The disgraced police commander, the Tory donor and his Mayfair club
This is the story of how a former Scotland Yard commander jailed for corruption was recently invited to join the private members’ club of London’s elite.
It is also a story about the Tory tycoon who owns that club, which made millions in profit throughout the pandemic while sucking on the taxpayers’ teat.
Former commander Ali Dizaei is quite possibly the most divisive figure in modern British police history.
Opinion among cops and journalists, lawyers and activists range from: The honourable officer taken out for taking on racism in the Metropolitan police to wrong’un with a warrant card who finally got his comeuppance.
The Upsetter can reveal that Iranian-born Dizaei this summer became a life member of the legendary Mayfair club, Annabel’s, at a cost of around £150,000.
The club in Berkeley Square was founded in the Sixties as a playground for buccaneer capitalists, gamblers and aristocrats.
It is named after the wife of James Goldsmith, the capitalist’s capitalist and enemy of the free press. Their son, Zac Goldsmith, the Tory peer and minister, financed Boris Johnson’s recent summer holiday in Marbella.
Annabel’s remains a beacon of unashamed opulence and is today owned by billionaire Richard Caring, a permanently tanned massive donor to the Tories, who likes catering to the whims of tabloid fodder and the world’s lesser known super rich.
Caring bought the group of Mayfair clubs - Annabel's, Harry’s Bar, Mark’s, George and the BathandRacket Club - in 2007 for £90m from Mark Birley, Annabel’s first husband. Their son, Robin, now runs a rival private members’ club loved by politicians and social climbing media types.
In 2019, Caring sold 25% of his clubs to a Qatari former politican in a deal that bagged the clothing tycoon a reported £200m.
Dizaei, 59, received his £150,000 Legacy membership in a green presentation case. The accompanying note was addressed to ‘Dr Dizaei’ after the doctorate on race issues he was awarded while a cop.
Legacy membership is for life and accesses all of Caring’s Mayfair clubs.
At Annabel’s, where no room would look out of place during the worst excesses of 18th century monarchy, Legacy members alone can access a private bar with its green agate tiled floor and art collection of works by Picasso and Modigliani.
To say in the last seven years Dizaei has undergone an amazing transformation, personally, physically and professionally would be a massive understatement.
He now runs a private investigation agency that caters to a range of international clients.
It’s a long way from 2013, when the commander convicted of fitting up a man emerged from prison with “huge debts” and few prospects.
Dizaei formed Covert Security Limited in 2014. According to its accounts, it did very little until 2019 when his second wife, Shahameh or Shy, who is also Iranian, became the owner.
The move coincided with a change in the couple’s lifestyle that some in London’s Iranian community and Dizaei watchers in and outside the Met find intriguing.
The couple was hardly hiding the change as Shy regularly documents the holidays and homes on her social media profile.
Four years ago, the couple decamped from Surrey, where they lived in a mansion, to Dubai, which Dizaei says is a “natural habitat” for an anglicised Iranian who’s bilingual and knows how to work potential rich clients.
Speaking exclusively to The Upsetter, he said:
“There’s the publicity around my name and of course these people are not looking for some pompous old fart to be telling them how to do it, they want people not from the establishment, who’ve got a bit of balls, and Ali Dizaei fits that profile.
“I do what I’ve been doing for the last 25 years in the Met – I catch criminals. I have lots of competent ex policemen and Security Services who work for me … Our clients are not Iranians. Our clients are international – victims of serious financial fraud where lawyers can’t reach them.”
Dizaei has “an army of lawyers” on hand to check out potential clients “because if anyone is going to have a pop it’s going to be around the legitimacy of my business,” he said.
Recently, a newspaper that Dizaei has successfully sued in the past published a story about Covert Security. The comeback cop laughs at any nudge nudge that he must up to something.
But how else, the detractors whisper, could he justify the jet set lifestyle: Mansions, exotic holidays, dinner with Mel Gibson in Los Angeles?
