Accused Met officers part of unit behind Nigerian embezzler's conviction
Politician James Ibori was convicted of embezzling more than £150m from Nigeria in a London court last month
Paul Lewis and Rob Evans
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 22 May 2012 19.17 BST
The Metropolitan police officers who were accused of misconduct at a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday were heading one of the most significant corruption investigations Scotland Yard has mounted in recent times.
The home affairs select committee heard allegations of possible payments to police officers or those close to the inquiry for information relating to a criminal investigation.
The three officers worked for Scotland Yard's elite proceeds of corruption unit, which has spent seven years bringing to justice its biggest scalp.
That scalp was James Ibori, one of Nigeria's wealthiest and most influential politicians, who was last month convicted of embezzling more than £150m from the impoverished African state.
The long-running investigation into Ibori was hailed as "groundbreaking" by the Department for International Development (DFID) when Ibori was jailed for 13 years.
Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, said Ibori's conviction showed that "cheats and thieves who seek to use Britain as a refuge for their crimes can expect to feel a full force of British justice", adding: "Corruption is a cancer in developing countries and the coalition government has a zero tolerance approach to it."
Since 2006, DFID has been giving £750,000 a year to the Met police unit to investigate foreign politicians who launder stolen assets through Britain.
Ibori came under investigation in 2005 after a striking act of generosity. One day, he liberally handed out £50 notes to staff at a London hotel who were fortunate enough to pass his room.
His wealth was derived from "widescale theft, fraud and corruption when he was governor of Delta state", prosecutor Sasha Wass told a London court last month.
Ibori's rise to the top of Nigerian politics came just a few years after he quit a low-paid job as a cashier at a branch of the Wickes DIY chain in Ruislip, west London. In 1990, he was convicted of stealing goods from Wickes.
He moved back to Nigeria and worked his way up the political ladder, winning the election to become Delta's governor in 1999.
Once in power, he systematically stole from the public purse and transferred huge sums to bank accounts around the world.
Southwark crown court heard that Ibori accumulated a portfolio of six properties outside Nigeria when his salary as governor of Delta region amounted to just £4,000 a year.
His London properties were in the affluent areas of St John's Wood, Hampstead and Regent's Park. He also had properties in Dorset, South Africa and Texas. He sent his children to a private school in England.
Ibori bought a fleet of expensive cars and ran up £920,000 on a credit card made available only to the very rich.
Others convicted with him for money laundering were his wife, his mistress and his sister.
Ibori's London-based solicitor, Bhadresh Gohil, was jailed for seven years for laundering the money which Ibori stole. It is Gohil's lawyer, Mike Schwarz of Bindmans, who made the corruption allegations to the parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday.