x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Top police officer to stand trial in UK

Iranian-born commander, who was once suspected of being a spy, is charged with perverting the course of justice.

LONDON // One of Britain's most senior and most controversial police officers will appear in court this week, charged with perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office. Ali Dizaei, a commander with London's Metropolitan Police, is believed to be the most senior officer in modern times to be charged with a criminal offence. Mr Dizaei, 47, Iranian-born, who is one of the highest ranking ethnic minority police officers in the UK, is also president of the 10,000-strong National Black Police Association, a role that has frequently brought him in conflict with the police and political establishment.

The decision to charge him last weekend brought allegations that the police hierarchy was waging a vendetta against a man once suspected of being an Iranian spy. It is the second time Mr Dizaei, known for his penchant for wearing cowboy boots and for frequenting expensive nightclubs with attractive young women, has been suspended from duty and charged with perverting the course of justice. In 2003, he stood trial at the Old Bailey in London and was accused of lying about vandalism to his car. He was cleared after accusing fellow officers of mounting "a witch hunt" against him and was returned to duty.

The charges this time follow a disturbance at the Yas restaurant in Kensington, West London, last year in which a young businessman was arrested by Mr Dizaei, who was off duty and having a meal in the restaurant at the time. Mr Dizaei claimed that he had been poked by the mouthpiece of a shisha pipe in a scuffle that broke out at the restaurant, which specialises in Iranian food. After an eight-month investigation, however, police do not believe this to be the case.

A bodybuilder and a father of three who freely admits that he is in an "open" marriage, Mr Dizaei has spent much of his police career in the limelight, attracting enemies because of both his outspoken views on institutional racism and his playboy lifestyle. He joined the Metropolitan Police as a superintendent in March 1999, after 12 years progressing through the ranks of the neighbouring Thames Valley force.

Born in Tehran, where his grandfather had been assistant police commissioner and his father the head of the traffic police, he joined the police in the UK after graduating from the City University law school in London. Unknown to him, Mr Dizaei was already under suspicion by the time he moved to the Met Police. Between 1999 and 2000 he was the subject of a covert surveillance operation based on allegations that he was spying for Iran under the codename Helios. He was also suspected of corruption and of using drugs.

He was suspended in 2001, but two years later was cleared of any wrongdoing at his trial and awarded compensation worth £60,000 (Dh350,000). He subsequently published a book about his ordeal, which included details of his colourful lifestyle, including several girlfriends. Although he criticised what he saw as racism within the Met Police, particularly towards Muslims in anti-terrorism operations, he was promoted to the rank of commander last year.

Ironically, at the time of his promotion he was at the centre of a bitter row in the force over his friend and confidante, Tarique Ghaffur, the assistant commissioner, who had launched a claim of racism against the Met Police. At the time of the restaurant incident, Mr Dizaei was already being investigated on two allegations of misconduct: one for advising defence lawyers on how to undermine his own force's case against a woman accused of leaving the scene of a fatal hit-and-run incident, and the other regarding misuse of his Met Police credit card.

In December, Mr Dizaei launched his own employment tribunal case against the Met Police, alleging racism. The decision to charge Mr Dizaei, which was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service, has infuriated many ethnic minority policemen who see him as paying the price for standing up for their rights. Alfred John, chairman of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, said: "It is outrageous that the CPS, for the second time, has commenced prosecution against the president of the National Black Police Association, Commander Ali Dizaei. "This has not happened to any other senior police officer in the history of the Metropolitan Police or the CPS.

"We will call to account those who use the public purse and the law to settle their personal vendettas." His solicitors said in a statement yesterday: "Commander Dizaei is naturally disappointed with the Crown Prosecution Service's decision. He strenuously denies the allegations against him, but is confident his name will be cleared." dsapsted@thenational.ae