Caring is Sharing
And what about this Legacy membership to an exclusive private members’ club patronised by London high society that costs five times the average UK salary?
Not just anyone can become a Legacy member, insists one of the posh girls in the private office that runs Annabel’s. One has to be invited, she told The Upsetter.
Legacy membership is a “committee decision” that “would very much depend on the person if we decide to extend the invitation to them,” posh girl explained.
So how, one might ask, did the Dizaei Rascal get accepted when he has served a well-publicised 4-year prison sentence for corruption and was described by the boss of the police watchdog as “a criminal in uniform”?
Richard Caring refuses to say if he, or right hand man Alexander Spencer-Churchill were part of the scrutiny committee that positively vetted then invited Dizaei to apply for Legacy membership.
The latest company accounts for the year ending January 2021 show membership subscriptions for the Mayfair clubs continued throughout the pandemic and three lockdowns.
“In spite of the in-year restrictions the company has seen a strong uptake in Legacy, Corporate, Family and Under 40 All Club life memberships in the [accounting] period,” the accounts say.
There was also “strong performance” in the sale of food and drink when the clubs were able to open between lockdowns. The club’s many restaurants and bars for fine dining and drinking at reassuringly expensive prices is, alongside membership fees, a key earner.
The accounts also show that, despite the pandemic, Annabel’s made a profit after tax of £5.7m.
Caring used the furlough scheme for his 349 waiting and admin staff at a cost to the taxpayer of £2.9m.
The 74-year-old will not say whether he will be paying back the taxpayer, most of whom would never get through the doors of Annabel’s but helped the billionaire out in his hour of need.
His Circus of Horror Halloween bash went well, however.
Ali Dizaei continues to maintain that he was “stitched up” by the Met anti-corruption squad of Untouchables.
The police commander was sacked and jailed in 2010. He won an appeal against his conviction but lost the retrial in 2013. After emerging from prison he slipped away to repair and rebuild.
Shy, who he met in 2003, stood by him while others ran for the hills. Dizaei said:
“They put me in solitary confinement and they staged managed it that I was attacked – the aim was that I commit suicide. How can a senior police officer with my profile survive that environment?
“When I came out of prison 10 years ago now, I had £900 I borrowed from one of my sons. Literally we had nothing. We had huge debts. And gradually, gradually, incrementally, I build our business, you know, I refused to be defeated. I worked hard and rebuilt my life. It was not easy.”
The question his detractors want to know is how? It’s not an out of place question and the answer Dizaei gives is never likely to satisfy some critics.
To understand the hostility towards Dizaei means understanding how much the Met’s Untouchables put into putting him behind bars. And whether this effort, costing over £7m, was motivated by an honest belief in his dishonesty, or by a fear of a strong ethnic minority police leader inside the Met.
Jamshid Ali Dizaei came to Britain in 1973, six years before the Islamic revolution deposed the corrupt Shah regime, which his father had served as a policeman.
Superintendent Dizaei joined the Met on promotion from Thames Valley Police in March 1999. It was just a few weeks after the landmark Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report was published and the embattled Met was casting around for high-profile ethnic minority officers to make the force look less white.
Dizaei, with his legal degree and doctorate in race and policing issues, fitted the bill. He was also a vocal critic of what he perceived as racist selection processes and wasn’t afraid to assert his rights through legal action.
His first posting was to the affluent west London borough of Kensington & Chelsea, where the most opulent and influential part of the Iranian community lives.
But Dizaei’s star did not shine for long. By September 1999 he was secretly targeted by the Untouchables in a probe that lasted four years and was later described in court as “Orwellian”.
The anti-corruption squad had received intelligence linking Dizaei to the recreational use of cocaine and associating with a known drug dealer and prostitutes. His work phone was tapped as part of a secret operation codenamed Bitten.
After listening to hundreds of calls, by October 1999 no evidence had emerged that Dizaei used drugs or was involved in serious crime. An internal report supported Dizaei’s view that he was being targeted because the Met feared his new role as vice president and legal adviser to the National Black Police Association (NBPA).
