City names fear blackmail as lapdance list is stolen

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The Independent Online
MEMBERS of one of London's best known "table dancing" clubs were even more steamed up than usual last night - but for once the cause wasn't their close proximity to scantily clad young women who peel off their clothes in exchange for a pounds 20 note.

The 1000 men - there are practically no female members of the Cherokee Club in Wapping - fear being named and shamed after discovering their personal membership details have been downloaded by a mystery hacker.

The motive behind the database theft is as yet unknown, but the bulk of the members come from some of the City's most respected institutions.

Only details of the gold card and corporate memberships appear to have been downloaded from the database at the club. The list includes famous soccer players, two Premier League football managers, high profile businessmen ... and the editor of a national newspaper.

Gold card membership costs pounds 250 and the corporate card costs pounds 600 and is issued to four named members. Entry is free to the bearer of both cards but corporate member holders can invite four guests per visit.

Business, mobile and home telephone numbers are included on the list alongside the names of workplaces, most of which are based in the City.

They include such institutions as SBC Warburg, Dillon Read, Royal Bank of Scotland, Credit Suisse First Boston, Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital and Normand City Finance. Numerous blue chip companies such as Axa Insurance, Exco, Emerald Travel and Japan Airlines are listed next to the names of the members.

Chris Hall, operations director at Cherokee, said: "We are trying to investigate how the hell it got out. This is an internal investigation at the moment. Everything is kept on disk and the disks are still here. I've no idea what the motive is. As and when we find out we will make an announcement and we will be contacting our members."

Most of the City firms declined to comment, but a spokeswoman for Merrill Lynch said: "We don't have a corporate membership at this club." She refused to comment on gold-card individuals employed by the company.

One individual who works for Axa Insurance was stunned. "God, that list could cause a lot of damage. No I don't want you to use my bloody name, nobody in their right mind would want their name in print. It's not that I am ashamed of being a member, but it wouldn't enhance my reputation round the office with female colleagues, for sure."

Another member, at SBC Warburg, was more relaxed. "It's a place for you to wind down and have a good laugh with colleagues or clients," he said. "I can think of far worse places to go."

Perhaps the most curious corporate name on the list belongs to an entire watch at London Fire Brigade's Whitechapel Station. A spokesman explained: "The guys went on a fire safety check to the club and they were offered corporate membership ... it's all a big misunderstanding."