One of the counsels to Chief James Ibori, the jailed former governor of Delta State, has been arrested in London for allegedly attempting to pervert the course of justice in the money-laundering case that got the politician sent to prison.
Ian Timlin, a former litigation partner at City Law Firm Speechly Bircham, was held by Met anti-corruption detectives investigating the alleged bribery of police officers. The senior lawyer was arrested at his home in Kent on suspicion of conspiracy to corrupt a police officer, perverting the course of justice and money-laundering offences concerning Ibori.
The former governor was jailed last year for embezzlement after admitting stealing almost £50m, although the true amount may have been many times greater.
The Independent of London reported that during a long-running Scotland Yard investigation into his business affairs, Mr Ibori hired the law firm, Speechly Bircham, which specialises in tax advice for non-domiciled people living in the UK. Mr Timlin, who until 2010 was a partner at Speechly Bircham, then hired RISC Management, a controversial private detective agency embroiled in the scandal that erupted after the murder of the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.
Leaked documents, according to the newspaper, suggest RISC, run by former Met Police officers, gained inside information into the ongoing investigation of Ibori and that the agency paid serving detectives £20,000 for intelligence that helped the convict’s defence lawyers. One £5,000 payment was allegedly made to a source for information relating to “forthcoming interviewing strategy to be deployed by police”.
Mr Timlin was arrested in April and it is understood police have retrieved internal documents from the law firm. Keith Hunter, the boss of RISC Management, has also been arrested as part of the investigation, which was triggered in May 2012 when newspapers revealed the Met had done nothing since a whistleblower passed police leaked documents revealing the alleged payments to officers many months before.
Like all current investigations into damaging allegations of police corruption, the long-running inquiry has inched its way tortuously forward, which prevents the media from reporting the full details. Both Mr Hunter and Mr Timlin deny the allegations and are on bail.
Mr Timlin qualified as a solicitor in 1991 and was a partner for 15 years in a number of London law firms before he left Speechly Bircham in 2010. He is now legal director of the Long Port Group, a property development company in the tax haven of Guernsey, and has been involved in the construction of a sports resort in Brazil.
RISC, which is also used by law firm Mischon de Reya, has links to Russian oligarchs in London. It was first established as ISC Global in October 2000 by a lawyer called Stephen Curtis. He died in a helicopter accident in 2004, a crash that his family claimed was highly suspicious.
In 2006, it emerged the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko visited RISC’s central London offices shortly before he died of polonium poisoning, and traces of the radioactive substance were found at the premises.
A spokesperson for Speechly Bircham said: “Given an arrest was made some months ago and there has since been no charge, it would be inappropriate for us to comment. Suffice to say that we have assisted the police with their enquiries.”
Mr Hunter said: “RISC management does not need to pay serving police officers for confidential information as we pride ourselves on our ability to provide positive solutions and accurate information legitimately.” Mr Timlin and the Long Port Group did not respond to requests for comment.
At Ibori’s sentencing, prosecutor Sasha Wass said: “From the moment he was elected he set about enriching himself at the expense of some of the poorest people in the world.” She told the court he was “effectively a thief in government house.”