The internal report described him as having “an influential role within the [Met]” and someone who had “the ear of many prominent and powerful figures in politics and throughout the BPA” - among them then home secretary Jack Straw, who had pushed for the Stephen Lawrence public inquiry that branded the Met '“institutionally racist”.
The phone taps did reveal that Dizaei had an active sex life with several lovers. But because he was married, this was described by the Untouchables in one intelligence report as “unethical” - a standard not applied to the top brass.
Dizaei’s first wife knew about the lovers because they had an open marriage and were only staying together for the sake of their three young children. Unorthodox maybe, but the Untouchables were looking every bit as prurient as the Ayatollah.
These sex and drugs allegations were augmented by unsubstantiated “concerns” that Dizaei was involved with what the Untouchables called “major criminals” carrying out a so-called advance fee fraud. One of the five suspects was the Liberian ambassador.
In the end, nothing came of it.
In January 2000, the corruption probe into Dizaei was renamed Operation Helios and received a much needed boost when the mother of one of his former lovers, Mandy Darougheh, an Iranian national, raised the spectre of espionage.
Dizaei had split acrimoniously with Mandy and left abusive and threatening calls on her answerphone. Mandy’s mother told the Untouchables that Dizaei appeared to know “exceptional details” about her husband’s incarceration in Iran on suspicion of working for MI6 and had boasted of high connections – the top cop was a personal friend of the Iranian ambassador.
Suddenly, Dizaei was suspected of having an “unhealthy relationship” with Iranian Intelligence. His barrister would later claim the alleged threat to national security was in effect fabricated to keep Operation Helios burning and to justify 17 months of further intrusive surveillance, as the sex, drugs and fraud allegations were going nowhere.
Part of Dizaei’s job was to liaise with the many embassies in the borough and he had told Special Branch about his visits to the Iranian Embassy.
On 25 August 2000, the Operation Helios team met with the top brass to discuss what they should do about Dizaei. There was a strong hint of panic because two days earlier the employment tribunal had upheld a claim of victimisation by another high profile Asian officer, DS Gurpal Virdi.
The Untouchables were concerned that if all its efforts resulted in disciplinary offences and nothing criminal, Operation Helios would look like another racist witch hunt. Fortuitously, some secret “new intelligence” emerged which justified continuing the intrusive surveillance against Dizaei on national security grounds.
The Untouchables tried on three occasions to trap him using undercover officers. A Farsi-speaking cop approached Dizaei at a business conference in the US with a request for moody visas to the UK. The sting came to nothing.
In London, an undercover cop befriended Dizaei at his gym to see if he was involved in drugs and fraud but no such evidence was produced.
The third attempt involved using a detective investigating the gangland murder of Solly Nahome, the Adams crime family’s money launderer. Dizaei was asked what he knew about one of the suspects. The hope was he would alert the suspect, but again, no such thing took place.
However, in January 2001, Dizaei was suddenly suspended on full pay facing allegations of dishonesty. The Untouchables would later admit that it took the decision because Dizaei was about to go on the senior command course, the gateway to the top tier of British policing, and secondly because it was more than likely he would also be elected the new president of the NBPA.
By the end of the year Dizaei was charged with misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice. Had Operation Helios finally found something to justify all the expense and surveillance?
On further examination, Dizaei and his legal team were amazed to learn the prosecution case related to an incident in September 2000 when someone had carved cross-like shapes on the panels of his distinctive BMW. That same day, a black detective had had his car tyres slashed near his south London police station. And over at the Yard, deputy assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur had received hate mail.
The Untouchables had Dizaei under surveillance and knew he had lied about where his BMW car was parked when he discovered the damage to it. He had claimed it was nearer to Kensington police station.
There was no suggestion Dizaei had lied because he caused the damage to his own car. He later explained he was on his way to a BPA meeting even though his boss at Kensington had told him not to go.
The Untouchables however argued that the lie was told to increase Dizaei’s profile as a victim of racist police. And that as a result, 56 hours of police time were wasted on inquiries.
