Why does Scotland go on protecting Tony Gauci?

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By Kenneth Roy

Where is he now, the Maltese shopkeeper, chief prosecution witness in the Lockerbie trial? Not in Malta, you can be sure of that. The smart money is on Australia, where he lives – or was directed to live – quietly ever after. Big place, Australia.

Of course, no one confirms it officially. We know the whereabouts of the man he was instrumental in convicting of the murders of 270 people. This man is confined to bed in Tripoli, asleep most of the time, and when he is not asleep speaking in short breathless sentences. That’s Megrahi. Of Tony Gauci, however, very little is known.

How much was Gauci paid by the Americans for his evidence? Another question without answer; to that awkward inquiry there is the sound of silence across several jurisdictions. The figure of two million dollars is quoted when the unseemly subject is raised occasionally. But no official confirmation. Not now; not ever. You bet.

Next question: was Tony Gauci’s evidence worth two million dollars? Was it worth anything? Obviously yes. It did the job. It secured a conviction. But forensically, logically, fairly, the answer has to be no.

Gauci sold the clothes which were then wrapped around the improvised explosive device (IED) which then brought the plane down over Lockerbie. That is the nub of the prosecution case. The prosecution then has to show that the man to whom Gauci sold the clothes is Megrahi. This is essential, because it’s this and this alone which links Megrahi directly to the IED.

Problems, we now have a few. Gauci tells the trial that he can’t be sure of the date on which he sold the clothes. If it’s the date the prosecution claims it is, the customer can’t be Megrahi. Megrahi isn’t in Malta that day; he is demonstrably somewhere else. But that’s okay, because Gauci isn’t sure it was Megrahi who bought the clothes.

Why – sorry about this, I have another question – why is Gauci then considered not just a credible witness but the main man? The lord advocate at the time, Peter Fraser, rejoicing in the title Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, said later that he thought Gauci ‘an apple short of a picnic’ – a most extraordinary statement for any chief law officer to make concerning a case in which so much innocent blood was spilled. Yet an apple short of a picnic was good enough. Some picnic.

Earlier this week, we had a little fun at the expense of Struan Stevenson, an obscure Tory MEP, who said that if Donald Trump failed to build his hotel in Aberdeenshire it would be a ‘tragic loss’. We suggested that Mr Stevenson knew little of tragic loss if he thought this might be one.

Here is a case of tragic loss. I mean – a real one.

A young woman, Flora Swire, is looking forward to spending Christmas 1988 with her boyfriend in the United States. She boards Pan Am flight 103 and very soon she is dead. Her father Jim has to make a fuss before he is allowed to see her body. He then, over a period of many years, pursues his own investigations, goes to Libya, prevails upon the colonel to do the decent thing and hand over any suspects.

Two men appear before a panel of Scottish judges at Camp Zeist. At the start of the trial, Dr Swire is convinced of Megrahi’s guilt. By the end of it he is equally convinced of his innocence. When the verdict is declared, he faints. To the tragic loss has been added tragic irony.

Just before Christmas, Dr Swire returned to Libya. I had a long chat with him about his visit. He was able to see Megrahi, whom he considers a friend. What passed between them he will not disclose. When he left Megrahi’s house Dr Swire was visibly upset. He does not expect to see his friend again.

Tragic loss; tragic irony – and now absolute farce.

The truth about the Lockerbie prosecution is contained within a long report of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, whose own painstaking inquiries after the trial pointed to the possibility, putting it no higher, of a miscarriage of justice and the desirability of a further appeal against conviction. This report has never been published.

The Scottish Government, in the face of sustained pressure to have it published, introduced an enabling bill. A year ago, this magazine warned that the bill was useless; that it would not achieve the desired purpose. This was not a piece of journalistic fancy on our part. It was based on a remarkably frank assessment given to the Scottish Review by no less an authority than the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission itself. The commission informed us that the bill would not remove one of the major obstacles to publication: the pre-condition that all the parties concerned must consent to its release.

As a public service, we gave heavy prominence to the commission’s statement. The Scottish press evinced not the slightest interest in it. Nor, so far as we know, did anyone else in a position to do anything about it. The disastrous bill went ahead.

It would be relatively simple to make an order removing the consent requirement. Instead the Scottish Government has perversely chosen a legislative strategy which will result in the continued non-publication of the Lockerbie report.

Why?

What does Scotland owe Tony Gauci that we are prepared to go on protecting this man? What does it owe any of the parties?

What do we have to fear from the publication of this report?

What is the real agenda?

We do ourselves no favours with this obstruction of justice. We are fooling no-one – except possibly ourselves.

Let an order be placed before the Scottish Parliament removing the consent requirement. Let the order be placed and let the report be published. The reputation of Scotland demands no less.

 

Courtesy of Kenneth Roy – read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review