Supercops assert rights to secret hearings

On 28th February, 2020 a highly significant judgment was handed down by Mr Justice Murray at the Royal Courts of Justice. Surprisingly, there appears to have been little national media coverage, given the intervention of both Bloomberg and the Press Association in the proceedings.

It followed two ‘without notice’ applications made by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in May and July, 2019. The first sought an Unexplained Wealth Order and the second an Interim Freezing Order (IFO). They were both heard in private on 12th July, 2019, two days after the second application was made.

Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) were introduced pursuant to the Criminal Finances Act (CFA) 2017, in order to bolster the UK’s proceeds of crime regime and they have been the subject of much media attention since, mainly because of the vast sums of money and high value property involved.

The UWO, specifically, was the government’s response to the difficulty in bringing civil recovery proceedings where there was little information about an individual’s source of wealth and they were reliant upon assistance from other countries to provide evidence that the assets in question were the proceeds of crime.

The UWO, instead, places the onus on the subject of the order (the respondent) to explain the origin of assets that appear to be disproportionate to their lawful income.

Russian oligarchs allegedly laundering eye-watering sums of money in ‘Londongrad’ were seen as prime targets of the new legislation. Although recent press coverage appears to suggest that Director General, Lynne Owens, has conceded the fight against this particular group as ‘too big to handle’ (read more here).

The significance of the instant hearing was fourfold:

(i) It lifted an anonymity order granted by Ms Justice Laing on 4th July, 2019 in favour of the subject of the applications, Mansoor Mahmood Hussain. Six limited companies in which Hussain, better known locally as ‘Manny’ (or ‘Manni’), has a controlling interest were also listed on the application.

(ii) It named some of the leading players allegedly, or in most cases, proven to be involved in organised crime in the Leeds and Bradford area.

(iii) It set out the general principles for the making of a UWO and IFO and will stand as a legal authority on these matters unless, or until, challenged in a higher court.

(iv) It deals with the general principles for hearing UWO applications in private. That is to say with neither public nor press present.

The subject UWO Application was made by the NCA on the basis that they suspect that Manny Hussain is involved in serious criminality in connection with the activities of organised crime gangs (OCG’s) operating in the Bradford area; the criminality spanning a spectrum of serious crimes, including murder, drugs, firearms, fraud and money-laundering offences. The OCG’s concerned are known to be violent. The NCA’s case, in broad terms is that Hussain has been acting as an enabler, laundering the proceeds of the activities of a number of criminals, who are members of, or associated with, those OCG’s.

The main evidence supporting the UWO Application is set out in two witness statements, with supporting exhibits, made by Andrew Coles, an NCA Financial Investigator.

The evidence supporting the IFO Application is set out in a third witness statement made by Mr Coles, in which he also set out additional evidence of the NCA in support of the Agency’s application that the matters be heard in private.

According to the evidence of Mr Coles, 40 year old Hussain, born in Leeds, is self-employed as the director of a number of companies, purportedly engaged in property development and management. He has never been convicted of a criminal offence and has received only one, long spent, police caution, for assault and battery, administered in January 2009 by his local West Yorkshire force.

The other parties to the IFO are companies that are wholly owned by Mr Hussain and through which he controls various residential and commercial properties relevant to the UWO Application and, of course, the IFO Application. They are: (i) Laurel Terrace Limited (ii) Land88 Limited (iii) Jayco88 Limited (iv) Cubic Business Park Limited (v) 88M Group Limited (vi) 2 Park Square Limited.

The properties controlled by those companies are (i) Freehold property at 2 Sandmoor Drive, Alwoodley, Leeds, one of the most exclusive residential addresses in the city and its suburbs, the registered owner of which is Hussain. (ii) Freehold property at 3 Laurel Terrace, Armley Leeds, the registered owner of which is Laurel Terrace Limited. (iii) Freehold property consisting of land on the north west side of Paddock Hill, Mobberley, Knutsford, in the Cheshire stockbroker belt, the registered owner of which is Land88 Limited. (iv) Freehold property consisting of land on the south side of Doncaster Road, Wakefield, the registered owner of which is Jayco88 Limited. (v) Freehold property consisting of the Cubic Business Centre, Stanningley Road, Bramley, Leeds, and land adjoining it, the registered owner of which is Cubic Business Park Limited. (vi) leasehold property consisting of the ground floor flat at 101 Walton Street, Kensington, London, the registered owner of which is 88M Group Limited. (vii) freehold property consisting of 28 Park Square West, Leeds, including 13 The Stables, Somers Street, Leeds and 11 The Lodge, Somers Street, Leeds, the registered owner of which is 88M Group Limited; and (viii) freehold property consisting of 2 Park Square East, Leeds, the registered owner of which is 2 Park Square Limited.

Screenshot 2020-06-27 at 08.22.53
2 Park Square East (red door) with Leeds Town Hall in background

The latter four properties are in the exclusive legal quarter of the city, just a stone’s throw from the Crown Court.

The Cubic Business Centre is an impressive new ‘state-of the art’ building . It consists of 33 fully furnished offices all with air conditioning. There are conferencing facilities available, communal breakout areas, relax room, kitchen, shower room and also a gymnasium. There is ample onsite car parking and parking for staff and clients. They also have on site security surveillance which is manned at reception. CBC has its own website (see here).

The NCA’s case, put shortly, was that they had sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that Manny Hussain, a known associate of leading members of OCG’s, acts as a professional money launderer for a number of well-known criminals who operate in the Leeds and Bradford area, using specialist knowledge and expertise to find opportunities for his criminal associates to retain and to launder the proceeds of crime. One such way is to channel proceeds through corporate vehicles in order to fund the purchase of residential and commercial properties, principally held by, or through, companies that he controls. The NCA suspects that each of the properties listed above falls into that category.

The short history of the case is that the UWO Application was originally listed before Ms Justice Laing on 4th July 2019, to be heard in private. At that time, the NCA did not consider, on balance, that it was necessary, also, to apply for an IFO in connection with the UWO, in the interests of proportionality and taking the least invasive approach. It considered that the effect of service of the UWO, if granted, would carry sufficient weight to prevent Mr Hussain from taking action intended to thwart the UWO or any future civil recovery proceedings against him or his companies.

Following informal applications by Bloomberg and the Press Association challenging the decision to hear the UWO Application in private, the judge adjourned the hearing to 12th July 2019 in order to permit the two media organisations to make written submissions in support of the the press applications in accordance with CPR 39.2 (5).

On 8th July 2019 Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP (“RPC”), solicitors for Bloomberg and the PA wrote to the court indicating that their clients no longer wished to challenge the decision to hear the UWO Application in private and, therefore, wished to withdraw both press applications.

In its skeleton argument for the hearing on 12th July 2019, in relation to those press applications, the NCA indicated that it had spent considerable time preparing to address the issues of law and practice raised by those applications, including gathering evidence set out in the third witness statement of Mr Coles. Following the adjournment on 4th July 2019, the NCA also received information that, it considered, altered the risk profile so that an application for an IFO would now also be necessary.

Although the press applications were withdrawn, the NCA considered that they had raised fundamental issues of broad principle as to the nature and operation of the UWO jurisdiction and, in general, the need for privacy in relation to applications for a UWO to protect the integrity of the NCA’s investigation to which the UWO relates, as well as to protect the rights of the respondent to the UWO. Therefore, the NCA urged Mr Justice Russell to rule on the issue of principle raised by the now-withdrawn press applications. Firstly, addressing the general UWO jurisdiction and the need for privacy in a public judgment and then, secondly, dealing with the particular circumstances of this case in a confidential judgment to be handed down at a hearing in private.

Since the UWO and IFO were made, the existence of the UWO and the IFO have ceased to be confidential and have, in fact, been superceded by an acccount freezing order (AFO) made on 12 February 2020, following a hearing in public, by Mr Justice Supperstone. For that reason, there was no longer a need for a separate confidential judgment.

