Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by RISC Management Ltd [PI26]

We write to you in response to the evidence given by Mike Schwarz of Bindmans to the Home Affairs Select Committee (“the Committee”) on Tuesday 22 May 2012.

Before we provide our specific responses to questions 404 to 440 in the transcript of the Committee for 22 May 2012, we would make some preliminary observations as follows:

1.Following Mr Schwarz’s evidence to your Committee our Company’s offices were raided by the Metropolitan Police the following day (23 May) and Mr Hunter was arrested on suspicion of “perverting the course of justice”. After consultation with his legal adviser Mr Hunter agreed to provide a full response in interview to the allegations that were made by Mr Schwarz and the purported evidence that Mr Schwarz claims supports the very bold assertions he is now making on behalf of his client, Mr Bhadresh Gohil, who is currently serving seven years for conspiracy to defraud and money laundering charges. This is the very same evidence that we anticipate Mr Schwarz had arranged to be provided to the Committee. These issues are now therefore the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, which is hugely damaging for our business, but despite that fact, our Company wishes to provide you with a full response to the irresponsible allegations being made by Mr Schwarz, in the same manner that we have provided to the Police.

2.Prior to Mr Schwarz seeking to be invited before your Committee we should also make clear a number of key facts. The first is that the evidence that allegedly demonstrates that unlawful payments have been made to Police officers largely comprises an anonymous written statement that, alongside some other basic materials, including invoices and related narrative, initially surfaced when they were posted anonymously to the Evening Standard in late Summer 2011. The Evening Standard later passed this material onto the relevant section of the Metropolitan Police. As it is clearly the case that the unsigned written statement was authored by Mr Gohil, a fact that must have been known to Mr Schwarz, we cannot understand that, in view of the serious allegations that Mr Schwarz is now seeking to make, he did not arrange to make a direct criminal complaint to the Police. Instead, Mr Schwarz has continued to leak the material and “talk it up” to various media channels in the UK and elsewhere. As a result, RISC has faced many press inquiries, in particular from the Guardian and the BBC, with whom Bindmans have a close relationship. All of these press inquiries have been answered in full. It is also notable that the Guardian was represented in the Committee Room when Mr Schwarz gave his evidence to the Committee. Why have Mr Schwarz and his client, Mr Gohil, sought to adopt this approach rather than make a formal complaint to the Police? We would suggest it is because the evidence they are seeking to rely upon is not only highly contradictory and fanciful, but also because it simply does not support the allegations Mr Schwarz is now seeking to make with the protection of Parliamentary Privilege.

3.Further, we should make the Committee aware that prior to his appearance Mr Schwarz made contact with Keith Hunter of RISC on 11 May for the purpose of seeking to ask him a number of questions relating to these matters. Mr Hunter openly sought to answer Mr Schwarz’s questions, which notably fell along way short of the allegations he sought to make before your Committee. More importantly, in that conversation Mr Hunter expressly denied that many of the meetings that were allegedly recorded in a narrative document could have taken place and that RISC had ever made payments to serving Police officers (please see the attached transcript of the call between Mr Hunter and Mr Schwarz). Whether or not Mr Schwarz chose to believe our statements, we find it pretty damning that, having contacted RISC and addressed some of these matters to us, he failed to mention this fact to your Committee or the fact that we had denied all of the critical allegations.

4.The documents provided to you, which we assume are the same set of documents provided to the Metropolitan Police, consist of the following documents: (1) a letter dated 1 August 2011 from Liberty Media to Kit Malthouse; (2) two invoices, one from Speechly Bircham and one from RISC; (3) an unreferenced narrative allegedly relating to the detail of services provided by RISC in the period 1/8/2007 to 30/5/2008; and (4) an unsigned statement headed “Research” which appears to have been authored by Mr Gohil. No document in this miscellaneous set of documents provides any evidence that unlawful payments were made to serving Police officers, for the simple fact that RISC has never made any such payments, whether in the context of its work for Speechly Bircham, Arlington Sharma or at all. Indeed the Police have themselves stated during the interview of Mr Hunter that they have doubts as to the “authenticity” of the material, which probably more than anything else explains why the Police had not acted on the material prior to having their “hand forced” by Mr Schwarz’s evidence. Indeed, after now having the opportunity to review the alleged RISC narrative that Mr Schwarz seeks to rely upon as evidence for his allegations, it is quite clear from RISC’s own records that the document is false in numerous respects. For example, it refers to meetings between Mr Hunter and DI Walters (that Mr Schwarz was so ready to rely upon in giving his evidence to the Committee) despite the fact that in the course of 2007 and 2008 Mr Hunter never met with DI Walters on any occasion. It also refers to meetings that Mr Hunter is alleged to have had at “NSY” (sic New Scotland Yard), when Mr Hunter has not attended at New Scotland Yard on any occasion for more than 10 years, a fact that could be confirmed from visitor records. Numerous other examples of material inaccuracies also exist throughout the narrative document (for example, it references Mr Hunter having various meetings that certainly never took place) and the narrative is not a standard document that RISC would ever produce.

5.The main document that Mr Schwarz seems to rely upon is, in fact, the unsigned statement, which appears to have been produced by his own client, which, if read carefully, is full of assertion as opposed to any factual evidence to support the allegation it attempts to make. The document is also highly contradictory, on the one hand seeking to suggest it evidences “unlawful payments” to serving Police officers when it does not, but on the other hand seeking to suggest that RISC was also working for the Police and leaking legally privileged material to them. The allegation either has to be that RISC was paying to obtain information from the Police (which it was not) or that it was trading information with the Police (which it was not)—it cannot be both.

It is, of course, extremely easy to make such allegations, but much more difficult for a business to then prove a negative, that it did not do anything. We are, however, entirely open to providing a paragraph by paragraph rebuttal to the unsigned statement of Mr Gohil, as we have done to the Police, if that is required. However, we recognize that for the purpose of your current inquiries we must directly address the allegations made by Mr Schwarz and, in particular, that RISC has made payments to serving Police officers. We will therefore now address the specific comments made by Mr Schwarz in his evidence to the Committee.

Ques 404

It is notable that despite the very serious allegations that Mr Schwarz goes on to make generally about contacts between private investigators and the Police, he actually states that he only has experience of “one case”. Further, in his call with Mr Hunter he stated that he was “sorry to come to this cold” or if he had “got the wrong end of the stick” having only “relatively recently taken on the case” and that he was only getting his information “fourth hand”. This contrasts strongly with the very serious allegation Mr Schwarz then appeared to be willing to make, which wholly ignored the responses that had already been given by RISC, and we suggest must strongly call into question his motivation and agenda for seeking to get in front of your Committee. What we can say on behalf of RISC is that our Company has never, either in the context of its work for Speechly Bircham or anyone else, made payments to serving Police officers. It is simply nonsense.

Ques 405

It is not entirely clear what Mr Schwarz was attempting to assert in this paragraph, other than the fact he made two apparent and serious assertions: (1) that Police officers have “top and tailed” the evidence, which seems to suggest that they have in some way interfered with evidence. However, in condemning the named officers by his statements, he not only fails to provide any evidence to support the same, but also fails to give any specifics of what was allegedly done by these officers and (2) that RISC had inappropriate or in some way unlawful contacts with the named officers, presumably resulting in unlawful payments to one or other of those officers. Firstly, RISC has never made unlawful payments to any of these officers or any serving Police officer. Secondly, as we have stated, no one at RISC had any contact with DI Walters through the course of its work for Speechly Bircham and is unaware that any contact took place with Mr MacDonald or DC Clark. In monitoring a Police investigation and advising on possible approaches that might be adopted by the Police, we can confirm that on occasions RISC will have open and direct dialogue with members of an investigation team, but any such contact is entirely legitimate and would be no different to that which criminal defense solicitors have with the Police. Mr Schwarz seems to suggest this is “inappropriate” because private investigation firms are “unregulated”. But this ignores both the fact that professional Police officers are fully aware of their own legal and other obligations, but more importantly the fact that it is Mr Schwarz’s client, Mr Gohil, a member of a regulated profession who is currently serving seven years for money laundering.

Ques 406

It is notable that even with the protection of Parliamentary privilege, Mr Schwarz only states that “… payments made by RISC Management to sources that they have, presumably Police officers…”. This statement goes further than anything we can say to show that Mr Schwarz recognises that the narrative document he is relying upon, the inaccuracy of which RISC maintains, does not actually establish evidence of his key premise. RISC can confirm it has never made payments to sources who are currently serving Police officers and would never do so.

