A LEAD investigator in the Lockerbie bombing inquiry has insisted that reward payments handed to two key witnesses after the trial of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi were “absolutely above board”, despite allegations that the pair gave testimonies in the knowledge they would be paid.
Tom McCulloch was speaking after a Maltese newspaper published extracts of police documents that said Mr Gauci had a “clear desire to gain financial benefit” from his evidence.
Mr McCulloch said the decision by the American authorities to give Tony Gauci $2 million (£1.2m) and his brother Paul $1m was entirely in keeping with the US Department of Justice policy.
It follows the publication of new documents last month by author John Ashton that suggest Mr Gauci made it clear before the trial in 2000 that he wanted to be remunerated for his crucial evidence.
Former Libyan intelligence officer Megrahi was jailed in January 2001 over the bombing of Pam Am Flight 103 in December 1988, which led to the deaths of 270 people. He was later released and died in Tripoli in May 2012.
Mr Gauci’s evidence was key because he identified a number of clothes fragments found at the crash site as having been brought from his shop in Sliema. Mr McCulloch, a former detective chief superintendent with Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, last night told The Scotsman that cash had “never been discussed with them at any time” prior to Megrahi’s conviction.
As the lead investigator into the atrocity, he wrote to the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in April 2002 to recommend the pair receive a reward of $3m because he said the Gaucis fitted the criteria for its Reward for Justice programme. He added: “All proceedings were complete before I nominated the Gauci brothers for consideration.”
Documents released since the trial have repeatedly suggested that the Gaucis expressed an interest in being paid for their testimony under the DoJ scheme from an early stage – which critics say questions its reliability.
Mr McCulloch said that the brothers would have known about possible payments, but that nothing was offered at any stage before the trial.
He said: “From the outset, the Department of Justice had floated the idea of a reward to anyone who came forward… [but] it had never been discussed with them at any time prior to [the trial] – so it’s absolutely above board. There is absolutely no suggestion that there was anything underhand. It was all above board.”
The Crown Office stated last month: “No witness was offered any inducement by the Crown or the Scottish police before and during the trial and there is no evidence that any other law enforcement agency offered such an inducement.”