Scotland Yard police chief Ali Dizaei jailed

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The Independent Online

A top Scotland Yard officer was jailed today for assaulting and falsely arresting a man in a petty row over money.

Commander Ali Dizaei, 47, was sentenced to four years by Mr Justice Simon at London's Southwark Crown Court.

A jury convicted him of misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice at the end of a four-week trial.

They found he attacked young Iraqi businessman Waad al-Baghdadi before arresting and attempting to frame him.

The convictions spell the end of the Iranian officer's controversial 24-year career. Dizaei has been suspended on full pay since September 2008.

He emerged unscathed from a series of earlier inquiries, including a multimillion-pound undercover operation examining claims of corruption, fraud and dishonesty.

But an attempt to frame a man who pestered him for payment over a website exposed him as a violent bully and liar who abused his position.

Dizaei will remain a senior police officer until the bureaucratic formal process of throwing him out of the force can be completed.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which investigated the original complaint, must pass its files to the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) for a decision.

Dizaei will then be sacked for gross misconduct and could face losing all or part of his pension under further measures aimed at punishing corrupt officers.

Nick Hardwick, who leads the IPCC, branded Dizaei a "criminal in uniform" who threatened the reputation of the entire service.

The jury heard the two men met by chance in the Persian Yas restaurant, run by Dizaei's friend Sohrab Eshragi, in Hammersmith Road, west London, on July 18 2008.

Mr al-Baghdadi, 24, approached Dizaei and asked for £600 he was owed for building a website showcasing his career, press interviews and speeches.

This angered Dizaei, who had just eaten a meal with his wife after attending a ceremony at New Scotland Yard for new recruits.

The officer confronted the younger man in a nearby sidestreet where a scuffle took place and Mr al-Baghdadi was roughly arrested and handcuffed.

Prosecutor Peter Wright QC said Dizaei told Mr al-Baghdadi he would "f*** up your life" and had "10 witnesses" who would back him up.

In one of two 999 calls Dizaei asked an operator for "urgent assistance" before starting to arrest Mr al-Baghdadi.

When officers arrived, Dizaei handed them the metal mouthpiece of a shisha pipe, held on Mr al-Baghdadi's key ring, and claimed he had been stabbed with it.

But a doctor at Hammersmith police station concluded that two red marks on the officer's torso were probably self-inflicted and did not match the pipe.

Dizaei told colleagues he had been attacked, leaving Mr al-Baghdadi in custody for 24 hours and ultimately facing prosecution.

When Mr al-Baghdadi was told he would not face any charge, he complained about his treatment and Dizaei's web of deceit slowly unravelled.

Mr Wright said the officer was guilty of a "wholesale abuse of power" motivated by self-interest and pride.

Giving evidence, Mr al-Baghdadi compared Dizaei to bloodthirsty movie gangster Tony Montana, a character played by Al Pacino in the 1983 film Scarface.

He said many people were scared of the Metropolitan Police officer because of his status in the Iranian community.

The jury also heard that Dizaei rarely paid for his meals and left his unmarked car on a double yellow line while at the restaurant.

In his defence, Dizaei said he feared he was being targeted by his own colleagues because of his role as president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA).

Dizaei represented another senior Met officer Tarique Ghaffur as he threatened to sue former commissioner Sir Ian Blair for discrimination and bullying.

But the jury rejected his claim that the way complaints against him were handled could lead to a "miscarriage of justice" and convicted him of both counts.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Hardwick said: "Dizaei behaved like a bully and the only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them.

"Mr al-Baghdadi has shown tremendous strength of character throughout this case - from the moment he was confronted by Ali Dizaei, throughout our investigation, and finally when giving evidence at court.

"We are grateful for the confidence he placed in the IPCC and, as a result of that, justice has been done today.

"The greatest threat to the reputation of the police service is criminals in uniform like Dizaei.

"Corruption comes in many forms and remains a threat to the police service. It requires constant vigilance to fight it. Integrity must not be negotiable.

"I think the public will now be looking to police leadership for reassurance that they will not allow political and financial pressures to prevent them from robustly tackling corruption."

Charles Crichlow, who took over from Dizaei as president of the NBPA, said the verdicts were a "surprise".

He said: "Given the possibility of future appeal proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment in any detail at this stage.

"This is clearly an extremely difficult and traumatic period for Dr Dizaei and his family and we respect their privacy."

Mr Justice Simon said the sentence included a deterrent element "to send a clear message that police officers of whatever rank are not above the law".

The judge told Dizaei: "You knew how the system worked and you thought you would never be discovered.

"It is to the credit of the investigators in this case that early on they questioned your account.

"You should have drawn a very clear line between your personal position with regard to Mr al-Baghdadi and your position as a police officer.

"You crossed that line and now stand convicted of these offences."

The judge said Dizaei had shown a "grave abuse of public trust" and his conduct had persisted for some time.

Dizaei showed no emotion as he was sentenced and taken down.

Earlier in mitigation, Michael Mansfield QC, defending Dizaei, told the court: "It's clear that, at least as far as this defendant is concerned, his career is at an end."

Dizaei had a "quite remarkable career spanning 25 years, starting as a police constable and working his way to commander", Mr Mansfield said.

His work in the community and with young people showed his client was "devoted" to his career and the police service, and his performance was repeatedly judged to be "exemplary", Mr Mansfield told the court.

He added: "He was a mentor for colleagues and a role model for young people within the borough."

He said the incident that led to his conviction took place around the same time he was elected president of the National Black Police Association and promoted to the rank of commander.

Dizaei has been "paving the way for years in the way he has recognised the need for change in the Metropolitan Police", Mr Mansfield said.

"It is sad in the extreme that these achievements over the past 25 years now lie overlain by what has happened here today."

Dizaei showed a "sad lapse of judgment", he said.

Mr Mansfield urged the judge to recognise that Dizaei's "hopes have been dashed" and that his career is now over.

"A serious mark of disapproval of an officer of this rank committing these offences needs to be balanced against the contribution he has made."

Speaking outside court, Gaon Hart, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The jury agreed today that Commander Ali Dizaei abused his position as a senior police officer when he threatened and arrested an innocent man with whom he had a personal dispute.

"Mr Dizaei had no proper reason for making this arrest and there was no real evidence that this young man had committed any crime on that day.

"Mr Dizaei's corruption, which would have been deplorable in any police officer, was all the more so given his position as a highly-ranked police commander.

"The public entrust the police with considerable powers and with that comes considerable responsibility. Mr Dizaei abused that power and ignored that responsibility.

"The public should have confidence that we will pursue anyone, regardless of their position, where there is evidence that they have committed serious offences of corruption.

"The CPS would like to thank the jury for the careful way in which they have followed the evidence.

"We believe that justice has been served for the victim and for the public in this case.

"We would also like to thank the IPCC for their thorough investigation and particularly we would like to thank the victim, who showed a great deal of courage in giving his evidence."

Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said: "Commander Ali Dizaei has been a police officer for nearly 25 years.

"It is extremely disappointing and concerning that this very senior officer has been found guilty of abusing his position and power.

"The public expect the police to treat them fairly and honestly and we are resolved to tackle corruption at every opportunity.

"He has breached that trust and damaged not only his own reputation but that of the entire police service.

"I am proud of the officers who gave evidence in this case and supported the IPCC investigation.

"Bearing in mind his rank and disgraceful behaviour, he should not be surprised at the severity of his sentence."