The legal framework is set out in highly forensic detail at paras 19 to 76 of the judgment, read in full here.

The privacy issues raised by the Press Applications

As made clear by Civil Procedure Rule (CPR) 39.2, the general position is that a hearing is to be open and held in public. Open justice is a fundamental constitutional principle. A hearing will be held in private only where strictly necessary to secure the proper administration of justice, after the court has satisfied itself that relevant considerations render it strictly necessary and after the court has considered any duty to protect or have regard to a right to freedom of expression which may be affected.

CPR, at section 39.2(3), sets out various relevant considerations and, for completeness, they are repeated here:
“(3) A hearing, or any part of it, must be held in private if, and only to the extent that, the court is satisfied of one or more of the matters set out in sub-paragraphs (a) to (g) and that it is necessary to sit in private to secure the proper administration of justice –
(a) publicity would defeat the object of the hearing;
(b) it involves matters relating to national security;
(c) it involves confidential information (including information relating to personal financial matters) and publicity would damage that confidentiality;
(d) a private hearing is necessary to protect the interests of any child or protected party;
(e) it is a hearing of an application made without notice and it would be unjust to any respondent for there to be a public hearing;
(f) it involves uncontentious matters arising in the administration of trusts or in the administration of a deceased person’s estate; or
(g) the court for any other reason considers this to be necessary to secure the proper administration of justice.”
Open justice is, therefore, the starting point and the default position. To the extent that there are restrictions on reporting, it is also necessary to consider Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) as incorporated into English law by the Human Rights Act 1998.

The rule of open justice is, of course, not absolute. CPR 39.2(3) stipulates that a hearing must be held in private if the court is satisfied as to one or more of the matters set out in that rule. Mr Andrew Sutcliffe QC, leading counsel for the NCA, submitted, in relation to the issues raised by the press applications, that subparagraphs (a), (c), (e) and (g) of CPR 39.2(3) each apply in this case in relation to both the UWO Application and the IFO Application.

Mr Sutcliffe also noted that the open justice principle is, occasionally, expressly derogated from by statute and submitted that the statutory material and guidance underpinning UWOs fall into this category, anticipating that UWO applications will, generally, be made without notice and determined in private.

Section 362 I(1) of POCA expressly provides that an application for a UWO may be made without notice. Again, for completeness, the revised Practice Direction provides at paragraph 11.1 as follows:
“11.1 The application [for a UWO and a related IFO] will be heard and determined in private, unless the judge hearing it directs otherwise.”
The presumption, therefore, is that the hearing will be private. In relation to court documents, the revised Practice Direction provides at paragraphs 9.1-9.3 as follows:
“9.1 CPR rules 5.4, 5.4B and 5.4C do not apply to an application under Part 8 of [POCA] (including an application for an unexplained wealth order or an interim freezing order) …, and paragraphs 9.2 and 9.3 below have effect in its place.
9.2 When an application is issued, the court file will be marked ‘Not for disclosure’ and, unless a High Court judge grants permission, the court records relating to the application (including the application notice, documents filed in support, and any order or warrant that is made) will not be made available by the court for any person to inspect or copy, either before or after the hearing of the application.
9.3 An application for permission under paragraph 9.2 must be made on notice to the appropriate officer, or (in the case of an application for an unexplained wealth order or an interim freezing order) the enforcement authority, in accordance with CPR Part 23.”

Mr Sutcliffe submitted that three important points can be drawn from the above provisions:

First, he says, it is clear that there is a strong presumption of privacy built into the UWO regime. It is not a matter of the NCA having to make an application to depart from a starting point of a public hearing. It is for those seeking to challenge the privacy and/or to obtain copies of court documents to make an application to do so.

Secondly, Mr Sutcliffe submitted, these measures are not simply about preventing the removal of property by the respondent before the order can be granted. The status of a UWO application is not tied to the existence or status of an IFO application, the latter being concerned with the risk of dissipation of property. To the contrary, section 362J(5) of POCA provides that an application for an IFO must be made without notice if the UWO application to which it relates was made without notice, rather than the other way around. This demonstrates that a UWO application is not made without notice for property preservation purposes.

Cousel noted that further support for this point is to be found in the Revised Code of Practice at paragraph 38, which states in relevant part: “… In deciding whether an application should be made without notice, the appropriate officer should consider the benefit of not holding the proceedings after giving notice to all parties. An obvious and common reason would be so as not to alert the person(s) connected to an investigation that it is ongoing. On notice proceedings might enable the person to move material or information and thereby frustrate the investigation. … .”

Mr Sutcliffe submitted, further, that a UWO is, of course, fundamentally about obtaining information and documentation and not the risk of dissipation of property. This is consistent with the policy underlying CPR r 39.2(3)(a).

Thirdly, Mr Sutcliffe submitted that, as paragraphs 9.2, 9.3 and 11.1 of the revised Practice Direction make clear, the presumptive position is that the hearing of an application for a UWO will be in private and the relevant court documents will not be made available. That position is not dependent upon whether the relevant UWO application has been made on notice or not. It specifically concerns, he submitted, the need for privacy of the hearing and related court documents. The presumption of privacy thus applies equally to applications made on notice, making clear that the need for privacy is not only about the potential impact of the respondent being on notice to the NCA’s investigation, but it is also concerned with the rights of the respondent. This is consistent with the policies underlying subparagraphs (c), (e) and (g) of CPR r 39.2(3).
He acknowledged that it would not invariably be the case that a UWO application would have to be without notice and heard in private. The specific facts of each case need to be considered carefully by the enforcing authority before making its application and by the court. He submitted, however, that the starting point of an application without notice and a hearing in private, as set out in the statutory provisions and supporting material for UWOs, was driven by a clear logic and set of policies, which he summarised as follows:
i) First, where the application is made without notice (as permitted by section 362 I(1) of POCA), the jurisdiction recognises that in all likelihood, publicity would defeat the object of the hearing (subparagraph (a) of CPR 39.2(3)).

ii) Secondly, the application necessarily contains significant amounts of sensitive information, both confidential and personal, about the respondent. Subparagraph (c) of CPR 39.2(3) is also plainly engaged; but equally (if not more importantly) where the application is without notice and the respondent unaware of it, subparagraph (e) of CPR 39.2(3) is also engaged.

In relation to the second of these points, Mr Sutcliffe amplified as follows:

(i) The considerable media interest in UWOs is undeserved. A UWO is merely a tool designed to assist with information-gathering during the early, preliminary stages of an investigation, where there is a dearth of information available to the NCA. Consequently, the threshold tests for the application are relatively low. The Holding Requirement and the Value Requirement, as set out in the statutory framework, are not difficult to satisfy. As to the Income Requirement and the Serious Crime Requirement, each depends on there being reasonable grounds for suspicion and no more. The test for “suspicion” is fairly low, and may be established by reference to evidence that would fall short of that necessary to establish actual involvement in crime, as noted by the Privy Council in Hussein v Chong Fook Kam.

(ii) Consequently, a UWO application is designed (a) to assist the NCA at the very early stages of its investigation, at a time when it has relatively little information and (b) to be an information-gathering tool. The obtaining of a UWO does not mean that the NCA will necessarily proceed with a civil recovery investigation or proceed to take advantage of any further or more intrusive investigative measures available to it.

(iii) The result is that a UWO application necessarily sets out in detail the fact that the NCA suspects that: (a) if the PEP Requirement applies, the respondent is a politically exposed person who has been involved in (most likely) embezzlement and corruption; or
(b) if the Serious Crime Requirement applies, as in this case, the respondent is a person who has been involved in very serious criminality, such as, among other things, human trafficking, arms offences, drugs offences, fraud offences and money laundering offences.

(iv) The UWO application sets out the foregoing detail, together with detailed information about the respondent’s income and finances, yet this is done at a stage where the investigation, and underlying evidence, is embryonic. Some of the information will be from public sources, but much of it will be likely to have come confidentially from other authorities and agencies, as required by paragraph 178 of the Revised Code of Practice (see [40] above) and other third parties.

