A criminal investigation into a disgraced lawyer who brought false claims against Iraq war veterans has a number of “lines of inquiry”, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has said.
A file on Phil Shiner, who was struck off last month for dishonestly pursuing torture and murder claims against British troops, has been passed to the agency by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Struck-off solicitor’s insolvency declaration will deprive MoD of opportunity to recover multimillion-pound sum it seeks
It comes after 60-year-old Shiner, from Birmingham, was declared bankrupt on Tuesday, according to the Insolvency Service.
The NCA, the UK’s equivalent of the FBI, took the unusual step of confirming its investigation after the Daily Telegraph reported its director general, Lynne Owens, had written to a former Conservative minister to say there were a “number of lines of inquiry”.
The paper said Owens had told Lord Blencathra, who had requested a criminal investigation, that the NCA was working with the SRA and the Legal Aid Agency and was looking into whether there was sufficient evidence for a prosecution.
She said: “Whilst I cannot directly comment on the scope and direction of this investigation, I can reassure you that one of the NCA’s priorities is to investigate those who are alleged to have used their professional expertise to enable serious organised crime to take place.
“We will do all we can to bring these professional enablers to justice.”
Tribunal had found Shiner guilty of charges including dishonesty over false witness accounts about UK soldiers’ actions
An agency spokesman said: “The NCA has previously confirmed that it is in receipt of a file from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority. As you might expect, that provides lines of inquiry for the NCA to consider, however, we cannot comment further.”
Shiner was found to have been dishonest in agreeing to pay sweeteners to a fixer, understood to be Abu Jamal, to persuade him to change his evidence to the al-Sweady inquiry.
He also acted recklessly in making claims at a press conference in February 2008 that the British army had unlawfully mistreated, tortured and killed Iraqi civilians during the Battle of Danny Boy.
Several veterans of the 2004 battle described their ordeal in facing the false accusations.
Shiner and his firm, the now-defunct Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), were behind 65% of the 3,392 allegations received by the Iraq historic allegations team. The discredited government inquiry is being wound down following Shiner’s striking off, and its remaining caseload of around 20 cases have been handed to the Royal Navy police.
Shiner was told by the Solicitors disciplinary tribunal that he faced paying at least £250,000 in costs to the SRA, whose prosecution of the lawyer is thought to be one of its most expensive to date.
The MoD has spent more than £100m on legal costs and compensation linked to the Iraq war, with a large proportion of allegations brought by PIL.