City Slickers 'gave friends share tips in advance'

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The Independent Online

DTI inspectors investigating the City Slickers scandal have found new evidence of widespread advance share-tipping by the two former Mirror journalists.

DTI inspectors investigating the City Slickers scandal have found new evidence of widespread advance share-tipping by the two former Mirror journalists.

Hundreds of e-mails to and from reporters Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell have been studied by the inspectors and show the reporters were contacted by a wide range of other staff and their contacts to find out who they would be tipping in their column the next day.

The DTI inspectors have been able to recover hundreds of deleted e-mails from the Mirror computer system. The messages show the Slickers dispensing tips and, in some cases, the recipients later thanking the two for the money they have made investing in tipped shares.

Among those exchanging tips with the Slickers are believed to be City traders, market makers and public relations consultants. Dealers are said to have offered information of their own in return for warning of Slickers tips.

Last week DTI inspectors started interviewing up to 20 Mirror staff members about advance share-tipping at the newspaper. The scandal broke last February after it emerged that the Mirror's editor Piers Morgan had bought £20,000 worth of shares in the computer company Viglen the day before it was tipped in the Slickers column. The share price in Viglen increased after the Slicker's tip.

Trinity Mirror held its own investigation which discovered that Mr Bhoyrul and Mr Hipwell had frequently bought shares in advance of writing about them. This is considered a serious breach of journalist ethics. Mr Bhoyrul had bought shares before tipping them on 16 occasions. Mr Hipwell did so 25 times. Both men were sacked.

Mr Morgan said he had bought the Viglen shares unaware that the Slickers were about to tip them. Trinity Mirror cleared Mr Morgan of wrongdoing. But the Press Complaints Commission severely criticised him for allowing his staff to be involved in dealing in shares in which they wrote about.

At the time of the PCC judgement, its chairman, Lord Wakeham, condemned the "clear climate of slack" at the newspaper. The DTI launched its own inquiry. It is to report later this month. The papers are likely to be passed over to the DTI lawyers to decide whether any prosecutions are appropriate. As is their policy, the DTI will not even confirm or deny they are holding an investigation.

Piers Morgan, Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell all deny wrongdoing.

Mr Bhoyrul and Mr Hipwell now write a monthly tipster's column for Mohamed al Fayed's Punch magazine which carries a 'warning' that they invest in the shares they write about. "Rather than tip any old rubbish the Slickers have long believed your chances of picking a good company are enhanced if you risk your own capital," they say.

Trinity Mirror has said it will not comment until the DTI investigations are complete. Phil Graf, the company's chief executive, has complained that the press have not reported the City Slickers scandal fairly.

"I have understood what it like to be at the sharp end of reporting which was certainly not of the highest standard," he told the Society of Editors.

The broker used by Mr Morgan and his Slickers to make their share purchases was Antony Laiker, of Kyte Securities. He traded their shares through a nominee portfolio, a legal method of concealing the identities. Mr Laiker left his company after the share dealings came to light.