x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

London police commander jailed

Ali Dizaei, once suspected of being an Iranian spy, is found guilty of assault and false arrest.

LONDON // One of Britain's most senior and controversial Muslim policemen started the first day of a four-year prison term yesterday. Iranian-born Ali Dizaei, 47, a commander with the Metropolitan Police in London, was convicted of assaulting and falsely arresting an Iraqi to whom he owed money.

The flamboyant Dizaei will lose his salary of £100,000 (Dh570,000) for what Sir Paul Stephenson, the Met commissioner, called "disgraceful behaviour" that smeared the reputation of the force. Dizaei, the former president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), has been immersed in controversy for the past decade and, at one stage, was suspected of being an Iranian spy. He has repeatedly been investigated for wrongdoing but, equally often, been promoted by a police force he has accused of "institutionalised racism" and Islamophobia.

Dizaei's undoing came one evening in July 2008, when he took his wife for a meal at the Persian Yas restaurant in west London, where he often ate free of charge. Also eating there was Waad al Baghdadi, a 24-year-old immigrant who had designed a website for Dizaei, highlighting the policeman's career and plugging his autobiography, Not One of Us. When Mr al Baghdadi reminded Dizaei he still owed him £600 for the work, Dizaei became angry and later assaulted him. He then called the police, falsely claiming that Mr al Baghdadi had attacked him.

A police investigation revealed Dizaei as a bully and liar. At the end of a four-week trial in London on Monday, a jury convicted him of misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice. Nick Hardwick, the head of the independent police complaints commission, said: "Dizaei behaved like a bully and the only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. The greatest threat to the reputation of the police service is criminals in uniform like Dizaei."

Sir Paul Stephenson said: "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." His conviction brings to a shuddering halt a 24-year police career that, in recent years, has often made headlines.

The son of a senior police officer in Iran and the grandson of the country's assistant commissioner, he was sent to England to be privately educated. He graduated from university and joined Thames Valley police as a constable in 1986, rising through the ranks and transferring to the London force 11 years ago. Later that year, he addressed the first conference of the NBPA, saying that police aptitude tests were "culturally biased".

In 2000, a multimillion-pound covert police operation began, focusing on allegations that Dizaei was an Iranian spy and using prostitutes as part of a lifestyle that included visits to London clubs. The following year he was suspended over "a number of disciplinary and criminal issues", including accusations of dishonesty, attempting to pervert the course of justice and improper personal conduct. Dizaei, after threatening to sue the Met Police for racial discrimination, was charged with perverting justice, misconduct in public office and eight counts of false accounting. He was acquitted in 2003.

A second criminal case against him, alleging he swindled his expenses, was abandoned that year and a secret deal led to the dropping of disciplinary charges. In 2006, Dizaei caused more controversy when he sarcastically suggested that a new offence of "travelling while Asian" should be introduced in the wake of an airline security clampdown directed at Muslims. The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, accused him of inflaming moderate Muslim opinion and sensationalism, a charge reiterated the following year when his autobiography was published.

By the time of his dinner at Persian Yas, he was already the subject of another investigation, alleging that he had spent more than £5,000 on clothes and perfume on his work American Express card during a trip to New York. When Dizaei was suspended, members of the Metropolitan Black Police Association issued a statement saying they were "appalled" and had no confidence in the leadership of the force, and claiming that Dizaei had been a victim of a "sustained witch-hunt".

It was a defence that Dizaei pursued during his trial, but the jury did not believe him. Gaon Hart, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said after the verdicts: "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."

dsapsted@thenational.ae