Ques 409–410

Former Police officers clearly have a skill-set that is well suited to private investigations. Similarly, ex-military, former intelligence officers, journalists and lawyers work in the industry and RISC see no issue with utilizing networks, skills and contacts where it is appropriate to do so.

Ques 411

Mr Schwarz is seeking to suggest to the Committee that any exercise in monitoring a Police investigation, in a similar way to a public company seeking to retain leading PR or lobbying companies to monitor relevant legislation, is in some manner incorrect. It is not. It would, of course, be incorrect to go further and to make payments to Police officers or to provide lavish hospitality to them but, as we have sought to make clear, we have and would never adopt such practices. We would also repeat the point that any suggestion that RISC had any contact with the senior investigating officer, DI Gary Walters, is entirely incorrect. No current RISC employees had any contact with any of the other investigating officers. No current employee of RISC is aware of any contacts with the other officers mentioned by Mr Schwarz, although it is possible that open and legitimate contact was made by former employees.

Ques 412

This is the most extraordinary part of Mr Schwarz’s evidence, which should cast even further doubt on his motivation. He is here alleging that at some level RISC and other private investigators trade legally privileged material with the Police, something which would not only be highly unethical, but an allegation which is not supported at any level by any evidence Mr Schwarz has allegedly provided to the Committee. Not surprisingly therefore, having made the general accusation, Mr Schwarz provided no detail of specific material relating to his client, Mr Gohil, that was allegedly provided by RISC to both the Police and the Ibori defence team. As we have already said, apart from the fanciful nature of these and other allegations, why would we be paying Police officers if we had valuable information to trade in this manner? It is an outrageous accusation and one we can only suppose is part of an extreme strategy being deployed by Mr Schwarz in the hope of “manufacturing” grounds of appeal for Mr Gohil.

Ques 414

Mr Schwarz’s allegations against DI Walters and RISC are firstly that he assisted RISC when he was a serving Police officer during its engagement for Speechly Bircham , and secondly that he was subsequently or is employed by RISC. This falls at the first hurdle because no such contacts ever took place between RISC and DI Walters in relation to these matters, and further, Mr Walters has never been employed by RISC at any time since leaving the Police. He was contracted briefly on behalf of RISC to present a conference paper in Zurich on 29 February 2012 and 1March 2012 in respect of which he was paid expenses by a leading and well-respected law firm. He subsequently undertook one further specific assignment in December 2011 due to his extensive knowledge of anti-money laundering issues, but since that time he has undertaken no work for RISC. His engagement with RISC as a consultant amounts to a total of six working days over a two year period since his retirement. He has never been a RISC employee.

Ques 418

The evidence Mr Schwarz seeks to rely upon does not provide any evidence of payments to serving Police officers and we simply confirm again that RISC has never made and never would make payments to serving Police officers in relation to its work for Speechly Bircham or any other client.

Ques 423

Mr Schwarz specifically states that RISC was involved in “… four or five other high profile cases, where payments were made for access to information from the police….” However, apart from mentioning one case reported in the Times in 2006, he provides no evidence or even any details for these most serious allegations. It is quite extraordinary that Mr Schwarz can be allowed to make such unspecific but serious allegations without being challenged to produce any evidence of the same. Indeed, in the case publicized in the Times he refers to in his evidence, which involved allegations of payment to an officer in the Scotland Yard Extradition Unit, it is undoubtedly the case that Mr Schwarz knows that this issue was the subject of both a criminal investigation which was closed because there was no, let alone sufficient, evidence of any such payments. Indeed, the Times newspaper, during subsequent civil litigation with the officer, admitted in open Court that it had no evidence of the officer receiving any corrupt payments—a fact that Mr Schwarz could have easily established if he had researched the case. The officer concerned was completely exonerated and allowed to return to the Extradition unit with his integrity unblemished.

Ques 433

We make no comment in relation to Mr Schwarz’s views as to how our industry should be regulated, other than to make the fundamental point that he is basing his conclusions, not on clear evidence produced in many cases, but on very scant evidence in a case directly concerning a client of his who is now languishing in a UK prison, having been convicted of very serious criminal offences that led the trial judge to condemn his actions as a solicitor. Mr Schwarz as an experienced solicitor and having read the anonymous statement upon which he now seeks to rely (presumably in the knowledge it was written by his client) would know that if it was put forward as evidence of anything in a Court of law would be exploded for the numerous contradictions and fantastical statements it makes concerning conspiracies that abounded during the investigation of his client’s criminal activities. We would suggest that it is this fact that led the Police to question the reliability of the evidence that Mr Schwarz is now seeking to rely upon—a fact that may also explain why he is only prepared to make such statements to your own Committee.

In conclusion we would repeat the statement that RISC has never made payments to serving Police officers nor has it sought to trade legally privileged information about its clients with members of the Police. In fact we would ask the Committee to give serious consideration to questioning the motivation of Mr Schwarz in seeking an audience before your Committee and whether his agenda has been to assist the Committee or to pursue an agenda for a disgraced professional at the expense not only of our business reputation, but more critically the reputation of former and currently serving Police officers who have little ability to defend themselves.

Annex

TRANSCRIPT OF THE CALL BETWEEN MR HUNTER AND MR SCHWARZ

Transcript of conversation between Keith Hunter, CEO of RISC Management, and Mike Schwarz, partner at Bindmans LLP, on 11 May 2012.

KH: Hello?

MS: Hi, is that Keith?

KH: It is

MS: It’s Mike Schwarz here from Bindmans thanks for …er…for speaking to me.

KH: Mike, no problem, hang on…um…just…I’m, I’m, you’re on loudspeaker coz I’m just getting a colleague to join me who’s been dealing with this bloody…er… media thing, so…um…if you don’t mind Mike just bear with me for…

MS: No, that’s fine

KH: I know you are in a rush as well, so I’m, I’m sorry, I’ve, I’ve literally just…

MS: Er… I’ve managed to move things to have a bit more time so don’t worry about that

KH: Ok, perfect, It’s alright I’ve just had to come out of a meeting but no, no worries, don’t worry er… (Aside: let’s just turn that off)

MS: Shall we start off by telling you where I am coming from?

KH: Yes please

MS: Um I’m, as I said in the email, acting for Bhadresh Gohil and we’ve become aware of these allegations of Police misconduct…

KH: Yup

MS: …and we think, just to be completely frank that if there is police misconduct that probably taints the fairness of his trial and therefore may affect the, the safeness of his convictions…

KH: Right

MS: …and they saw in the… um… the press, for example that link that I sent you, that…um…that RISC and and perhaps you personally may may be able to shed some light on on that..um…because you might be able to see what, kind of, what’s going on within the police?

KH: Yeah, I mean, I I can tell you what I know from my own…erm…er… benefit and and you know I I know Bhadresh… er… very well and please do give him my best regards er…

MS: I will do, yeah

KH: …Erm but but there is no, no truth at all to the the…er…the…erm…the stories which have come out through some Nigerian…erm…media…er…story,…er… unfortunately the UK media have also picked it up and have been trying to do some stories themselves… er… because I think it helps them in relation to the Leveson matter that’s, that’s going on at the moment…

MS: Right

KH: …but…um… I can categorically say that there is no misappropriate…erm…er…actions between RISC and any police officers and and the stories that have come out are completely untrue, inaccurate, you know, there, there were just so many inaccuracies with with what has been recorded, which…

MS: Right

KH: …which we can easily prove are are wrong so unfortunately I don’t think there’s there’s really a foundation, well, I mean, aha please…er…forgive me for suggesting it but I don’t I don’t necessarily see that that story, because because it is so wrong and untrue, really does go any further for for helping your client

MS: Oh right, ‘coz I’ve I’ve been told about…um…a RISC...erm… billing guide or narrative that suggests that…um…that meetings may have taken place between…um…police officers and people from RISC…

KH: Yup, no.

MS: …have you have you seen those those stories about billing guides and stuff like that?

KH: Billing? What, what’s that?

MS: Well, sort of… lists of…um… of meetings between, or work done by RISC employees on the Ibori case.