(v) Plainly the content of that confidential information, if made public, is likely to have a personal and reputational impact on the respondent. The notion that the press, or any other member of the public, should be able to hear of the NCA’s suspicions as to the respondent’s character and criminal involvement, and details of the amount and suspected source of the respondent’s wealth, in circumstances where the respondent is not even aware of the fact that the hearing is happening, let alone has the opportunity to seek to protect his confidentiality and reputation, is obviously unfair to the respondent; not to mention contrary to the interests of justice. Plainly, therefore, sub-paragraph (e), as well as sub-paragraph (c), of CPR 39.2(3) is engaged.

(vi) Indeed, even if the application is on notice, for similar reasons subparagraph (g) of CPR 39.2(3) would also almost certainly be engaged. There is no justification for a respondent’s character being put forward for the type of public trial by media that often follows any media interest, at such an early stage of the investigation. Indeed, were that invariably a risk, then proportionality might require in practice that the NCA would have to apply a far higher threshold test as to the evidence and certainty of guilt than the statute requires before proceeding to make an application. That outcome would undermine the intended function of the UWO jurisdiction.

For those reasons, Mr Sutcliffe submitted, it is wholly unsurprising that the architects of the UWO jurisdiction envisaged the need for, and put in place safeguards to protect, the privacy of the hearing and outcome of the application for a UWO. To the extent that it is considered necessary to go behind the reasoning of the statutory and supporting regime, he submitted, it is plainly the case that numerous triggers in CPR 39.2(3) independently apply; namely, sub-paragraphs (a), (c), (e) and (g), which cumulatively establish an overwhelming case for having the hearing of an application for a UWO in private, in the vast majority of cases.

In his submissions, Mr Sutcliffe also dealt with the question of whether the court needed to undertake a balancing exercise, considering the respondent’s rights under Article 8 of ECHR and weighing them in the balance against the rights of Bloomberg and the PA (or any other relevant news organisation) under Article 10 of ECHR. He submitted, however, that such an exercise was unnecessary in this case, given the clear application of CPR 39.2(3), which required the court to hold the hearing in private. There are other potential rights of the respondent, for example, under Articles 2 and 6 of the Convention, which would also need to be taken into account which would make the exercise not at all straightforward.

Finally, Mr Sutcliffe submitted that the NCA had given serious consideration to the question of whether a hearing in public, but with reporting restrictions in place, would be sufficient, but had concluded that that approach would be insufficient. It being the case that a number of sub-paragraphs of CPR 39.2(3) independently apply, the hearing must be in private. Reporting restrictions alone, for example, would leave the risk of “jigsaw identification”. This is not a case, he says, where the sole concern is that Manny Hussain will thwart the UWO before it is served on him. Other issues and concerns are engaged, including the potential impact on Hussain of any publicity relating to the making of the UWO.

The judge accepted and substantially agreed with these submissions. For the reasons he gives, in light of the nature and purpose of the UWO application, CPR 39.2(3) is highly likely to be engaged, requiring the court to hold the hearing in private to secure the proper administration of justice. Given, in particular, (i) the very early stage of an investigation at which a UWO application will be sought by an enforcement authority, (ii) the relatively low threshold for obtaining a UWO under section 362B of POCA and (iii) the potentially disproportionate personal and reputational impact on a respondent of the fact that a UWO has been obtained if that fact is publicised, several sub-paragraphs of CPR 39.2(3) are likely to be engaged, most notably, sub-paragraphs (a), (c), (e) and (g), particularly in a case such as this where the UWO application involves consideration of the Serious Crime Requirement. This was anticipated by the statutory framework and guidance applicable to UWOs, which makes it clear that, while close and careful regard must be had to the specific circumstances of each case, the presumptive starting point is that a UWO application will be made without notice and that the hearing of the UWO application and any related IFO application will be in private.

In this case, it was clear, for reasons given below, that the presumptive starting point applied in this case and that it was necessary for the proper administration of justice that the hearing be conducted in private. In particular, the judge was satisfied of the matters set out in subparagraphs (a), (c), (e) and (g) of CPR r 39.2(3).

The judge also agreed with Mr Sutcliffe’s submission that it is not necessary in this case to go further and undertake a balancing exercise of the type carried out by Sharp J (as she then was) in DFT v TFD [2010] EWHC 2335 (QB) at [15]-[19], weighing the Article 8 ECHR rights of the respondent against the Article 10 ECHR rights of Bloomberg and the PA, particularly bearing in mind that other ECHR rights of the respondent are also potentially engaged and would need to be considered, most notably, his rights under Articles 2 and 6 of the ECHR. The judge in this case also agreed that reporting restrictions would be insufficient. Given the conclusion on the application of CPR 39.2(3), the hearing was required to be held in private, as ruled at the time.

Supplemental reasons for ordering that the hearing be conducted in private

Mr Sutcliffe for the NCA made the following additional submissions in support of the the application that, in this case, both the UWO Application and the IFO Application should be made without notice and the hearing conducted in private:

(i) Publicity would defeat the object of the hearing, engaging sub-paragraph (a) of CPR 39.2(3), for the following reasons: (a) The NCA considered that there was a material risk that Manny Hussain might move, or arrange to be moved, information and documentation potentially relevant to a possible civil recovery investigation in advance of a UWO being made. (b) Whilst the NCA had originally considered that an IFO was not required, it reached that view on the basis that the UWO Application would be made without notice. Putting Hussain on notice of the application would likely have triggered the risk that ultimately necessitated the IFO application. Given the NCA’s obligation to consider proportionality, the NCA had considered that, if the hearing was not on notice, the judicial weight that comes with a court order would have been sufficient to dissuade Hussain from transferring any of the subject Properties once he was served with the UWO. The NCA, having considered that point following the adjournment of the hearing on 4th July 2019, assessed that the risk profile changed. Evidence in support of that view was given in Mr Coles’ third witness statement. In particular, it came to the attention of the NCA that 3 Laurel Terrace was to be transferred to a new owner, although the NCA was not able to identify the intended transferee. Accordingly, the NCA determined that there was a need for an IFO and made the IFO Application. Had the UWO Application and the IFO Application been made on notice, there is a material risk that the purpose of obtaining a UWO would have been defeated.

(ii) It would be unjust to Manny Hussain, engaging subparagraphs (e) and (g) of CPR 39.2(3), for the hearing not to be conducted in private. For reasons articulated in Mr Coles witness evidence, the NCA considered that there was a significant concern over Hussain’s rights under Article 2 of the ECHR. The organised crime gangs involved in this case are known for violence. There was a genuine and well-founded concern that publicity over the subject and nature of the UWO might give rise to a threat to Hussain’s person. So long as the UWO was not publicised (and Hussain did not personally publicise it, which he was highly unlikely to do in the circumstances), the level of threat-to-life (“TTL”) in relation to Hussain would be considered low. However, as at the point of service of the UWO, the NCA would be alert to the possible need to trigger its TTL procedures. Should the existence and nature of the UWO become widely known (and particularly, in a manner that the NCA was unable to manage or control), the TTL risk to Hussain would be likely to escalate.

(iii) The UWO Application and the IFO Application involved consideration of detailed personal and confidential information about Manny Hussain, his finances, and his wealth, engaging subparagraph (c) of CPR 39.2(3).

(iv) As detailed in the NCA’s submission regarding satisfaction of the Serious Crime Requirement, he is suspected of involvement in serious crime. It would plainly be an intrusion into his privacy for those suspicions to be aired in public, at a stage where they are no more than suspicions. A UWO offered Hussain the chance to satisfactorily explain his wealth and to maintain his good character. Publicity of the NCA’s interest would severely undermine that. For these reasons, sub-paragraphs (c), (e) and (g) of CPR 39.2(3) were engaged.

