A classified list of 102 companies and celebrities who hired rogue private investigators will remain secret for another month while MPs assess an investigation recently launched by the Information Commissioner.
The Home Affairs Select Committee will hold off publishing the illustrious clients of criminal private eyes until Christopher Graham updates them on the progress of his inquiry next month.
The powerful group of MPs were due to reveal the names until the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) finally passed the regulator 31 files of evidence to investigate following revelations in The Independent.
Keith Vaz, the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he was frustrated by the slow progress of investigations into the clients, which reportedly include the accountancy giant Deloitte and X Factor mogul Simon Cowell.
The former Labour minister said: “The committee has been frustrated by the lack of activity on this issue over the past four years.
“In contrast to the rigorous police investigation of those in the media who are accused of being involved in the unlawful trade in information, little if anything seems to have been done to investigate those in other sectors, such as law and insurance.”
Earlier this week, the Information Commissioner asked the committee to refrain from publishing the list – despite admitting prosecuting the clients would be difficult as the evidence had been ignored for at least five years by police.
Mr Vaz announced an agreement with Mr Graham, who will carry out a preliminary analysis of the material before reporting back to the committee. The chairman added: “The Information Commissioner has given the committee an explicit commitment that he will pursue this matter to its appropriate end and that the victims will receive justice.”
Earlier this week, Mr Graham criticised Scotland Yard and Soca for failing to pass him “31 fat lever arch files” of potential evidence against 98 law firms, accountancy giants and management consultants who fuelled the unlawful trade in sensitive information.
Mr Graham also admitted being involved in the decision to ignore the individuals and companies first identified during Soca’s Operation Millipede as long ago as 2008, which he later described as a “seven-year dither”. However, he claimed he was powerless to prevent the suspension in action forced on him by Soca and the Met.
In testy exchanges with the Home Affairs Select Committee, the official regulator of data-protection laws was forced to concede that the delay in leads being followed up could cause problems in pursuing prosecutions against the individuals and companies named in connection with four criminal private investigators.
MPs are angry that SOCA, the Met and the ICO all failed for years to investigate the clients until The Independent broke the story in June.
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