KH: Yeah

MS: Which suggests meetings with…um…with police officers, I I don’t know if you,ve you’ve seen…

KH: Ah

MS: …those stories or, in fact, seen the…

KH: I’ve I’ve seen some, some, you know, I don’t know which one you are talking about because there’s there’s a few little…um…media stories out there…

MS: Yeah

KH: …um…but what they are trying to say is that yeah there’s certain narratives which have gone to…um…I I don’t know I don’t know where they’ve gone or where, how they’ve been …um…er…produced in the first place coz it’s something that we don’t do as a as a business so…

MS: Yeah

KH …where they’ve got this narrative from and and dates of meetings but I’ve certainly seen certain…um…meeting notes and meeting dates which have been suggested to me and they are completely false

MS: What do you, what do you mean? The documents are false?

KH: Well, I don’t know because I (MS: or what has been extracted from them?)I haven’t seen the document, that’s the problem…

MS: Right

KH: …because they are not a document which is known to RISC, I mean…

MS: Right

KH: …clearly if there is a RISC invoice, there is a RISC invoice, but…

MS: Yeah

KH: …it looks like someone, and I don’t know who, has put a narrative together…um…that may be something to do with the invoice or not. I’m, you know, I am I’m I’m purely guessing here…

MS: Right

KH: …er…but when I’ve been presented with certain dates which presumably are are on these documents that that are…

MS: Right

KH: …in circulation, they mean nothing to me and I can certainly, categorically, 110% confirm that that those meetings didn’t take place.

MS: Oh right, coz I was I was told about a meeting on the 4th of February in 2008…

KH: Right

MS: …when someone from RISC met a source and made a payment to to to this so called source

KH: Yup

MS: …um…

KH: It’s it’s certainly…um…nothing that…er…I think the suggestion, and I think that’s all it is…

MS: Hmmm

KH: …a suggestion that the source or sources were police officers working on the Ibori case…

MS: Right

KH: …and there is no way that…er…we would be making any payments to any serving police officers because…

MS: Right

KH: …because clearly that’s not what we do…erm…but but in addition to that …erm… the meetings which have been suggested…

MS: Right

KH …as far as I am concerned didn’t take place.

MS: Oh right, but…um…Bhadresh told me that there were meetings between Cliff Knuckey and perhaps you with police officers you being instructed by Speechly Bircham and there’s police officers being involved in the Ibori investigation, that that that’s right isn’t it?

KH: No, that’s not right.

MS: What, you didn’t have any meetings?

KH: No

MS: Or conversations?

KH: No

MS: You nor Cliff nor anyone?

KH: Er…I I I certainly didn’t and…um…if that’s what, if that’s what Bhadresh is saying then he’s, he’s, he’s wrong

MS: Um well I may have got the wrong end of the stick of course, and I’ve got…um…the trouble is, I’m sorry, I’m sorry to throw things at you, I’ve got things fourth hand so…

KH: Yeah, No, no, no, I, I understand but but I am certainly not in a position to, um…you know, I’m certainly not in a position to sort of…um…confirm, deny or whatever, but all I can say is that what, what is out in the…erm…in the media is… is not right.

MS: (inaudible)…I understood that RISC and particularly you and Cliff on behalf of Speechly Bircham and Ibori were having discussions with, and meetings with the police about the, about the case either…(inaudible)…or perhaps the criminal investigation? Have I, have I got the wrong end of the stick there or…?

KH: Um…well, I know that that the police at some stage came into our offices to take statements from us…

MS: Right

KH: …regarding obviously the case…um…so there, there was obviously a liaison there er and and a… but…um… you know … what, what’s been alleged or, or what’s been put in in in the…er… media is completely false.

MS: Um…coz…I saw a statement that I think…um…Cliff had given to the police in, on the back of a production order, is that , is that the sort of contact you are talking about…

KH: That…

MS: …about here…(inaudible)?

KH: That’s, that’s, that’s, that’s exactly it.

MS: …Is that, is that the only work you…I’m sorry if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick…is that the only work that RISC have done on the case or contact they’ve had with the police.

KH: Yeh, I mean, I mean as far as, as I am concerned that, that is it.

MS: Right

KH: Um…

MS: Just the, there was one, one or two meetings then where the police have been initiating contact.

KH: Yeah, it is, it is a little while ago now but all I remember is that, that we were, well not we, Cliff made a, a statement to the police on whatever it was that they were asking for as part of their production order.

