Police arrest three senior military personnel over runway incident
The Royal Gibraltar Police arrested three senior British military officials yesterday on suspicion they sought to hinder a criminal investigation in Gibraltar.
The unprecedented arrests are the latest development in a sensitive legal tussle over who has jurisdiction in a criminal investigation involving a British serviceman posted to the Rock.
The stand-off first came to light last month when an RGP car dramatically prevented a Royal Air Force transport plane from taking off by blocking the runway.
The serviceman under investigation - not one of the three arrested yesterday - was on the plane and was being flown to Britain as part of an ongoing UK probe into alleged offences involving indecent images of children.
The RGP wanted to examine computer equipment and establish if an offence had been committed here.
But when investigating officers tried to serve a warrant signed by the Chief Justice of Gibraltar, they were allegedly refused access.
It is the events leading to the runway incident that yesterday prompted the RGP to arrest three key decision-makers in the MoD chain of command in Gibraltar that day.
“We have arrested three senior military officials and executed a number of search warrants at various MoD establishments,” an RGP spokesman told the Chronicle. One of those locations was The Tower in the naval base, the MoD headquarters in Gibraltar.
“They have been arrested on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice and conspiring to pervert the course of justice.”
“The investigation concerns events on the runway on Wednesday the 8th of February, 2017. No further comment will be made at this time.”
The runway incident last month left hundreds of people stranded for nearly two hours until the barriers were lifted and normal flow was restored. Some commercial flights were also delayed.
The Ministry of Defence eventually backed down and the man under investigation remains in Gibraltar while police analyse his computer.
But the tension over jurisdiction remains, despite high-level discussions to defuse the impasse and resolve the row.
The arrests yesterday represent a dramatic development that threatens to further strain relations between the MoD and the RGP at a time when both had been working hard to present a coordinated front on crucial issues such as security in the face of the global terrorist threat.
The MoD argues that the investigation at the heart of the row comes under UK military jurisdiction.
But officials here insist the 2006 Constitution sets out clearly defined roles including the RGP’s primacy over criminal investigations in Gibraltar.
Last night, the three officials were still assisting police with their enquiries at New Mole House and had not been charged with any offence.
The Chronicle understands police also seized computer and telephone equipment, but the RGP would neither confirm nor deny this.
A spokeswoman for the MoD in Gibraltar confirmed three service personnel had been arrested but declined to add any further detail.
A spokesman for The Convent said the Governor, Lieutenant General Edward Davis, was aware of the developments.
“The Governor is aware that three people were arrested this afternoon,” the spokesman said.
“As this relates to an ongoing police investigation he will not be commenting at this time.”
A spokesman for the Gibraltar Government also declined to be drawn on the developments but confirmed No 6 Convent Place was aware of the arrests.
“Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar is aware of developments involving the arrest of three senior military officers and has full confidence in the RGP,” the spokesman said.