Monday, September 15, 2014

Soho To Punta Ballena

It was an exposé by "The Times" in 1969 that started it. Corruption within the Metropolitan Police in London was of such a scale that it was like "catching the Archbishop of Canterbury in bed with a prostitute". Three years later, a further exposé, by "The Sunday Mirror", revealed that the head of the Flying Squad had been on holiday with a Soho businessman and all-round villain by the name of Jimmy Humphreys. He and his wife, Rusty, a former stripper, were known as the king and queen of Soho, though there was also an emperor, Bernie Silver, who had mentored Jimmy.

The Met Police corruption of the '60s and the '70s was to a large extent centred on one small part of central London. Soho, the district of clubs, dives, strip joints, porn shops and prostitutes, was a gold mine for the powerful and for the corrupt. Jimmy and Bernie had the Obscene Publications Squad (OPS) in their pay. Jimmy and Rusty made a fortune, though Jimmy resented the fact that the fortune was not as large as it might have been; it was lessened because of the amount he had to pay the police. One of those policemen was the head of the OPS, Detective Chief Superintendent "Wicked" Bill Moody, who was so bent that he established an unofficial licensing system. New porn shops could only open with the agreement of Humphreys and Silver and with weekly payments made to the OPS.

The press exposés led to a change. In came Sir Robert Mark as the Met Police Commissioner and he brought with him Detective Chief Superintendent Bert Wickstead. It was he, Wickstead, who found the pretext with which to collar Jimmy, and once collared, Jimmy squealed. Loudly and repeatedly. The supergrass's evidence resulted in the conviction of numerous police officers and spawned "Operation Countryman", a wider investigation into police corruption which also embraced the City of London Police but which was ultimately to lead to no convictions.

It was said of Jimmy Humphreys that he had gained that much money from his porn businesses that he didn't know what to do with it. So much money, and it came from one small part of a city, a small part that was controlled by a few whose businesses were those of clubs and sex.

Remember what Manu Onieva once said. That he wished there were ten Punta Ballenas. So much money. How much money is shifted in Punta Ballena? Jaime Amador of "Preferente" quotes one source. "There is too much money in play." Too much money in one small part of Calvia, one small part of Mallorca that is dominated by clubs and sex. One small part where there is, to quote Paul Smith of Carnage, "a war of large businesses against small businesses".

The revelations are coming thick and fast. The police chief in Marratxí, Antonio Ledesma, arrested on Friday, and Calvia's police chief, José Antonio Navarro, were allegedly involved with what "Ultima Hora" calls a "bogus" gestoría. Such activity, whatever the nature of the gestoría, is incompatible with their police duties. Then there are the activities of this gestoría, those involving the taking on and laying off of staff with businesses along Punta Ballena, a service for which one business has admitted paying 6,000 euros bi-monthly in black.

When the police corruption affair first surfaced, it was suggested to me that it would all be quietly forgotten in a couple of days. I didn't think so. I didn't think so for one moment. The anti-corruption prosecutors are far too independent for that to happen. Moreover, and despite what one might think of Mallorca and Spain, these are not the days of the late '60s and 1970s when information was strictly controlled and when it required truly campaigning journalism in order to root out the truth. The Magalluf allegations are of the contemporary age. There is far too much at stake for there to be some sort of whitewash.

But think of those days some forty or more years ago. Think of Bill Moody and his unofficial licensing system. Think of how smaller and new porn businesses were dominated by Humphreys and Silver. And think of the web that was eventually discovered. It was a long time ago and in a different country, but some of the ingredients are not dissimilar.

It took ages in those days for evidence to be amassed. A source close to the Magalluf investigation says that "they have never had so much documentation in a corruption case". These are very different days when it comes to unearthing potential evidence. The investigation already has more than a thousand emails to consider. They are emails to and from politicians, businesspeople, police officers. Think how differently things might have been had such technology existed when Mark and Wickstead vowed to clean up the Met. And think who else might have been implicated.

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