MS: Right, but my understanding is that production order was about…um…RISC’s work with Speechley Bircham and Arlington Sharma’s and if it was about that then presumably that, that, that suggests that RISC was doing work with all of those people, again I’m, I’m sorry to come to this cold, coz I have only relatively recently taken on the case but is that, is that, were the police barking up the wrong tree and you hadn’t really had much dealings with with any of those people?

KH: Well, I, I…er… again I think that it’s, if we are going to go down a particular route here…

MS: Yeah

KH: …it may be better that you take instructions from your client and actually, and actually come back to us with some, some, you know, specifics that you, you want some answers to and, you know, I don’t think we are in any way…er…trying to…erm… erm… the…you know, stopping anything that that your client maybe considering doing because, at the end of the day, obviously we, we, we did work with him as you well know, so, erm…

MS: Well, I was going, I was going to ask about that because, I’d understood that you did work with him and very kindly helped prepare his, or gave some input into his defence case, that, that’s right, you were doing that sort of work, is that right?

KH: Yes

MS: And was it Martin Woods there as well helping out?

KH: …(inaudible)

MS: …(inaudible) Cliff and to you and to Martin…

KH: OK

MS: …the three of you that were helping out?

KH: Erm I don’t, again, I think you are going to specifics there, where I think you should take instructions and then come back to us and and please put it put it on an email Mike and, and we…

MS: Yeah

KH: …we’ll be more than happy to go through it with you and…erm…and as I say, if we can, if we can help in any way then you know…

MS: Can I check on the Martin Woods thing, coz as I saw Bhadresh yesterday and talked about a number of things unconnected with this, but one of the things to do, to do with RISC was he said that Martin had been, or was consulting with you and was shipped in to help with…um… with Arlington Sharma and, in particular, Bhadresh’s preparation of his case, is that, I mean does that, is that…?

KH: Um…you know, I can’t recall…um…on, on that specific…um…you know, clearly I know the guy and, and I know that, that from time to time he has worked with us, now whether it was…

MS: Yeah

KH: … specifically on that or not, you know, to be fair, I don’t know.

MS: Right

KH: But I am sure these are things we can find out…

MS: Yeah

KH: …if you want to put it to us.

MS: Yeah OK, and what about Gary Walters coz I gather that he is now connected with RISC?

KH: No

MS: Is that right?

KH: No, he is not connected with RISC at all.

MS: He is not

KH: No

MS: Right, ok. So just coming to…right ok… so, what…um…so is there anything I can further do that might help you because I, I gather from your tone that you are getting grief from other people?

KH: No, no, I mean…it’s…er.. no hopefully…er… my tone is is as it always is and…er, Sorry, it’s a Friday afternoon and I am just aware I have got two clients in another meeting…erm…so all I’d say Mike is that if you, if you want to put anything to us that, that you know may help Bhadresh, or, or clarify issues I’m, I’m sure we can, we can try and help.

MS: Right OK. Yeah…well…er…sorry, just…um…just one more point, just checking this point, there’s no truth in the suggestion that anyone from RISC, you, Cliff, had any dealings or negotiations or discussions with the, with the police even sort of innocent ones about the preparation of, of say…um… the defence or the restraint proceedings or Bhadresh’s case?

KH: Er…again, you know, I, I can’t comment other than…er…as I’ve already said, is that…er…I can categorically say…er…that we never had meetings with police, that police were never paid by RISC…er…and that whatever we’ve done…er…to, to help any client is, is obviously use our best endeavours and, and be very professional about it.

MS: So the only contact with the police was when they came knocking at the door asking for a statement, is that that, that sounds like what you are saying?

KH: Er, you know, again, please don’t put words in my mouth...er… as I said to you I think the best things Mike is for…

MS: Right, OK.

KH: …you to just put (MS: inaudible) something…er…to us…um…and by all means, you know, take further instructions from…

MS: Sure, OK.

KH: …Bhadresh but, you know, the…erm… I think that’s probably the best line really.

MS: Well that’s great, look, I’m grateful for your time and I will leave you to get back to your clients, thanks again for speaking to me…(inaudible)

KH: Ok Mike, you’ve got, you’ve got my details and clearly I’ve got yours now, so…er…if there is anything then let me know.

MS: Brilliant. Thanks again for your time.

KH: OK. Pleasure. Bye.

MS: Bye

KH: Call finished at…er…2.40pm on Friday the 11th of May.

June 2012

Prepared 5th July 2012