(v) The UWO Application concerned the operation of organised crime gangs in the UK. Publication of the NCA’s suspicions, and publicising the UWO Application, carried the risk of prejudicing the NCA’s wider investigation. Given that it is highly unlikely that Mr Hussain would choose to publicise the existence of a UWO, media reporting of the UWO, in any way likely to identify the subject or content of the wider investigation, could well prejudice the nature of that ongoing investigation. On that basis, subparagraph (g) of CPR 39.2(3) was engaged.

These submissions of Mr Sutcliffe, which are amply supported by the evidence set out in the witness statements of Mr Coles and the supporting documentation exhibited with them were, unsurprisingly, adopted by the court.

The tests to be met for UWO application to succeed

In relation to the Serious Crime Requirement, the NCA suspects Hussain of acting as a professional enabler and serial money launderer for a number of individuals involved in organised crime gangs, specifically an organised crime gang operating in the Bradford area operated by the Khan family, headed by Mohammed Nisar Khan, known locally as “King Meggy“, and his brother, Mr Shamsher Khan, and an organised crime gang operating across the north of England run by Dennis Slade, there being a degree of connection between the individuals involved in the two organised crime gangs.
In his evidence, Mr Coles sets out in detail the alleged and known criminal activities of a number of individuals suspected or known to be involved in serious criminality, particularly in relation to drug disputes, gang violence, armed robbery and serious fraud. These individuals include:

(i) Mohammed Nisar Khan, who is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Amriz Iqbal and believed to be responsible for numerous serious assaults, including attempted murder, as well as involvement in the illicit trafficking of drugs and firearms on his own behalf and that of other organised crime gangs, with a significant record of previous convictions, largely for violence and drug-related crimes;

(ii) Shamsher Khan, who is known to the police for violence and drug-related offences, as well as obtaining mortgages by fraud and money laundering offences;

(iii) Dennis Slade, who was the head of an organised crime gang involved in cash-in-transit robberies involving firearms, which operated across the north of England, and who has various convictions for, among other things, burglary, theft, handling stolen goods and crimes of violence including assaults occasioning grievous bodily harm (GBH) and actual bodily harm (ABH) as well as suspected connection to two murders for which he was arrested but not charged;

(iv) Ms Maxine Valentine, Mr Slade’s estranged wife, who is said to have enjoyed a lavish lifestyle on her husband’s criminal earnings and who was convicted at Teesside Crown Court on 28 January 2011 on two counts of money laundering, for which she received a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment;

(v) Simon Morris, who has previous convictions for dishonesty offences, has also been implicated in Mr Slade’s fraud offending and was arrested by West Yorkshire Police in connection with a multi-million pound property fraud along with Irfan Ali, who is a close associate of Mr Mohammed Khan; and

(vi) Brian Morris, father of Simon, who also has previous convictions for dishonesty offences and was arrested alongside his son and Ali in connection with the multi-million pound property fraud referred to at (v) above.

In his evidence, Mr Coles sets out the details of Hussain’s involvement with these individuals. Some of the highlights are:
(i) Manny Hussain has, since 2005, frequently been stopped by the police while in Mohammed Khan’s company and has been observed spending time in his company on other occasions;

(ii) Hussain frequently drove King Meggy to and from Leeds Crown Court and attended with him during the trial of Dennis Slade;

(iii) Meggy is connected to a company, Twenty Four Seven Security Services (UK) Limited, which uses one of the subject properties, the Cubic Business Centre, as its business address and displays its signage at another of the properties, 3 Laurel Terrace;

iv) Hussain travelled to Malaga with Meggy for a trip lasting less than 24 hours, purportedly to attend the opening of a nightclub there;

v) Hussain paid private school fees for Meggy’s son for a period of just over two years in the sum of just under £10,000;

vi) Hussain funded Shamsher Khan’s confiscation order in the amount of £134,000 following his conviction for mortgage fraud offences, the source of those funds suspected by the NCA to be funds held, directly or indirectly, by Hussain for or on behalf of Mohammed Khan;

vii) Slade gave the address of one of the subject properties, 2 Sandmoor Drive, the property held in Hussain’s own name, as his home address during his trial, without, it appears to the NCA, Slade having paid any rent in relation to that property;

viii) Ms Valentine has stated to the authorities that 2 Sandmoor Drive is “part-owned” with a friend, and she was regularly driven to and from Leeds Crown Court by Hussain during Slade’s trial there;

ix) Hussain provided Slade with a luxury residence, The Lodge, owned by another company, owned or controlled by Hussain, following Slade’s release from prison;

x) Hussain visited Slade regularly in prison, sending money to the prison for Slade and advancing funds to Slade’s daughter;

xi) Hussain has been a business partner of Brian Morris, the two having been co-directors of a company called BM Car Parks Limited and, potentially, in relation to another company called Ideal Properties, which makes Brian Morris a “connected person” in respect of Hussain under both Corporation Tax and POCA regimes;

and,

xii) West Yorkshire Police has shown evidence to the NCA indicating that Hussain has been involved in property business dealings with Simon Morris.

A point not heard in court was the suspicion amongst the local property developing fraternity that Slade, for a period, acted as bodyguard for Simon Morris after an incident where a shot was said to be fired through the windscreen of the latter’s car.

As a result of its investigation, the NCA have concluded that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that Hussain and his corporate vehicles, including the other IFO Respondents, which are “connected” with him, have conducted themselves in a way that was likely to facilitate the commission of:

(i) serious criminal offences within England and Wales, namely money laundering offences, by way of concealing, disguising, converting, transferring, and/or being involved in arrangements concerning, and/or acquiring, using and/or having possession of the proceeds of the above identified criminality; and

(ii) of serious offences by the persons identified above, of the underlying serious crimes respectively identified, by way of providing a money-laundering service and thereby enabling those criminals to retain the benefit of their criminality over the years, and, as a result, facilitating their continued offending.

Moreover, the NCA suspects that Manny Hussain has not merely been involved in at least one serious offence, thereby satisfying the Serious Crime Requirement, but rather plays a wider role in relation to organised crime in the Bradford area, standing at the centre of a network of organised crime as a designated “clean skin”; namely, a person with no serious criminal convictions to this name, who enables those operating the criminal activities of the organised crime gangs with which he is connected, by providing a money-laundering service. So, the NCA submits that Hussain’s activities not only facilitate the commission of individual serious crimes, but they also facilitate organised crime on a large scale, which is a further factor exacerbating the seriousness of the criminality in which it is suspected that Hussain is involved.

Having reviewed the evidence provided by Mr Coles in his first witness statement and considered the submissions made on behalf of the NCA, the judge concluded that the Holding Requirement, the Value Requirement, the Income Requirement and the Serious Crime Requirement were all amply satisfied. The remaining question, therefore, was simply whether it was appropriate in all those circumstances for him to exercise his discretion to make the UWO. He concluded that it was, for the following reasons:
(i) The statutory requirements were met;

ii) the aim of the measure was to improve the ability of the authorities to investigate and, where appropriate, recover the proceeds of crime, which is a legitimate aim;

(iii) having reviewed the terms of the UWO with counsel, the judge was satisfied that it was no wider than appropriate and that it was proportionate, with a view to enabling the NCA to determine whether to commence civil recovery or other proceedings (which in fact they did, obtaining a £1.13 million Account Freezing Order in January, 2020);

(iv) there are relevant safeguards in the legislation, for example: (a) A UWO does not confer the right to require a person to answer any privileged question nor to produce privileged or excluded material; (b) a statement made in response to a UWO may not generally be used in evidence against the respondent in criminal proceedings; (c) the statutory presumption that relevant property is recoverable property where the respondent fails to comply or purport to comply with the UWO may be avoided if there is a “reasonable excuse” for non-compliance and may subsequently be resisted if “the contrary is shown”.

