The chairman of the Serious Organised Crime Agency resigned today after he failed to declare he owned a private company with his wife, who works for a global consultancy firm involved in security and investigations.
Sir Ian Andrews informed Theresa May, the Home Secretary, that he would leave his position early after weeks of damaging revelations over the crime-fighting body in The Independent.
Soca is facing urgent questions over why it failed for years to tackle more than 100 blue-chip clients of corrupt private investigators, including law firms, banks and celebrities.
Sir Ian was hauled before MPs to explain the agency’s inaction – but failed to declare that his wife Moira was the head lawyer at Good Governance Group (G3), a major global company involved in security and investigations.
Soca has handed over a list of the rogue investigators’ clients to the Home Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Keith Vaz, on condition that the names are not revealed. Mr Vaz has now suggested that the confidentiality will be reviewed: "Sir Ian was part of the decision making process that required that the Home Affairs Select Committee kept the lists that Soca sent us confidential. I shall be writing to his successor to ask if he or she will now review this decision."
In a letter to Mr Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Sir Ian admitted that it was “inexcusable” that he also did not disclose he had recently set up a private business with Ms Andrews, a senior former Whitehall official.
“I have no explanation for this other than it was both a genuine and unintentional oversight but it is nonetheless inexcusable: and the responsibility is mine alone,” he wrote. “My original four-year appointment expires at the end of this week and was due to be extended until October to cover the remaining life of Soca. Given the above, and the fact that I have failed to maintain the standard of integrity to be expected of the head of a public body, let alone one charged with law enforcement, I believe that I had no alternative but to offer the Home Secretary my resignation as the Chairman of Soca.
“This is a huge disappointment to me personally.”
Mr Vaz said: “This is the right decision. Clearly as head of a law enforcement agency it is important that there is full transparency and it is essential that all members of the Soca board also check their own interests.”
Sir Ian was behind the decision to classify a list of blue-chip companies who hired corrupt private detectives that hack sensitive information – claiming the disclosure could damage their commercial interests and breach individuals’ human rights.
His wife Moira is employed as the head lawyer for Good Governance Group (G3), a global consultancy firm involved in security and investigations that controversially donated funds to a charity linked to a friend of former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, prompting his resignation.
She worked for 30 years as a senior law enforcement official in various government departments including the Foreign Office and the Crown Prosecution Service, before becoming “group general counsel” of G3. The investigations agency also hired as a consultant the former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who resigned in the wake of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
G3 has reportedly been investigating the listed coal mining company Bumi plc, which is at the centre of a bitter row between the banker Nat Rothschild and Indonesia’s Bakrie family.
The agency was reportedly paid by the government of Bahrain to “support [its] stance before the international community” according to Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb who is said to be a “special adviser” for 3G. The company itself has not commented on any work it might do for Bahrain. Mr Yates has also secured a role as police adviser to the dictatorial regime which has been condemned by the international community for its brutal oppression of political opponents.
When the country’s Formula One Grand Prix took place against a backdrop of protests, Mr Yates appeared on news reports defending the stuttering reform process and describing the unrest as “criminal acts” against “unarmed police” who acted with “remarkable restraint”.
In his letter to Mr Vaz, Sir Ian said he did not believe that failing to declare Ms Andrews job was a conflict of interest, but he admitted his omission of his private role with his wife in management consultants Abis Partnership Ltd was “inexcusable”.
He said: “I have no explanation for this other than it was both a genuine and unintentional oversight but it is nonetheless inexcusable: and the responsibility is mine alone.
“My original four-year appointment expires at the end of this week and was due to be extended until October to cover the remaining life of Soca. Given the above, and the fact that I have failed to maintain the standard of integrity to be expected of the head of a public body, let alone one charged with law enforcement, I believe that I had no alternative but to offer the Home Secretary my resignation as the chairman of Soca.”