MI5 accused of smearing top UK policeman

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am

Security service suspected British officer born in Iran of spying for Tehran

One of Britain's most senior police officers has accused MI5 of smearing him after it emerged this week that the security service told Scotland Yard it suspected him of being an Iranian spy.

The Guardian has learned that the warning about Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei was one of the principal reasons the force pursued him for four years, mounting a corruption inquiry costing at least GBP3 million (HK$46 million). He was suspended amid allegations of drug use, corruption and threatening national security, but was cleared by a jury of minor criminal charges.

A police anti-corruption squad bugged his phones, investigated his bank accounts, tracked their own officer to the US and set him several integrity tests, which he passed.

A key reason why it was so determined to see him convicted was a claim by MI5 that he was suspected of being an agent for the Iranian government. Sources say MI5 based its warning on the officer's association with Iranian embassy officials and nationals, his visits to the embassy, and an interception by Britain's eavesdropping station.

Mr Dizaei, who now runs policing in a London borough, was born in Iran and holds dual citizenship. He did not know that the allegation had come from MI5.

'MI5 should be ashamed of themselves, as should the police service. This allegation is wholly baseless and false, and it is outrageous that it could still be used to blight my career. It is nothing more than a smear. Every time I go to Iran, I send a fax and e-mail to the Iran desk at the Foreign Office, and when I arrive I tell the British embassy in Tehran.

'I have always told Special Branch [the arm of the police that deals with national security matters] when I'm visiting the Iranian embassy in London to get a visa for my son. Are these the actions of an Iranian spy?'

'I am one of the most investigated officers, and if there was a shred of proof then the squad that turned over every aspect of my private life would have thrown it at me, and they did not find the vaguest shred.'

According to extracts of his autobiography, Not One of Us, published in The Times, Mr Dizaei wrote that Scotland Yard harassed the National Black Police Association (NBPA), for whom he was legal adviser, in an effort to discredit him.

He told of officers seizing a van full of NBPA files from the interior ministry without a search warrant, and hiring accountants to examine the expenses claims of the organisation's senior members.

Mr Dizaei's book also alleged his supporters were wrongly briefed that he was a suspect in a 14-year-old rape investigation. He says he has nothing to hide.

The police investigation was branded a racist witch-hunt by Mr Dizaei's supporters. He was suspended in January 2001, after having helped NBPA members sue forces for discrimination.

The investigation began in July 1999. By October, he was the subject of wiretaps and covert surveillance into his alleged drug use, which again would prove baseless. In 2000, the police anti-corruption squad received the intelligence from MI5.

After his acquittal in 2003, the force paid Mr Dizaei #80,000 in compensation. In return, he dropped a racial discrimination case against the police.

In a deal reached after pressure from the home secretary at the time, David Blunkett, he also returned to work with the police declaring his integrity was intact.

The Guardian, Agence France-Presse