In terms of proportionality, the NCA considered that it could not achieve the necessary objectives by less intrusive means. The primary alternative would have been to seek a Disclosure Order (“DO”), with Disclosure Notices (“DNs”) being issued to various third parties from whom information would be sought. The NCA had several reasons for discounting this approach:
(i) It would require identifying relevant third parties upon whom to serve DNs, whilst in this case many of the sources of funding are completely unknown (or even which solicitors acted on the various transactions);

(ii) the transactions go back further than six years, which is the usual document retention period for many financial institutions;

(iii) the use of DNs would alert third parties to the fact that the NCA is interested in the source of Manny Hussain’s wealth, which would arguably be more intrusive than a UWO;

(iv) the use of a DO and DNs would be less practical and cost-effective than a UWO in a case such as the present one where the nature of Hussain’s suspected role as an enabler and money-launderer necessarily makes the sources of funds likely to be disparate and complex.

Ultimately, a UWO would be less intrusive in its impact, the NCA said, given that failure to comply with a UWO is not a criminal offence, unlike failure to comply with a DO, unless the respondent knowingly, or recklessly, makes a false or misleading statement in their response.
As far as Hussain’s human rights are concerned, the NCA submitted that the proposed UWO pursued a legitimate aim, would be in accordance with the law and would be justified and proportionate in all the circumstances.
As far as proportionality and having regard to Hussain’s human rights are concerned, the judge accepted and agreed with the submissions made on behalf of the NCA.

In compliance with its duty of full and frank disclosure of all material facts, and to pursue reasonable lines of enquiry before making the UWO Application, the NCA noted various points “putting on its defence hat”, which were set out in Mr Coles’ first witness statement. These involved various arguments that Hussain might possibly seek to run when put on notice of the UWO, rebutting the submission that one or more relevant elements of each of the key requirements for obtaining a UWO were satisfied (Holding, Value, Income and Serious Crime). None of the points raised, in the judge’s view, had any real force. It is important to bear in mind, he said, the relatively low threshold for obtaining a UWO, but also the limited effect of a UWO and the various statutory safeguards to which he had already referred.

After the judge reviewed with counsel the form of UWO sought by the NCA, the conclusion was that the terms of the UWO were appropriate and proportionate in light of the evidence, and therefore made the UWO on the terms sought by the Agency.

Reasons for making the IFO against Mr Hussain and the Other IFO Respondents

Mr Sutcliffe made the following submissions in support of the IFO Application against Mr Hussain and the other IFO Respondents:
i) The requirements of POCA are satisfied in that the application is made by the NCA, which is the same authority that applied for the UWO, and it is sought in “the same proceedings” as those in which the UWO was made; and

ii) the NCA considers that it is “necessary” to make an IFO for the purposes of avoiding the risk of any recovery order (that might subsequently be obtained) being frustrated, for the reasons explained in Mr Coles’ third witness statement, namely: (a) The NCA had received specific information from the Money Laundering Reporting Officer of the relevant firm, that Hussain intended to transfer 3 Laurel Terrace; (b) Mr Coles was further notified by the Land Registry that an application had been lodged by the firm of solicitors in question; (c) no information concerning the application was available to the NCA, and despite a request by Mr Coles, pursuant to section 7 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, the Money Laundering Reporting Officer of the relevant firm responded refusing to provide any information about the transfer, including as to the intended transferee; and (d) a search of the Land Registry on 9th July 2019 indicated that no transfer had yet taken place.

Mr Sutcliffe submitted that this evidence demonstrated that there was a clear risk of imminent dissipation of 3 Laurel Terrace, justifying the IFO Application. Furthermore, he said, given the NCA’s suspicion that all of the subject Properties are held or controlled by Mr Hussain as forms of investment of the proceeds of crime, on behalf of third parties, then if the intent to transfer 3 Laurel Terrace was pursuant to a request from a relevant third party in order to realise funds, then if only 3 Laurel Terrace were frozen, it is likely that Mr Hussain would transfer another of the Properties in order to realise funds. Accordingly, he submitted, the NCA considered there to be a risk of dissipation in relation to all of the Properties and therefore it sought an IFO in respect of all of them.
The cumulative value of the Properties was believed to be just under £10,000,000. All of the subject Properties were then currently unrestrained. Some of them were also unencumbered, meaning that it would be easy for Mr Hussain to release equity from them, which could be dissipated quickly and with ease. All except one of the Properties was held by one of the other IFO Respondents. Accordingly, it was necessary to make the IFO (but not the UWO) against each of the other IFO Respondents as well as Mr Hussain.
Having considered that nothing significant arose by way of the NCA’s compliance with its duty of full and frank disclosure, and having reviewed with counsel the form of IFO sought, the judge was satisfied that the relevant statutory requirements for the IFO were met and that the terms of the IFO were appropriate and proportionate.

Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, at the conclusion of the hearing the court was satisfied that:
(i) it was strictly necessary to conduct the hearing of the NCA’s applications for a UWO against Mr Hussain and an IFO against Mr Hussain and the other IFO Respondents in private. That is to say, without both public and press present; and (ii) in all the circumstances, it was just, appropriate and proportionate to make: (a) the UWO sought by the NCA against Mr Hussain; and (b) the IFO sought by the NCA against Mr Hussain and each of the other corporate IFO Respondents.

Connections to other cases on this website

One of the drivers for West Yorkshire Police to continue to harass John Elam, whose miscarriage of justice case was raised in Parliament in 2014 (read more here) is their obsession with social, or other connections, to Dennis Slade. There is no such association. Seven years of the most intensive, intrusive covert and overt police surveillance should have convinced them of that. A recent success in a civil claim against the force by Elam  (full story to follow) has needled WYP further.

Former Head of the Economic Crime Unit of West Yorkshire Police, Cedric Christie, was involved in investigations into Simon Morris, a former Director of Leeds United football club, both pre- and post-retirement from the force. Cedric is believed to be at the very centre of the controversy over the conviction of his elder brother, Ralph Christie at Bradford Crown Court in 2015. From being a powerful miscarriage of justice advocate, the younger brother turned turtle and appears to have provided the impetus for his former force to convict on 3 of the 5 counts upon which he was found guilty. The jury acquitted Ralph on 14 other counts, in a number of which Cedric is believed to have also taken a hand (read more here). He is presently refusing to answer any questions on these matters.

As referred to above, Shamser Khan was involved in large-scale mortgage fraud. His conviction, and subsequent POCA recoveries involving other mortgage frauds, led indirectly to Operation Thatcham, a large scale crash for cash investigation (in which Khan has no known involvement at all). During Thatcham, a well known Bradford doctor was arrested by police as part of an alleged conspiracy to defraud. However, no allegations were ever put to him in interview and he was never charged with any offence. That arrest of Dr Abdul Rashid is now the subject of a hotly disputed, long running civil claim which could cost the police up to £5 million in costs and damages (read more here and here).

Page last updated at 1115hrs on Monday 3rd August, 2020.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2019. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Not one single piece of paper

Exactly six years ago, at the end of the day’s Parliamentary business, Gerry Sutcliffe rose to his feet from the green leather benches to begin his contribution to an adjournment debate on the subject of the John Elam miscarriage of justice case. This is what he had to say:

“I am pleased to see the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims in his place. I do not expect him to be able to respond in detail to the important issues that I will raise, but perhaps while he listens to my speech he will reflect on what advice he can give on the best course of action to take the matter forward.

“The last case that I raised in which I felt a serious injustice had been done was that of Private Lee Clegg, a soldier in Northern Ireland who was convicted of murder. After the intervention of his solicitor, Simon McKay, other Members from both Houses and myself, he was eventually cleared of the crime.

“I want to make it clear that I do not raise these matters lightly. On the whole, our legal system is fair and just. It was with great pleasure and pride that I served as a Minister in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice under the last Government. I therefore raise this case knowing the confines within which Ministers may speak because of operational issues and the legal process. I raise this case this evening because a number of things have happened that have made me want to put it on the record.

“Mr John Elam was convicted of a conspiracy to commit fraud and received a 10-and-a-half-year jail sentence in April 2008. He has now been released on licence. He has always maintained his innocence and has sought to appeal against his imprisonment. He had an appeal in 2010 that was turned down.

