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Corrupt Crown prosecutor 'caught in elaborate sting'

Undercover police caught a corrupt senior Crown prosecutor in a elaborate sting to prove he took cash to use his position to discontinue a case, a jury heard today.

Sarfraz Ibrahim, 51, of Cyncoed, Cardiff, South Wales, admitted corruption and related charges yesterday on the eve of a trial.

As Gwent Crown Prosecution Service trials unit chief he had the power to stop a case in its tracks, recommending "no further action", or deciding it should go to trial.

Co-defendant Saifur Rahman Khan, 37, of Penlan, Cardiff, went on trial as planned today claiming police manipulated him into helping Ibrahim.

Ibrahim admitted a charge of corruption, attempting to pervert the course of justice and misconduct in public office, between May and August 2009.

Khan denies a charge of aiding and abetting Ibrahim's misconduct in public office and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) police spent months setting up bogus identities after suspicions were raised about Ibrahim and Khan, Swansea Crown Court heard today.

Both were spotted by undercover SOCA operatives meeting at Bridgend M4 motorway services with two high level cocaine dealers in the summer of 2008.

The meeting with known criminals, who were under surveillance, triggered "anxiety" regarding Ibrahim's integrity, Jonathan Laidlaw, prosecuting, told a jury today.

"Ibrahim's position as a barrister working for the Crown Prosecution Service made that anxiety all the more acute," he said.

As a result SOCA created an elaborate fictional scenario "to test whether he was prepared to act corruptly and whether Khan was ready to assist in such a venture".

Investigations found no evidence to suggest either Ibrahim or Khan had links with the drugs world which triggered initial suspicions.

Khan and Ibrahim were friends who lived within walking distance of each other in the well-heeled suburbs near the city's crown court.

Businessman Khan ran his own property letting agency called Kingston Residential Property Lettings.

An undercover SOCA officer, posing as a businessman named Tariq, approached Khan claiming he wanted to rent rooms for an employee named Nick Baker, Mr Laidlaw said.

Once Mr Baker, also an undercover officer, was put in place by March last year the sting operation was in place.

"A couple of months later in May of last year with Nick accommodated and set, the SOCA, using real police officers, staged an arrest of the undercover police officer.

"They actually broke down the door to the flat that Nick Baker had rented from the company and took him away and questioned him about an assault."

Police prepared an authentic file containing all the usual details from witness statements to interviews with the suspect.

Tariq would later drop in on Khan at work and talk about the problems his employee's arrest had caused.

Khan is then alleged to have told Tariq that a friend of his was a Crown Prosecutor.

He allegedly went on to explain that if the case came to his friend and he recommended no charge, "then it is no charge. Understand? It is like he has that power".

In June last year Khan asked to see Nick Baker and the two men met, at which point Baker confessed the assault allegation was true.

Khan is then said to explain about Ibrahim: "He is the one that says that you have got a case, you know, or have not got a case. You understand?"

Mr Laidlaw said that later the same month Khan and Ibrahim met Baker at Mermaid Quay, in Cardiff Bay.

During the meeting Baker made it "perfectly clear that he had assaulted the victim".

"Ibrahim told Nick 'the case is going nowhere'," Mr Laidlaw told the jury.

He said Ibrahim went on to explain that he would not normally be responsible for reviewing such cases but that he could "manoeuvre it".

He said that once the police file was under his responsibility he could review it and recommend "no further action".

He told the undercover officer that if he did that, then afterwards "I do not know you".

Ibrahim then went on to instruct the officer to write in complaining at the slowness with which his case was proceeding.

This allowed him to approach the police officer responsible for the file, who was aware of the undercover operation, and ask for it.

During the period in question Ibrahim, a lawyer for 19 years, was on secondment from the Avon and Somerset CPS.

He worked as a lawyer manager and Crown advocate in Gwent, regularly prosecuting cases at Cardiff and Newport crown courts.

On July 21 last year the bogus file containing Nick Baker's case was delivered to Ibrahim while he was at Cardiff Crown Court.

He later recommend no further action (NFA) should be taken, telling the officer in charge of the case: "Because of evidential difficulties the file was marked NFA."

Mr Laidlaw said that Khan and Nick Baker later met at the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff and discussed how Ibrahim should be rewarded.

It was suggested that he should be paid between £15,000 and £20,000 and the larger of the two sums was eventually handed over in cash.

At the time Khan claimed that none of the money would go to him but after his arrest it was found that he had retained half.

The businessman initially claimed that he had withdrawn the cash from his bank to pay staff at his company.

Mr Laidlaw said Khan would now claim in his defence that he had been "manipulated to act in a manner other than he would normally", by the police.

But the prosecutor said that even if it had been a case of entrapment, and it was not, that would not afford Khan a defence.

The case continues.