'A number of lines of inquiry' in probe into Iraq claims lawyer Phil Shiner

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A criminal probe into a disgraced lawyer who brought false claims against Iraq War veterans has a number of "lines of inquiry", the National Crime Agency (NCA) has said.

A file on Phil Shiner, who was struck off last month for dishonestly pursuing torture and murder claims against British troops, has been passed to the agency by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

It comes after 60-year-old Mr Shiner, from Birmingham, was declared bankrupt on Tuesday, according to the Insolvency Service.

The NCA, the UK's equivalent of the FBI, took the unusual step of confirming its investigation after the Daily Telegraph reported its director general, Lynne Owens, had written to a former Conservative minister to say there were a "number of lines of inquiry".

The paper said Ms Owens told Lord Blencathra, who had requested a criminal probe, that the NCA was working with the SRA and the Legal Aid Agency and was looking into whether there was sufficient evidence for a prosecution.

She said: "Whilst I cannot directly comment on the scope and direction of this investigation, I can reassure you that one of the NCA's priorities is to investigate those who are alleged to have used their professional expertise to enable serious organised crime to take place. We will do all we can to bring theses professional enablers to justice."

An agency spokesman said: "The NCA has previously confirmed that it is in receipt of a file from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA). As you might expect, that provides lines of inquiry for the NCA to consider, however, we cannot comment further."

Mr Shiner was found to have been dishonest in agreeing to pay "sweeteners" to a fixer, understood to be Abu Jamal, to persuade him to change his evidence to the £31 million Al-Sweady Inquiry.

He also acted "recklessly" in making claims at a press conference in February 2008 that the British Army had unlawfully killed, tortured and mistreated Iraqi civilians during the Battle of Danny Boy. 

Several veterans of the 2004 battle described their ordeal in facing the false accusations.

Mr Shiner and his firm, the now-defunct Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), were behind 65% of the 3,392 allegations received by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat).

After Mr Shiner was struck off, the discredited £60 million Government probe is being wound down and its remaining caseload of around 20 cases handed to the Royal Navy Police.

Mr Shiner was told by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal he faces paying at least £250,000 in costs to the SRA, whose prosecution of the lawyer is thought to be one of its most expensive to date.

The MoD has paid out more than £100 million on legal costs and compensation linked to the war in Iraq, with a large proportion over allegations brought by PIL.