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Driver 'said he provided protection for the Murdochs', court told


Part of the job of a former driver for News International was to "hand over packets to various police officers" that were part of a "corrupt payments" system, a court heard yesterday.

Paul Maley, from Haslemere in Surrey, is charged with fraud and falsely claiming to be a senior police officer involved in high-level "close protection work".

Mr Maley is alleged to have told business colleagues that he provided protection services for Rupert and James Murdoch.

His lawyer told Guildford Crown Court that the case against Mr Maley involved a co-ordinated attempt to discredit him as a witness.

A serving police sergeant based at Lewisham police station was alleged to be among those who received payments and was involved in the conspiracy against Mr Maley.

The court was told that Mr Maley had entered into a deal with his neighbour, IT consultant Simon Heavens.

According to Mr Heavens, 48, he and Mr Maley had set up what he claimed was a specialist security company. Mr Heavens claimed Mr Maley's experience in "close protection" police work was crucial to the business's success. Mr Heavens said Mr Maley had told him he had driven Rupert Murdoch.

Cross-examined by Roger Offenbach, Mr Heavens denied he knew Mr Maley worked as a driver for News International.

The court heard that Mr Heavens had spoken to Sergeant Sanjit Rai at Lewisham police station, in south-east London, and that the officer had subsequently entered into business with Mr Heavens, which involved security training.

The court heard that Sergeant Rai was "part of a corrupt association"; that he knew Mr Maley's job at NI involved "handing over packets to various police officers"; and that Mr Maley had handed such a package to Sergeant Rai.

In reply, Mr Heavens said these suggestions were "ludicrous".

He denied the suggestion that the aim of the "false allegations" of fraud made against Mr Maley was to discredit him "as a witness". Mr Heavens admitted to having meetings with Sergeant Rai, but not at Lewisham police station.

He said his and Sergeant Rai's business partnership was "a matter of public record" and could be checked out at Companies House.

* News Corp's top New York-based public relations executive, Teri Everett, is to leave the company, it was announced yesterday. Ms Everett, who has been at the company for more than 10 years, has spent much of the last year dealing with the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal at its UK newspaper, the News of the World.