Dizaei’s lie was a discipline matter but was it really a criminal one? His barrister again suggested the Untouchables were having to justify the Orwellian covert operation against his client: Over 100 officers had been deployed from the Met, MI5, Special Branch, NCIS, the Forensic Science Services, Forensic Telecom Services, the Inland Revenue, the FBI, the DEA, Beverly Hills Police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Dizaei had been kept under surveillance for 91 days using static cameras, bag cameras and old-fashioned photographers. A staggering 3,500 phone calls were monitored, his bank accounts were accessed, his friends, associates and legal team were researched and profiled, people at restaurants he frequented were interviewed and the owners questioned to see if he did anything improper and whether like a good Muslim he ate Halal meat. Every taxi driver he submitted a receipt from was traced.
His barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, failed to get the case thrown out during preliminary hearings. He argued the Met had faced a “proportionality dilemma”: An investigation takes on a life of its own. It becomes self-justificatory, self- fulfilling and self-perpetuating, in that once you have gone so far you have to keep going, keep spending public money to justify what you’ve done.
The Untouchables were “a law unto itself ”, a “state within a state” that became “obsessed” with his client. The “concerns” were “designed to linger” and to brief Jack Straw.
The judge refused to throw out the case. Operation Helios had made mistakes, he ruled, but the investigation was necessary, by the book and with no element of bad faith or gross negligence.
The jury, however, didn’t see it that way. And even though they heard Dizaei admit lying about his car’s location, in April 2003 he was unanimously acquitted after less than one day’s deliberation.
It was another humiliating blow for the Untouchables, but the media couldn’t report it because, remarkably, there was the possibility of a second trial. That prosecution involved allegations of inflated mileage claims totalling £270.
The second trial was scheduled to start in September 2003. But after high-level discussions, the CPS announced there was “no realistic prospect of a conviction”.
The Met now faced calls for an independent inquiry into its handling of high-profile cases involving ethnic minority officers.
The chairman of the Met’s Black Police Association, chief inspector Leroy Logan, who was recently played by John Boyega in a film of his life, announced that the BPA was warning ethnic minorities not to join the police.
Logan made it clear the boycott would stand until there was an inquiry into who and what was really behind the Dizaei case.
New home secretary David Blunkett was especially concerned about the boycott. It came just as he was preparing to announce at the 2003 Labour Party conference that police recruitment was higher than at any time since 1921.
Home Office officials desperately tried to broker a deal before the party conference. But some senior Met officers really wanted to discipline and sack Dizaei.
Dizaei’s terms included an apology, reinstatement, the dropping of all disciplinary proceedings and an assurance that he would be allowed onto the senior command course.
The talks broke down in the first week when the Met insisted on putting Dizaei on the internal blacklist of suspect officers, known as the Service Confidence Policy.
“We took the unprecedented step of proactively not encouraging people to join the Met and we called for the suspension of [deputy commissioner] Ian Blair, and [Untouchables’ boss] Andy Hayman. This woke a few people up, including the home secretary. It wasn’t all about Ali Dizaei. We wanted a national solution to a national problem,” the NBPA told The Upsetter at the time.
By coincidence, the BBC broadcast Mark Daly’s undercover expose of racist police recruits, The Secret Policeman, on the first day of peace talks.
At first, Blunkett tried to trash the documentary, but then withdrew his attack and applied intense pressure on the Met for a settlement with Dizaei.
It came on 30 October 2003. Dizaei agreed to withdraw his employment tribunal case. The NBPA agreed to withdraw its complaint against the Untouchables and lift the boycott on ethnic recruitment.
In return, Dizaei was reinstated, assured a place on the senior command course and given a payment of around £80,000. He, in turn, expressed regret that his behaviour had fallen below the standard expected and was given words of advice, a minor sanction. But it was accepted he returned to the Met “with his integrity intact”.
