Bosses accused of gagging customs officer who confiscated politically-explosive video
By Mark Conrad and Mark Watts | 29 March 2014
Customs officials are trying to silence an ex-colleague who seized video that allegedly shows child sex abuse in the presence of a former cabinet minister.
Exaro can reveal that the politically-explosive video was seized by a Customs officer, Maganlal Solanki, at Dover’s Eastern Car Terminal in 1982.
The video cassette, which was seized along with other child pornography, was being brought into the country from Amsterdam by a businessman, Russell Tricker.
Customs officers held Tricker for two hours, and confiscated the material.
Tricker denies knowing what was contained in any of the material, which he says was in sealed packages.
Senior managers at Customs and Excise then took over the case. They took no further action against Tricker, and are understood to have passed the video cassette to the Security Service, MI5. No one was prosecuted.
Customs and Excise later merged with the Inland Revenue to form HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Solanki has told friends that the former Conservative cabinet minister is seen on the video. The retired Customs officer identified the former cabinet member, but is so scared about the sensitive nature of the video that he refuses to say what the ex-minister is doing exactly.
Solanki has also told friends that he wants to reveal what he knows, but has been effectively gagged after his former employer warned him not to talk about the video. He says that his former employer reminded him that he is subject to the Official Secrets Act.
One friend recounted how Solanki, after identifying the ex-minister in the video, said: “I cannot tell you more than that because I am bound by my official secrets, and there is nothing that I can do.”
“I am not supposed to say anything about it.”
“I am really very upset about this because I cannot tell you.”
“I cannot do anything. I cannot.”
Exaro knows the ex-minister’s identity, but has decided against publishing it to avoid jeopardising potential criminal investigations.
The Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit is already investigating the same ex-minister, under ‘Operation Fernbridge’, over separate allegations of child sex abuse.
But the Met is understood to be unaware of the contents of the video, and not to have spoken so far to Solanki.
Friends of Solanki say that he can only talk if he is freed from the constraints placed on him by his former employer.
Detectives on Operation Fernbridge, coincidentally, have seized an unrelated video that places the ex-minister at one of several parties where men sexually abused boys three decades ago.
Exaro also revealed in October that Operation Fernbridge had opened two new lines of enquiry in their investigation of the ex-minister.
More than a year ago, Exaro revealed how Met commanders received a secret briefing by the head of the paedophile unit on its plans to arrest the ex-minister over allegations of child sex abuse. The detective chief inspector made clear that he was not planning to take the step imminently, but this is where he expected the investigation to lead.
The video that was seized by Customs and Excise in 1982 is potentially more politically explosive than any evidence so far obtained by Operation Fernbridge.
A seizure notice, a copy of which has been passed to Exaro, shows that Solanki took custody of three 8mm films, three video cassettes and an “order form” at the port of Dover in January 1982.
If Tricker could show that the goods were not liable to forfeiture, the notice said, they “will be liable to be disposed of in such a manner as the commissioners of Customs and Excise may direct.”
Exaro tracked down the former Customs officer who seized the video. He said that he was unable to comment, and was too frightened even to open his front door.
“I am bound by all these regulations until I die,” he said through a partially-opened front door.
A spokesman for HMRC said that it was so far unable to trace any records that relate to the video. He added: “All members of HMRC staff sign the Official Secrets Act. That still applies when you leave the department.”
Meanwhile, Exaro also traced Tricker to his home on the outskirts of Amsterdam, Holland’s capital.
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