I spent 26 years as a police officer and dealt with everything from murder to minor thefts. I managed four homicide enquiries back to back in my first year as a Detective Inspector and detected all of them. Yet I think I am a failed cop. Read why…
I put armed criminals in prison for gun crime, I sent drug traffickers away and I dealt with many serious and organised criminals including sex offenders.
All good so far.
Upon getting my MBA I assisted my Police Force re-organise policing services completely re-designing (from Data) the way we policed. It saved £15 Million in wasted resource and re-deployment into community policing.
Obviously policing resources are limited. Just like any public sector organisation. But it wasn’t until I left the Police and got qualified as an Anti-Money Laundering Specialist and went to work in the Cayman Islands, I started to open my eyes to corporate and white collar crime.
I have lived through many experiences in my life, I started work in the Royal Navy as a Marine Engineer (Electrical), back then I was heavily into my sport (football and Rugby) and I competed in the Royal Navy Field Gun Tournament, described by the late Ian Wooldridge as the toughest team sport in the world. After seven years traveling the globe, having visited the Falklands, USA, both polar caps and all over continental Europe, I left to settle into married life.
I re-located to the North of England and started as a Police Officer.
I held many roles during my time in the police. From a Self-Defence and Use of Force Instructor to an authorised firearms officer (AFO), I eventually settled in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
I led the district robbery team investigating everything from a street robbery to commercial armed robberies. I led the district drugs team and focused on gun crime to clear up a series of armed crimes including a gang turf war. With this investigation, the team and I worked to secure convictions against a series of offenders resulting in decades in prison for them.
I then faced the most challenging investigation of my career. It was a bad on bad shooting involving a gang from Huddersfield and another from Sheffield. The shooting happened in the early hours of the morning and we had literally no evidence. No ‘willing’ eye witnesses, poor CCTV due to operator error leaving the system in time lapse and not live record. Little to no conclusive forensic evidence. And a team who thought I was wasting time investigating it.
But I had set a strategy and targets for bringing down gun crime volumes and putting in prison the criminals carrying the guns. So by hook or by crook I was determined to resolve this offence. Through sheer persistence and bloody hard work we got there. We convicted the gun man who had fled to Europe. We found him in Spain under a false name with a ‘purchased’ passport. He got 18 years. We also convicted his team of assistors and enablers, one of whom was a trainee solicitor. All in all they got 42 years in prison.
As I came to the end of my police career I was looking for a challenge. So I volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan as a subject matter expert on Intelligence. I flew out late 2015 to a country so bad, having made so little progress, I couldn’t believe the ineptitude of the Coalition Forces who had presided over it. Easy for me to say when I had just arrived but it was ridiculously bad.
I could go on about this deployment a lot but I will just say that it ended with me blowing the whistle on significant wrongdoing in the country. And it is this experience that has led me to build Aranea, our Encrypted and Anonymous Whistleblowing System. It is not until you actually blow the whistle that you realise the closing of ranks against you and the ostracisation by others against you really makes you question why and was it worth the personal cost.
I can hold my head up high and I know I did the right thing. What I struggled to reconcile is why I was the one prepared to risk my job while others just pocketed the cash out in Afghanistan. There were numerous people out there achieving nothing, not qualified or experienced enough to do the roles but taking huge pay cheques and not giving a hoot about their output. It was disgusting.
I had two, what I would consider close, friends who were ranks above me that talked openly about the challenges and the unlawful activities – both of whom were police officers. Yet when I blew the whistle both were silent. One even turned against me to distance himself and ensure the money kept rolling in. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer still is the saying. The problem is you really don’t know who are friends until the chips are down.
The final straw that broke the donkey’s back for me was when one of the ‘incidents’ was filmed by a drone.
After being a cop for 26 years, despite the severe violence in Afghanistan I couldn’t reconcile my role with keeping silent. I would hear the military officers telling me ‘We’re at war’, but legally we weren’t. We were assisting a democratically elected government fight an internal struggle against an insurgency. That is not a war. The rules of engagement meant coalition forces could only engage an Afghan if he engaged a coalition member. They couldn’t even defend an Afghan.
Some will say I should have kept my mouth shut. Some will say it is terribly unpatriotic to blow the whistle in such circumstances. My answer to this is quite simple.