“A constituent of mine came to see me to raise his concerns about the safety of the conviction and the role of certain officers in West Yorkshire Police. As you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, Members of Parliament are approached by many people who feel that the legal system has operated against them. Sometimes it is difficult to unravel what the issues really are. As any other constituency MP would do, I wrote to the appropriate Departments and West Yorkshire police, and I contacted Mr Elam’s then solicitors, Keith Dyson and Partners. I also had meetings with the West Yorkshire Police Commissioner [Mark Burns-Williamson].

“My interest was stirred even more when differing accounts of the case emerged. According to West Yorkshire Police, Mr Elam was an international criminal who had connections to the Russian mafia and was involved in money laundering and the drugs trade. However, according to his solicitor, Mr Elam was the victim of police intimidation and a dirty tricks campaign, which included a lack of disclosure at his appeal. I am not a lawyer, so I was unsure what legal avenues were available to resolve the conflicting stories. As MPs do, I asked around, seeking advice and receiving information from many sources. The responses led to my interest in the case deepening further.

“Mr Elam had only one previous conviction, for common assault—he threw a Toby jug at a pub landlord. How did that minor criminal evolve into an alleged international criminal? According to West Yorkshire Police, they were interested in Mr Elam in 2005 and sought approval to have him monitored and placed under surveillance as a dangerous criminal. Operation Teddington was set up, and a very large amount of resources was spent on the process. Covert action was used to monitor the bank accounts of the Medina Trading Company, which consisted of a restaurant and a car wash. Mr Elam has always admitted his involvement with the Medina company and its directors.

“The Yorkshire Bank held the accounts of the Medina company, and an employee of the bank at that time, Mr Richard Shires, passed on information relating to the accounts, and cheques, to DC Mick Casey of West Yorkshire Police, as confirmed by affidavit. During my investigations into the matter, I have submitted a number of freedom of information requests to West Yorkshire Police, through which I have discovered that a person called Mr Richard Shires was a serving special constable in West Yorkshire Police at the time the information was passed on. I have also discovered that a person called Mr Richard Shires subsequently became a paid constable in West Yorkshire Police and continues to serve to this day. I have tried to discover through a recent freedom of information request whether those Richard Shires were one and the same, but at this time I have not been provided with that information.

“If those Richard Shires were one and the same, there was a clear conflict of interest, and more to the point, the credibility of the information and cheques passed to DC Casey would be called into doubt. I think all would agree that it would never be appropriate for a bank employee who was also a serving special constable to assist with the inquiries of the very same police force he worked for.

“At the trial, the Crown was represented by Mr Jonathan Sandiford. No evidence was given about the wider concerns relating to Mr Elam’s criminal associations. In fact, Mr Sandiford stated: The prosecution case here is that the conspirators sought to conceal the fact that Mr Elam was the true owner of the companies acquiring the business in order to defraud creditors’.

“In summing up the case, His Honour Judge Wolstenholme said to the jury that ‘….what you must do is take the view that, well, something dishonest was going on with one or more of the defendants. They must all have been up to something, even if you are not sure what.’

“Subsequently, Mr Elam was convicted.

“Mr Elam’s case, supported by his legal team, portrays an entirely different account of the chain of events. Mr Elam claims that he was approached in the summer of 2004 by a police officer demanding £150,000 in cash to be paid immediately, and £30,000 annually thereafter. In March 2005, the police investigated Mr Elam’s business practices using the covert name Operation Teddington. It is alleged that, in June 2005, 49 officers were redeployed from the anti-terrorist taskforce to work on Teddington.

“As I said, in September 2005, Richard Shires was a paid employee of the Yorkshire Bank. He accessed bank accounts relating to the Medina restaurant and secured more than 3,000 cancelled cheques. A written affidavit by Mr Shires confirms that he delivered a bundle of those cheques to DC Casey. The Yorkshire Bank also confirms that it never received an order to produce from the courts.

“In 2006, John Elam was arrested, and then the Crown court trial began. Despite a wide-ranging three-year investigation, involving more than 300 officers, Mr Elam faced a single charge of conspiracy to commit fraud. He was convicted and served his sentence in HMP Wakefield as a category A prisoner, the highest security level. He had also been treated as a category A prisoner during his time on remand. Mr Elam suffered a stroke in prison and needed external medical support.

“It is my contention that, whatever the true situation, a number of questions remain unanswered and there are a number of public interest concerns. First, was a production order properly served to Yorkshire Bank, and what was the role of PC Shires? Secondly, what was the true cost of Operation Teddington, and were officers diverted from the anti-terrorism taskforce, who at the time were dealing with the 7/7 bombers in West Yorkshire? Thirdly, why was Mr Elam considered to be a category A prisoner, and who was the police officer that demanded money?

“I know the Minister cannot respond directly to individual cases and that the Criminal Cases Review Commission will take a fresh look at this case, but I am seriously concerned enough to raise these issues and the fact that, while out on licence, Mr Elam still faces issues related to the recovery of the proceeds of crime. A hearing that was suspended in October is due in February. I have tried to contact West Yorkshire police on a number of occasions about those issues, and I will continue to do so. I was heartened today when I had a more co-operative response from West Yorkshire Police because they knew this debate was taking place, and I hope to take the matter further.

“These are serious allegations and this is a serious case—as I said, I do not usually promote and push issues where I do not feel that a cause needs to be looked at. This is a sensitive case, but it is important that as constituency MPs we raise such matters when they are put to us, and that we try to get the best result for the constituents we represent, particularly where justice and the work of the police are concerned. It must always be held utmost that the police operate in a proper manner and that our legal system is operating at its best.

“I want to put this case on record. I am sure it will not end here and that we will have to deal with other issues. However, I believe that the other bodies involved—they know who they are—should look at this case in greater detail, and I look forward to what the Minister has to say.”

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Gerry Sutcliffe, former MP for Bradford South

The Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims (Damian Green) then rose to respond on behalf of the Government:

“I congratulate the Hon. Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe) on securing this debate and thank him for recognising at various stages in his speech that I will inevitably be constrained in what I can say in response to the specific points he has raised. He served in a distinguished capacity in both the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office under the previous Government, so he will recognise that as a Minister in both Departments I am doubly constrained in what I can say. I will, however, respond to his points about miscarriages of justice, applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, and police matters.

“Consideration of alleged miscarriages of justice is a matter for the independent Criminal Cases Review Commission, and ultimately for the appeal courts. I am aware that Mr Elam has made an application to the commission. It is therefore not a matter for the Government and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that case on their behalf. I understand that Mr Elam has made a complaint to West Yorkshire Police that is still ongoing and being investigated by the force’s Professional Standards Department. Again, that disqualifies me from commenting on it.

“The Hon. Gentleman mentioned the background to the case, and I understand that Mr Elam and a number of co-defendants were prosecuted as a result of a major operation by West Yorkshire Police. There were a number of criminal trials against Mr Elam and other defendants in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Mr Elam was convicted of offences including assault and conspiracy to pervert justice, conspiracy to defraud, and doing acts tending or intending to pervert the course of justice. Custodial sentences were imposed following conviction, which have been served, and I understand that Mr Elam has appealed unsuccessfully to the Court of Appeal, against sentence on one occasion, which was heard in 2007, and twice against conviction—both those appeals were heard in 2010.

“As I have said, Mr Elam has made an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which was established by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. Its purpose is to review possible miscarriages of justice. Since 31st March 1997, the Commission has operated with the power to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice and refer convictions and sentences to the relevant appeal court for a new appeal. Its remit extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Commission replaced functions that were previously carried out by the Secretary of State. Parliament established the Commission specifically to be a body that is independent of the Government.

“A Commission review is rightly a long and thorough process. If Mr Elam’s application to the Commission concerns all the criminal proceedings to which he has been subject over a number years, the review will be complex and lengthy.

“It should be noted that the Commission has strong statutory powers to enable it to discharge its functions. It can direct and supervise investigations; approve the appointment of officers to carry investigations on its behalf; and gain access to documents and other relevant materials. I draw the Hon. Gentleman’s attention to the power in section 17 of the 1995 Act, under which the Commission can reasonably require any person serving in any public body to produce to the Commission any document or other material that can assist it in the exercise of any of its functions.

“Of course, “public body” includes the police, so the Commission’s powers pursuant to section 17 operate irrespective of any duty of confidentiality and allow the Commission access to information of the highest sensitivity. Accordingly, as I am sure the House can see, the Commission has the power to obtain and review the papers and materials held by West Yorkshire Police, provided the Commission believes it reasonable to do so, in connection with its review of Mr Elam’s conviction. I hope that that reassures the Hon. Gentleman that, when the time comes, the Commission can access and consider all material relevant to the review of Mr Elam’s application.

“The Commission has confirmed that an application from Mr Elam was received in January 2013. Mr Elam is now at liberty and, as I understand it, the case is not yet under active review. The Commission has informed me that it recently wrote to advise Mr Elam that the estimated date for the allocation of his case for review is January 2015. I appreciate that that is some 2 years after the original application was made and that, given the complexity of the case, it is likely to be some time before an outcome is reached once the review is under way.

“In addition, the commission has explained to me that it operates a system of priority for applicants who are in custody. For cases requiring a substantial review, the review is generally started 12 months earlier when applicants are in custody than when somebody is at liberty. Currently, the wait for those in custody is unduly long. The Commission is concentrating on allocating those cases to reduce the maximum waiting time.

“As I have said, although the Commission prioritises applications from people in custody, I am advised that it has a policy for affording priority to any individual case when appropriate. Perhaps Mr Elam wishes to pursue that, or perhaps the Hon. Gentleman can discuss with Mr Elam whether that is an appropriate course of action in his case. I should take the opportunity to repeat that the Government should not, and indeed cannot, in any way intervene or be seen to be intervening in a matter for the Commission and, if appropriate, the appeal courts.

“On the West Yorkshire Police investigation, I understand from them that Mr Elam’s solicitor contacted them at the end of last year to make a complaint about an officer involved in the 2005 investigation. West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department is currently in correspondence with Mr Elam’s solicitor about the matter and currently awaits a response. As the Hon. Gentleman has said, Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Brennan, the Head of the West Yorkshire Police Professional Standards Department, has spoken to him and informed him of the sequence of events surrounding the original complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

“The complaint was thoroughly reviewed, and the response was sent on 18 September advising that there was no evidence to support the allegation. A formal complaint was recorded by West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards department and, although Mr Elam and his representatives have been advised that the complaint will be subject to disapplication on two occasions, there has been no response to the letters.

“I understand that the Hon. Gentleman was advised that the process would not stop West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department from taking action on the information, especially if there is a suggestion of misconduct or criminality. I believe that Detective Chief Superintendent Brennan has also offered to meet the Hon. Gentleman to go through any outstanding allegations or suggestions of misconduct. As well as that offer—it is obviously a matter for him to decide whether to take that up—the Professional Standards Department strongly encourages Mr Elam, or any other person, to contact it should they have information that they believe may be relevant or of value. I think that that is all I can appropriately say at this stage.

“If after those stages Mr Elam is not satisfied with how his complaint to West Yorkshire Police was dealt with, or how he was notified of the outcome, he can appeal a decision to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is the statutory guardian of the police complaints system. There are, therefore, further steps that he can take if he wishes to do so.

“The Hon. Gentleman raised three important specific points at the end of his speech. Let me address them as far as I can. The issue of the production order to Yorkshire Bank and the role of Mr Shires is specific to one or more of the criminal cases brought against Mr Elam. If that is a case he has asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission to consider, it will investigate the issues fully. It is therefore not appropriate for me to speculate on them. Information on the costs and diversion of police resources for the purposes of Operation Teddington is an operational matter for West Yorkshire Police, so I refer the Hon. Gentleman to it for the answer to that. On the question of where Mr Elam served his custodial sentences, the decision on which custodial facility a convicted prisoner is sent to is made by the National Offender Management Service. Its decision is informed by information and intelligence from various sources, and the Directorate of High Security has a responsibility to act on that information. It is not within its remit to investigate the details of the information provided by the sources it uses.

“It is clear from the important matters raised by the Hon. Gentleman that there are issues that need to be looked into further. As I have explained, the relevant and appropriate bodies are looking into those matters now. I therefore think that the sensible way forward is to allow the application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission to take its course. I hope that that satisfies the important points raised by the Hon. Gentleman.

Damian Green sat down at 5.18pm having given a polished and, patently, well briefed response, 22 minutes after the debate opened. The obvious, and legitimate question, is what has happened since? Is everything as straightforward as he makes out with regard to the various statutory bodies and the police in their treatment of miscarriage of justice victims and did the case pan out as he said it would. What follows here is a damning condemnation of all four: The Criminal Case Review Commission, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, West Yorkshire Police and Mr Green himself.

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Former Policing Minister, Damian Green pictured alongside family friend, Kate Maltby

Green was later sacked by Prime Minister, Theresa May, as First Minister after he admittted making misleading statements following the discovery of pornography found on his Commons computer in 2008. Those listening to the swish sound of whitewash being smoothly applied during his response to Gerry Sutcliffe wouldn’t have been too surprised at this turn of events. Mrs May was, of course, Green’s ‘boss’ at the Home Office at the time of the adjournment debate. She did not call for a review of any matters with which he had been involved as a result of his admission of dishonesty.

Other allegations raised against him by Kate Maltby, were found to be “plausible”, but no definitive conclusion could be reached about them as a result of “the competing and contradictory accounts” of the Minister and a female family friend who is nearly 30 years his junior, regarding inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Mrs May was heavily critical of the police in the way they carried out the raid on Green’s parliamentary office in 2008, when the pornography was discovered. One might fairly say that the former Home Secretary was not quite so robust when members of the public were victims of unlawful, high-handed and/or heavy-handed treatment by cops.

The first port of call for a member of the public having difficulties with the police should be his elected policing representative, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), voted in by the public for that very purpose. Regrettably, the PCC for West Yorkshire is Mark Burns-Williamson, one of the worst in the country, in a field of plenty. His approach throughout the Elam fight for justice has been nothing short of disgraceful: He firstly lobbied his Labour colleague, Gerry Sutcliffe, to drop his involvement with the miscarriage of justice case. Burns-Williamson then, as he invariably does in other complaint cases, simply adopted the police postion without making independent enquiries: So, in the PCC’s eyes, Elam is a notorious Russian mafia gangster and unworthy of the assistance of the officer paid to perform that function. But when asked by Mr Sutcliffe to provide evidence, or substantiation, of that position  he could provide none. In fact, he refused to answer correspondence.

For a series of investigations into John Elam and others, that Gerry Sutcliffe believed had cost, in total, approaching £100 million of taxpayers money, and, at times, occupied up to 300 officers, the PCC ought really have been a great deal more rigorous in challenging the police narrative.

As far as West Yorkshire Police is concerned, their treatment of John Elam continues to be highly questionable. Despite almost ten years of intensive covert surveillance, of the most intrusive nature one can imagine, there was not one scrap of evidence that he fits their bizarre description as an international drug-running, money laundering, Russian mafia gangster produced at his trials. Despite many requests from Elam, his legal representatives, his MP’s, there has not been any evidence of the same genre produced in the intervening 11 years, either. Which makes the Burns-Williamson stance even more inexplicable.

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John Elam, in his office in Leeds, sizing up the next land development project.

He looks a long, long way from that, sloshing about on a brownfield construction site in Bradford in torrential rain on a cold, sleeting December morning rallying his workers from the front. Yet still the police pursue him; smearing him with banks and professional associates, making life as difficult as they possibly can to put his undoubted, almost unequalled, business acumen to use as a property developer. Very few would be able to start with less than nothing, from gypsy stock, and legitimately turn that into a £multi-million fortune.

There is also this troubling whiff of racism, and all the resentment infecting people of such unpleasant disposition, that appears to permeate into almost all of WYP’s actions. Is it the gypsy blood and the ability to wheel and deal, making ‘easy money’ by putting ‘back to back’ land packages together that gets their goat?

One senior WYP officer is alleged to have said at the time of the Sutcliffe adjournment debate: “How did that gypsy f****r get his case on the telly like that”.

Every complaint made on behalf of John Elam (he is in the later stages of his life, having made and lost several fortunes, getting to grips with reading and writing) is airily batted away by the police. Then kicked further into the long grass by the thoroughly disgraced IPCC (now the similarly disgraced IOPC). Aided and abetted by a police complaints system deliberately re-designed, in 2011 and 2018, to further hamper the public at every turn.

Two long-serving officers turned up to meet Elam at Gerry Sutcliffe’s office in Bradford in 2014, Simon Bottomley and Osman Khan. Both DCI’s at the time, who have gone on to be Heads of PSD at WYP. Bottomley is the present incumbent, having succeeded Khan last year. Both have a chequered history amongst those members of the public who have had the misfortune to complain against their local police force. Their disposition towards John Elam and Mr Sutcliffe was aggressive and confrontational throughout. They had turned up in place of Andy Brennan, who had done a ‘moonlight flit’ and left WYP shortly before he was due to meet with the MP and Elam, as Damian Green had indicated he would. When Elam spoke to Brennan by phone he could offer no explanation for his ‘retirement’ from WYP. The meeting produced nothing of use to the fight for justice. The barriers were up and stayed up.

The stigma of the 7/7 bombings, and the effect of the withdrawal of WYP’s specialist counter-terror officers onto what appeared to be an almost wholly disproportionate vendetta, also rankles deeply with the force’s hierarchy. Further discrediting Elam is one of the only ways they can salve their conscience after 56 people died at the hands of three radicalised suicide bombers from Leeds, and one from Kirklees.

The CCRC did, eventually respond in April, 2016, three years and three months after the submission of the Elam appeal to them. Their detailed findings, and the flaws inherent within them, including what appears strongly as ‘verification bias’ and a lack of basic investigative rigour will be the subject of a separate, but linked, article on this troubling miscarriage of justice case.

The CCRC provided no satisfactory answers on the key issues concerning:

(i) Richard Shires and his dual and contemporaneous role with Yorkshire Bank and WYP.

(ii) The provenance of the Production Order which took nine years for WYP to eventually produce (in the end to Gerry Sutcliffe) and the Yorkshire Bank are adamant was never served on them at any time.

(iii) The true status of the alleged police informant, Andrew John Rudd. Whom it is said was acting as agent provocateur.

(iv) The classification of John Elam as a Category AA prisoner. Extraordinarily, and quite independently as an investigative journalist, I have obtained access to that information and about which there will be a seperate article naming the officer who provided what appears to be false and malicious information to HMP’s Director of High Security.

(v) The identity of the police officer who turned up at John Elam’s home in Scarcroft and demanded £150,000 in cash up front, and £30,000 per annum thereafter, ‘to make your [John Elam’s] problems go away’. No enquiries were made as to the whereabouts of the film from a covert camera situated in a bird box in a tree opposite (in the garden of a former Leeds United goalkeeper, Nigel Martyn).

(vi) The continued smearing of him as a very serious organised drug-running, money laundering, Russian mafia criminal, absent of even the smallest scrap of evidence.

What they did do, incredibly, was have at least one face-to-face briefing with West Yorkshire Police, the very organisation whose serious, and proven, wrongdoing was at the heart of the Elam CCRC appeal. It appears to have escaped the attention of the CCRC that WYP has the worst record of any police force in the country when it comes to serious, high profile miscarriages of justice. Dating back to the 1970’s and the deeply shocking Stefan Kiszko and Judith Ward cases (read more here). They are a police force that simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth or not tamper with evidence and/or witnesses. That is not fanciful speculation, it is an inalienable fact.

Most crucially, what they CCRC didn’t do was exercise their extraordinary powers to obtain disclosure independent of the police and prosecution filters or barriers. If they had, they would have discovered, as I have done, that covert surveillance on John Elam began accidentally in 1998 when an operation (my informant who worked on the case cannot recall the name) was mounted in East Leeds targetting other persons of interest to the police. Elam was a business associate of one of them. West Yorkshire Police say they have not been able to trace the operational name either, despite very specific information being provided to them that should make it a straighforward task

An operation that followed, codenamed Primary, did target John Elam but yielded nothing after three years of intensive, intrusive surveillance as they tried to link him to WYP’s ‘most wanted man’, Dennis Slade. A career armed robber whom the police fitted up in 2010 for a murder conspiracy he wasn’t part of. There was never any connection to find between the two men, socially or in business dealings, except for a fleeting introduction in a Leeds pub one evening. Slade’s conviction on that murder count was quashed by the Court of Appeal and the charged dropped one week into the re-trial in April, 2019 (read more here).

West Yorkshire Police misled Damian Green when they stated that surveillance on John Elam only began in 2005. It would have seriously harmed their case if the obsessive vendetta had been found to have begun five years earlier.

For my own part I can say this: I’ve known John Elam for seven years and either I am blind and stupid or he is a hard-working family man, unfailingly courteous, would walk a mile to do a man a good turn, would turn around rather than do him a bad one. His office is on one of the busiest corners in Leeds, he operates in a highly competitive business arena but appears to have the respect of his peers. Deals get done, and the wheels of the diggers and trucks turn. He is in the public eye insofar as he regularly takes his daughter and grandson out for meals and spends many weekends with them at their caravan at the East Coast seaside. That is not the lifestyle of a mafia gangster.

Like me, he abhorrs any form of narcotics and will not tolerate their use in his presence.

What I can’t say: That there is any evidence at all that he is the major criminal portrayed by the police. He is a one man band and has no association with any gang, apart from those carrying out groundworks on construction sites. He has the same computer in his office that he has had all the time that I’ve known him; he freely gives me access to that. He has just one ancient mobile Nokia phone that, apart from making and receiving calls, he struggles to use. There are no burner phones or SIM cards; no sophisticated means of encrypted communication used routinely by criminals, even the not-so-serious ones these days; no firearms; no weapons (and he wouldn’t even try to beat me in a fist fight). Nothing at all to support the notion of a criminal lifestyle and enforcer. His mode of transport is a 4 year old Ford Ranger open-backed pick-up truck. Not ideal if you are transporting illicit goods, cash or weapons.

What John Elam does have is a burning sense of injustice. It will never leave him. Why else, nine years after he was released from prison would he still be battling the police and the criminal justice system, spending whatever money he can raise on lawyers, trying to clear his name. The reader is invited to draw their own conclusion from that and look out for the follow-ups to this article which will appear in the coming weeks. This is a story that will run and run.

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Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North West

APPEAL: If any retired or ex-West Yorkshire Police officer wants to come forward, anonymously or otherwise, with information that may assist in answering the questions still posed by this troubling case, they are asked to contact, in complete confidence, the office of John Elam’s MP, Alex Sobel. The Member for Leeds North West has been assisting Mr Elam, particularly with disclosure issues, for the past eighteen months. He has promised efforts will be made to secure a second adjourment debate in order to fill the gaps from the first one six years ago. They are, however, difficult to come by and Alex has not been at all lucky in the ballots that take place when pursuing other issues on behalf of constituents.

Alex secured a resounding victory at the recent General Election, securing a third term in office with a substantially increased majority. Very much against the trend for the Labour Party. John Elam, as a constituent campaigned strongly amongst his family, friends and associates for an elected representative he holds in high personal and professional regard.

Page last updated at 1650hrs on Saturday 11th April, 2020.

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