In a private letter to Dizaei’s solicitors, the Met effectively agreed there would be no disciplinary proceedings and any attempt by the police watchdog to insist would be resisted. This agreement was cut behind the back of the watchdog, which alone had statutory powers to decide whether to halt disciplinary proceedings.
On 30 March 2004, days before the old watchdog, the PCA, was rebranded as the IPCC, it ordered the Met to put Dizaei on a disciplinary board. But the NBPA threatened strikes, boycotts and marches if the deal was unpicked.
The IPCC backed down under pressure from the Home Office and the Met. The deal stood. But senior Untouchables struck their own arrangement that they would never have to serve with the Dizaei Rascal, who was allowed to write a scathing book about the Met’s senior management and the Untouchables.
Once a newly promoted Commander, Dizaei was sent to run West London. But within a few years his police career was over following an unusual incident outside a Persian restaurant.
Website designer Waad al-Baghdadi seized the opportunity to ask Dizaei about an unpaid bill when the commander, in full uniform, was at the same restaurant with his wife.
CCTV captured some of the incident in July 2008 but not the part outside where Dizaei claimed al-Baghdadi had assaulted him with the tip of a hookah pipe thrust in stabbing motions into his side.
Rather than walk away, Dizaei arrested al-Baghdadi and called for back up. The man was taken to a police station.
Perhaps a man who hadn’t been through what he had would have brushed off the incident? For whatever reason Dizaei bit and the Untouchables were waiting to hook him.
The vindictiveness of the Met should never be underestimated, as the case of Gurpal Virdi shows. But some believe it was Dizaei’s hubris that put him on offer.
Al-Baghdadi, however, was a problematic witness. He had lied about his immigration status and was a benefit cheat. The jury was unaware about this background when they decided Dizaei had fabricated the assault claim and his injuries.
The guilty verdict was front page news. A notorious commander who’d fought the law and won was now getting a hefty 4-year sentence for misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice.
Dizaei told The Upsetter:
“There was champagne bottles popping at Scotland Yard when I was convicted.”
His supporters wasted no time looking into al-Baghdadi’s past and passing these findings to the authorities.
That the main prosecution witness had lied about his immigration status was grounds enough for the appeal court to overturn the conviction in 2011 and order a retrial the following year.
In between, Al-Baghdadi was convicted of benefit fraud. But he came out in time to give evidence against Dizaei in the retrial. The new jury were told about his dishonest past but found Dizaei guilty of a fit up.
As most of his sentence had already been served, Dizaei emerged from prison in 2013 still convinced he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice. “I’ve really been shafted here … They’ve tried to break me. The more they try, the stronger I get,” he told The Upsetter at the time.
Al-Baghdadi didn’t fare much better. He told the BBC he felt the authorities had “used” him when he later found out that he was being deported.
“They held a gun against Ali Dizaei and I was the bullet,” he said.
Source of Funds
Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold. And after seven years Ali Dizaei is living a life none of his enemies in the police and press could dream of.
His conviction is spent and in Iran they regard him as a hero cop who stood up to the racist British establishment.
Today in Dubai he is able to mix easily among the world’s rich who are impressed by his credentials as a former Scotland Yard commander and former activist on racism and policing.
The UK accounts for Covert Security Limited, however, do not explain how he is able to fund a jetset lifestyle.
Asked to once and for all end the speculation, Dizaei was happy to reveal what he called his "ace” in the back pocket.
He said he has married into a family that comes from the noble Bakhtiari people of Iran and that his wife Shy’s father made his fortune from “carpets and pistachio” nuts during the Shah era.
“My wife and her siblings came into a substantial inheritance in 2017 because of the unfortunate death of her father and she likes to use that money however she likes, irrespective of company business.”
And the £150,000 Legacy membership of Annabel’s?
“I don’t know the details but yes it’s an expensive membership. It’s in both our names but she has paid for the membership … She socialises with a lot of people in London. It is her money and that’s not the only private club in the world that she is a member. When I come back to London whenever it is I’ll use it. I haven’t been to Annabel’s for the last couple of months.”
So you’re a kept man?