While I have every respect for the Soldiers who go to war for our country, I do not their officers nor the politicians who send them. Especially when they are then faced with ridiculous rules of engagement like we had in 2015. They are simply not given the rules of engagement they need and politicians, while they parade at the Cenotaph each year, really should think much more carefully what the ramifications are for invading other countries. Especially to our soldiers when they aren’t given the rules of engagement they should have.
Secondly, in no future country reconstruction process (post war) should the Military be in charge. How can you expect an Army Colonel to understand the first thing about policing, let alone trying to set a Police Force up from scratch. The Army fight wars. Leave peace and re-construction to those that undertake those roles in a peaceful democracy. The Military then protect those experts – not run the show – because believe me, I witnessed it, it is an absolute quagmire of failure when they get their feet under the table. 15 wasted years before I arrived in Afghanistan – they achieved little and I predicted when I left it would be an utter disaster when they pulled out.
Post Afghanistan I went to work and live in the Cayman Islands. I got qualified as an Anti-Money Laundering Expert and spent time understanding the offshore financial sector and associated business sectors. Here I witnessed the same thing again, albeit on a much smaller scale.
UK (in the main) ‘experts’ coming out to help the locals run things over there. Mostly in the public sector they quickly realise they were going to change nothing – there are forces at play to stop experts being able to make a difference in Cayman.
I realised from the close knit and closed shop nature of the financial sector in Cayman, and through listening to conversations in bars and restaurants, that people would freely talk about white collar crime. But always about others who were committing or suspected of committing it.
The Cayman Islands regulators are set up to fail. They meet the 40 recommendations of FATF (Financial Action Task Force – a global mostly talking shop who set Global standards to combat money laundering) by putting in place laws and regulations but they fail to actually use any of them. This is because their regulators are inexperienced and under-staffed. The regulators in Cayman have never convicted an international Money Launderer – despite one fifth of the World’s money flowing through the place.
An example of why.
While I was there over 100kg of gold worth $4 million landed on a private jet and was waved through customs like it was confetti for onward transmission. Had they looked, the criminals had hidden over $130,000 under the floorboards of the plane. It was destined for the UK, then onwards to Switzerland it had come from Venezuela and had links to a drug cartel. They only made arrests after letting the gold go through the airport because the British National Crime Agency told them to – they had received intelligence about the smuggling. This is but one example of incompetence in the Cayman Regulator sector because this very same plane had previously made the same journey with another $6 million in gold on two previous trips that are known about. And the middle-man processing it all was a Cayman National. Even the most inexperienced AML operator knows that trading gold in a country that doesn’t actually dig it out of the ground is a HUGE red flag. Yet this guy was doing it for a living in Cayman – as a gold broker. Why would anyone move gold to Cayman just to trade it? There is no conceivable reason why, whe nthe gold is going to Switzerland, you would stop in Cayman – other than to try and cover the fact it came from Venezuela.
Because of the bungled operation all defendants got off not guilty because the police couldn’t find a way to link the gold to criminal activity. Had they put the team under observation and maybe considered intrusive surveillance, they would have convicted all of them. Our system is just one way of recovering evidence without breaking cover and arresting criminals who know what they are doing – collect the evidence before arrest because you won’t post that’s almost certain.
Consider the way the US dealt with the Premier of the British Virgin Islands, setting him up with undercover agents – a real investigation that has resulted in him being arrested and awaiting trial in Florida for Money Laundering and Smuggling. That is how to catch money launderers – not simply arresting them and thinking you will prove it from that point – evidence first, every time because linking asset back to criminality is exceptionally difficult to do after arrest.
And so this takes me back to why I have developed Aranea our whistleblowing platform. We are going to be marketing it in offshore/tax havens as well as the UK, US and Europe. We will be targeting white collar crime because we know the evidence is all there, it just needs uncovering. We will then also be offering investigative services to try and bolster reports we get.
Our platform will be getting digitally marketed in those regions to allow those who want to, to report concerns via us. We will ensure a lawyer is appointed to deal with the evidence and then represent the whistleblower if they want to go public.
With rewards for whistleblowing in the US growing year on year, we will be helping the whistleblower through that process in the US.
And this is my way of trying to resolve what I didn’t do in my career. To target criminals who hide behind layers of secrecy.