Michael Gillard,, Claire Newell and Edward Malnick
7 OCTOBER 2016 • 6:58AM
The Scotland Yard unit which deals with some of the force’s most sensitive police inquiries has been “corrupted” by a firm of private investigators, leaked documents seen by The Telegraph reveal.
The company – RISC Management Ltd – was run by retired detectives who are thought to have targeted former police colleagues to secure information about the progress of sensitive Metropolitan Police inquiries. Internal Scotland Yard documents described them as operating like “an organised crime network”.
Scotland Yard set up its own anti-corruption investigation into the relationship between RISC Management Ltd and officers working in SCD6, the economic and specialist crime division of the force.
SCD6 has investigated some of the country’s most high-profile and sensitive criminal cases including the “cash for honours” probe into whether Tony Blair’s government had offered peerages to big donors and the MPs’ expenses scandal.
Officer given a 'dirty' mobile phone – intelligence
Leaked intelligence reports seen by this newspaper reveal that the anti-corruption probe found that more than 300 phone calls were made between Met police officers and RISC Management Ltd investigators over a 12-month period.
In one instance a police officer was given a “dirty” mobile phone by RISC Management so he could secretly report back what he found, the report states.
The Scotland Yard probe appeared to involve bugging and following RISC Management operatives meeting serving police officers and secretly monitoring their work computers, phone records and access to sensitive databases to check for evidence of leaks.
The details emerged as part of an inquiry by Scotland Yard’s Intelligence Development Group (IDG) – a covert arm of the anti-corruption squad.
RISC Management was initially set up by a lawyer who worked for Russian oligarchs, and who later died in mysterious circumstances in a helicopter crash.
It has since worked for some of the country’s richest and most famous businessmen and even provided assistance for an unsuccessful England bid to host the World Cup.
Among the police investigations feared to have been compromised is the 2007 “cash for honours” scandal, The Telegraph has learnt.
In 2007, an operation codenamed Bartonia was launched into RISC management’s apparent attempt to corrupt the honours probe.
One report said: “Bartonia is concerned with the suspected leakage of information from the 'cash for honours’ enquiry to an employee of RISC Management Limited that is based in London.”
According to the files, RISC Management is said to have received three names of suspects in the honours probe it was claimed would and would not be charged by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Bartonia later became part of a wider operation, codenamed Limonium, run by undercover anti-corruption officers who were examining RISC Management’s contacts with other specialist crime squads at Scotland Yard.
The confidential files reveal how intelligence officers assumed that RISC Management had been hired by Sir Christopher Evans, a prominent Labour donor who had been arrested as part of the honours inquiry.
Last night Sir Christopher, who runs Merlin Biosciences, said he had hired RISC Management but said that the work he asked them to undertake had nothing to do with the inquiry.
One source suggested that employees of the firm may have “gone rogue”. It is possible that employees of the company were carrying out activities of which the firm’s directors were unaware.
The Scotland Yard documents say that the firm was hired to “review” the police’s criminal file, and that RISC Management then offered to “find some dirt”.
There is no evidence that Sir Christopher instructed the firm to work on the case or was aware of its activities. The files show how the IDG had information that “indicate[d]” serving police officers were providing RISC Management with information on the political probe.
One document states how “intelligence indicates that on May 2, 2007, an employee of RISC Management received information from a [senior fraud detective]”.
That month, RISC Management received further information from separate senior and well-placed police sources, according to the files. The secret operation lasted until RISC Management went into administration in January 2014. However, it is unclear what happened to all the intelligence gathered whose existence is revealed here for the first time.
The disclosure will raise concerns that some of the country’s most high-profile police inquiries could have been compromised.
Scotland Yard warned over its detectives
A source close to the honours probe confirmed that the Yard had received a “warning” that detectives on its specialist crime division were seen as being too close to some private investigation firms.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was investigating Merlin Biosciences at the same time as assistant commissioner John Yates was leading the Yard’s honours probe. Sir Christopher was not charged as a result of the honours probe.
After the probe ended with no charges, Yates’s team was criticised by MPs for leaking details to the media. However, the secret files suggest that the real threat may have come from RISC Management.
Yesterday, a spokesman for Sir Christopher confirmed that “Merlin Biosciences had engaged RISC Management to undertake a small number of commercial due diligence in relation to certain pharma and healthcare projects in Qatar and the Middle East, but inevitably none of the projects involved any contact with the Metropolitan Police.
“Even aside from our client’s clear denial, given the very high profile and public nature of the matter at the time, it would logically have been wholly unnecessary for our client to have engaged a third party to make covert enquiries into the progress of the police investigation.”
Keith Hunter, who was chief executive of RISC Management, said: “Sir Christopher never instructed us in relation to the cash for honours matter and to the best of our knowledge we did not provide any services to him relating to this matter.”
He added that it was “ridiculous” to suggest that RISC Management or its employees could “be viewed as a risk to national security or the Met”. The Metropolitan Police declined to comment.
Stephen Curtis, RISC Management founder
STEPHEN CURTIS, RISC FOUNDER
ISC Global, later RISC Management Ltd, was set up in 2000 by Stephen Curtis, a lawyer acting for Russian oligarchs who had fallen foul of the Putin government. Mr Curtis was killed in a mysterious helicopter crash in 2004 outside Bournemouth, having reportedly told a friend the previous week: “If anything happens to me in the next few weeks, it will not be an accident”.
He was part of a circle of wealthy friends and business associates, many of whom died in untoward circumstances.
Former Met police officer Keith Hunter took over ISC Global and renamed it RISC Management Ltd.
In 2006, it emerged the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko had visited RISC Management’s Mayfair offices shortly before he died of polonium poisoning, and traces of the radioactive substance were found at the premises.
Among the firm’s clients was James Ibori, a Nigerian politician under investigation by SCD6, the Met’s economic crimes unit separately carrying out the 'cash for honours’ investigation.
In 2011, RISC Management was hired by England’s 2018 World Cup bid team to snoop on rival football bodies. A RISC Management team operated at a five–star Baur au Lac hotel where many of the bid delegations stayed before votes were cast in Dec 2010. There is no suggestion of any illegality on behalf of either RISC Management or the bid team. The firm was also linked to the Candy brothers, the property developers. Christian Candy’s company CPC allegedly hired a RISC Management operator to pose as a “representative of the Saudi royal family” in an attempt to track down a business rival.
The company had counted the late Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who was found dead at his Berkshire home in 2013, among its clients. Two companies linked to Mr Berezovsky, in Gibraltar and London, reportedly made payments totalling almost £600,000 to ISC Global.
Next: The handiwork of corporations that manage risk by breaking the law.