Exclusive: Met dragged into blue-chip hacking saga as MPs demand Hogan-Howe releases details on rogue investigators

 

Scotland Yard was dragged into the blue-chip hacking scandal last night after Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was asked to release suppressed information from four little-known investigations into rogue private detective agencies.

James Clappison, a senior Conservative MP on the Home Affairs Select Committee, has written to the Metropolitan Police  Commissioner asking for the names of companies and individuals who hired corrupt private investigators to hack, “blag” and steal personal data.

Mr Clappison is particularly keen  to learn about clients identified in Operation Barbatus, a Met investigation in 2007 that was later included in a suppressed Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) report into private  detectives (PIs).

The inquiry found that the PIs were hacking computers and corrupting police officers. Two serving Met detectives were jailed after they tried to unlawfully access the New York Stock Exchange. However, none of the clients of Active Investigation Services – dubbed “Hackers Are Us” – were successfully prosecuted.

The only one to be charged with criminal offences was Matthew Mellon, an oil and banking heir who hired the company during divorce proceedings against his ex-wife Tamara Mellon, the Jimmy Choo fashion tycoon. However, Mr Mellon was later cleared by a jury who accepted he had no idea the investigators to whom he paid £12,000 were breaking the law.

Police have been under mounting pressure to disclose information they hold on the well-known clients of corrupt PIs after The Independent revealed last month that Soca knew for years that law firms, insurance companies and celebrities were hiring PIs who break the law. The agency finally handed the Home Affairs Select Committee the names of 102 clients identified in one of five investigations reviewed in its 2008 report, codenamed Project Riverside.

However, details from four other historic police inquiries included in the file have not been passed to MPs – including Operation Barbatus.

Last night, Mr Clappison wrote to Sir Bernard and said “there is a public interest in knowing as much about the circumstances of these operations as can be properly disclosed”.

Meanwhile, Sir Ian Andrews, chairman of Soca, has referred himself to the official police watchdog after he was accused of misleading Parliament. The former senior Ministry of Defence mandarin was confronted by a victim of hacking who was enraged after  he watched him tell MPs that he was “absolutely satisfied” that the crime-fighting body had not previously provided false testimony to the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Ian Hurst, whose computer was  unlawfully accessed by corrupt PIs, emailed Sir Ian to say he was “frankly astonished” by his evidence.

Soca did not respond but Mr Hurst, a former British Army intelligence officer, then received a letter from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) saying the agency had referred the matter to them.

However, in a farcical twist, the IPCC had to immediately send the complaint back to Soca to deal with as it had “no jurisdiction” over Sir Ian’s actions.

In a separate development, Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, yesterday wrote to the chief executives of various regulators to ask for clarification over their guidelines on the use of PIs. He said: “The context in which the companies implicated by Soca’s information have acted is crucial for us to understand their motives.”

The list of regulators contacted includes the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the Law Society, the Office of Fair Trading, the Office of Rail Regulation and the Financial Conduct Authority.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent