Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Taxpayers Landed with [Pounds Sterling]25m Bill after Bungled Police Sting

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Taxpayers Landed with [Pounds Sterling]25m Bill after Bungled Police Sting

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL CHESTON

TAXPAYERS face a [pounds sterling]25million bill after a major police operation collapsed amid accusations of incompetence today.

The failure of the investigation into a money-laundering plot involving suspected drug dealers saw a senior judge launch an unprecedented attack on detectives over "entrapment". Ten men, including high-profile Gibraltar lawyer Christopher Finch, walked free after four years of hearings.

Judge George Bathurst-Norman said the police operation was "massively illegal", "incompetent" and "entrapment".

He also attacked Crown lawyers for undermining the judicial process by "editing" documents and causing "huge delays". The former suspects could now seek compensation for the arrests in 1998 and prosecution.

The principal target of Operation Cotton was Finch, long a thorn in the side of the British establishment. He is best known for advising Thames TV on the documentary Death On The Rock and representing Carmen Proetta who won nearly [pounds sterling]500,000 in libel damages from British newspapers over her evidence in the SAS shooting of three IRA terrorists in Gibraltar.

It also snared Plinio Bossino, a businessman with major holdings on the Rock including three bureaux de change. The police operation was conceived 14 years ago to counter the escalating threat of drug money laundering, targeting criminal gangs operating between northern Africa, Gibraltar and southern Europe. A false company was set up and offices were opened in Mayfair equipped with staff and covert cameras.

In 1993, two undercover officers headed for Gibraltar posing as crooked financial advisers with facilities for moving large sums of money around Europe.

In October they met Joey Wilkins, a convicted British drug dealer who told them about Finch. …

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