An enclosed report from McCulloch gave the reasons it should go ahead:
(a) " the issue of financial remuneration has not been discussed in detail with the witnesses and no promises exist"The final justification accompanying payment (date redacted, unknown) the reasons for approving were about the same. Here Paul's role and reward were again affirmed.
(b) " It is considered that the witnesses may harbour some expectation of their situation being recognised, however whilst proceedings are still 'live' they displayed a clear understanding that such matters could not be explored"
(c) " The conduct of the Gauci brothers reflects both their own integrity and their response to the manner with which the police have dealt with them. It is therefore vital that they continue to perceive that their position is recognised and they continue to receive the respect that their conduct has earned."
“In relation to Paul Gauci, it was a decision of the Crown not to call him to
give evidence and agree a joint minute for elements of his evidence. His evidence was important as it related to the identification of the clothing. However, it should never be overlooked that his major contribution has been maintaining the resolve of his brother. Although younger, Paul has taken on the role of his father (died 7 years ago) with regard to family affairs. His influence over Anthony has been considerable (It is considered critical that the contribution of Paul is recognised in order to preserve their relationship and prevent any difficulties arising in the future).”
How much resolve does it take to simply recall what happened and describe it to the police? How many meeting and how many years should it take? It took a team effort deemed to be worth at least three million. In fact, the authorities were never averse to paying the Gaucis whatever they wanted - they only afraid of being seen doing it. And Paul clearly did more than help his brother's mood, judging by how Tony works on his own (trial testimony):
Yes, [the police] came a lot of times. They used to come quite often, didn't they. […] I don't know exactly when they used to come, but I did not take notes when they used to come. But they used to come quite often to see me. They used to come and ask questions, and they used to take me to the depot and things like that.
Yes, yes, and the ice cream. I'm sure he loved that. But he knows money too, and he still wasn't getting it after the conviction. There was an appeal to be heard first. After this was dismissed for its own complex reasons, on April 19 2002 a letter "records a meeting held with the US Department of Justice where the reward was discussed and supported by the FBI and refers to a suggestion made at the meeting that the sums applied for - $2m for Tony Gauci and $1m for Paul Gauci could be increased."
The SCCRC states that at some time after the appeal the two witnesses were each paid sums of money under the "Rewards for Justice" programme adminstered by the U.S. Department of Justice [SCCRC Reference at 23.19]
Concerns surfaced among investigators in 2007 about how this would look if the SCCRC publicized the heretofore secret facts:
Briefing Note D12915 DI Dalgleish to ACC Graham (16/5/07) Refers to theThe concern about "distorted reporting" is ironic, given the distortion caused by years of keeping these payments secret. And the last bolded suggests it was partly hush-up and get out of town money. Go somewhere where you're not recognized and take new names under witness protection. As fragile a thing as Gauci's evidence cannot handle sneaky press inquiries, which are inevitable when something is this fragile. Clearly the best move is effectively disappear the men, as they did Giaka.
“expectation that the SCCRC’s statement of reasons, which will be furnished to Mr Megrahi and his defence team, is likely to question the integrity of Anthony Gauci’s evidence and also reveal that he and his brother have received substantial payments from the American authorities. [...] there is scope for distorted or malicious reporting of the facts and a real danger that if SCCRC’s statement of reasons is leaked to the media, Anthony Gauci could be portrayed as having given flawed evidence for financial reward [...] Providing these witnesses with the financial ability to leave the island whenever they wished to avoid media or other unwanted attention was a significant factor in the nomination being made to the Rewards for Justice programme in the first place...”
Now Mr. Duggan can take back his claim this is a ludicrous event, and craft an argument as to why it's all perfectly natural, normal, and expected, not to mention open and well-known from day one.
Postscript - further notable denials:
The August 2010 STV video Lockerbie bomber: Sent home to die features fresh affirmations, from investigators themselves, that money had not a lick to do with the case. Around 29:30 in, the $2 million payment - and Gauci's pre-trial pursuit of such - is mentioned. FBI SCOTBOM chief Richard Marquise issued the usual 'no money was promised or asked for,' meaning no money was relevant to what anyone said, but allowed for payment afterwards ("not allowed to comment" means yes, and so he's not a total liar). Scottish Senior Investigating Officer Stuart Henderson immediately followed with this (at 30:02):
"When we extracted the evidence and information from Gauci, he was well aware that there was no such thing as a reward being handed to him and he certainly didn't get any remote thoughts from us that he would get anything. Didn't enter his head. He had such a good relationship with our officers he really tried hard to help us."It could be said he and Paul were left hanging, and unsure if they'd get a reward, or how large it would be. But to say it was made clear there would be nothing is absolutely not illustrated by the evidence shown above, and would have been a lie. Henderson's claim to know what did and didn't enter Tony's head is classic appeal to authority. And finally, note how the witness' compliance is attributed to the "good relationship" he held with the police. As shown above, good feelings are always put forth when money delayed enters the frame. For example as the application for reward was put in by Henderson's successor as SIO:
"[T]he issue of financial remuneration has not been discussed in detail with the witnesses and no promises exist ... It is therefore vital that they continue to perceive that their position is recognised and they continue to receive the respect that their conduct has earned."