Met Police Commander suspended for 'coaching' suspect due to stand trial

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The Metropolitan Police Commander Ali Dizaei was suspended last night following an investigation into allegations that he helped to "coach" a hit-and-run suspect to escape criminal prosecution.

Mr Dizaei, one of the country's most senior Asian police officers and the President of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), is alleged to have acted as a consultant to point out weaknesses in a case brought by the Met against a woman accused of leaving the scene of a fatal hit-and-run.

He denies any wrongdoing and says the complaint is malicious.

The investigation comes amid a rancorous race discrimination dispute between the Commissioner of the Met, Sir Ian Blair, and his most senior ethnic minority officers – among them Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who is bringing a race discrimination claim against his boss.

The investigation started after a complaint was made directly to Sir Ian more than a month ago. It is said to centre on an accident in March 2005 when a 37-year-old woman allegedly collided with a man on a bicycle.

In his role as the NBPA's president, Mr Dizaei is a close confidante of Mr Ghaffur, who has been sent on gardening leave by Sir Ian. He was privy to closely guarded details of Mr Ghaffur's dossier of evidence of alleged racism and discrimination.

Mr Dizaei spoke to the press on behalf of Mr Ghaffur as the dispute became increasingly acrimonious. Sir Ian was asked if he had confidence in Mr Dizaei at a press briefing earlier this week and declined to answer.

Alfred John, the chairman of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, said: "Without doubt it is a witch hunt. It is an attempt to destabalise our movement. It is a farce." Speaking earlier when the allegations first arose, Mr Dizaei said: "I deny this allegation entirely. I have never been involved in this case at all, absolutely not. I never acted as a consultant against the Met."

He is also among a group of officers under investigation over use of their expenses credit card and furthermore is the subject of an allegation that he fabricated evidence when he arrested a man, who he accused of assaulting him with the mouth-piece of a Middle Eastern sheesha pipe, outside a restaurant.

It is the second time he has been suspended. The first was in 2001 when there were claims he had taken illegal drugs, consorted with prostitutes and was a danger to national security. The investigation, which was led by Sir Ian Blair, cost £4m. However, when the case came to trial in 2003, Mr Dizaei was cleared by a jury in a unanimous decision.

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) Professional Standards Sub-committee released a statement yesterday saying that it had "unanimously decided to suspend the commander". The committee added: "Suspension is not a disciplinary sanction and ... should not be taken as a presumption of guilt. The MPA has a statutory duty to investigate all allegations of misconduct."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission – which, by law, must also give clearance to suspend a senior officer – said had agreed to the suspension "after very careful consideration". The MPA has appointed Deputy Chief Constable Phil Gormley of West Midlands Police to investigate the complaint.

A message was passed to Mr Dizaei asking him to contact The Independent, but he did not return the call.

The flamboyant officer

Commander Ali Dizaei was born in Tehran in 1962. His father and grandfather were senior officers in Iran and several uncles were also in the force. By the age of four, he had decided where his future lay.

His father sent him to Britain for his education and he attended a boarding school in Arundel, West Sussex, where he was to lose count of the number of times his head was flushed down the toilet. However, he went on to become the captain of the rugby team and also, by his own admission, "a bit of a bastard".

In 1986, after taking a law degree, he joined Thames Valley Police. In his book, Not One of US, published last year, he told how he was the only probationer who was non-white and also the only one who was housed on the Whitley estate in Reading, a British National Party heartland. He was nicknamed Ayatollah and colleagues joked openly about his "smell". However, he was quickly promoted through the ranks and, in his spare time, he studied for an MA and then a PhD.

He also developed a reputation for flamboyance, with a fondness for wearing sunglasses, cowboy boots and designer clothes, a publicly open marriage and an appetite for expensive nightclubs. In 1999, he moved to the Metropolitan Police as a superintendent, after being invited to apply for the job by the then commissioner, Sir Paul Condon.

Within months of joining the Met, an anonymous allegation that he was a burglar was left on the Crimestoppers telephone line. This and other allegations of corruption, taking drugs, sleeping with prostitutes and even spying for Iran were all the subject of official investigations.

He was suspended in 2001 and charged with perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office and making false mileage expense claims a year later. He later admitted lying in relation to where he had parked his car to hide the fact that he had gone to a National Black Police Association meeting.

In 2003, he was cleared, reinstated and awarded £60,000 compensation.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission subsequently described the investigation into the allegations against him, called Operation Helios, as "seriously flawed".

In 2006, he spoke out against the Forest Gate anti-terror raid on two Muslim brothers, in which one was shot by police. The men were later released without charge. He also criticised passenger profiling on aircraft.