Multi-millionaire jailed for spying on critics

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's richest men has been jailed for hiring a private detective agency whose services included bugging telephone conversations, hacking into computers, and obtaining private medical and banking records.

Adrian Kirby, a waste-disposal tycoon from Haselmere, Surrey, worth an estimated £65m, was jailed for six months for using the agency to spy on people he thought were complaining about his company. These include council officials investigating allegations of illegal dumping by his firm.

Other clients who used the London-based agency included a businessman who paid for his estranged wife's laptop to be hacked into during acrimonious divorce proceedings. They variously admitted conspiring to intercept illegal communications, plotting to make unauthorised modifications to a computer, false accounting and criminal damage to British Telecom property.

The firm, run by a former police officer, employed computer specialists, serving officers and retired detectives to bug and spy on people from 1999 and 2004, London's Southwark Crown Court was told.

In the case of Kirby, 47, the court heard that he had paid £47,000 to the agency, which cannot be named for legal reasons, to spy on suspected opponents to his waste company.

The tycoon, who headed Atlantic Waste Holdings at the time, targeted, among others, employees of Northamptonshire County Council, Peterborough local authority and three local residents.

Another agency client, Anthony Waters, 67, was jailed for four months, for paying the firm £50,000 to hack into his estranged wife's laptop so he could monitor her finances and private correspondence during divorce proceedings.

Also jailed was businessman Charles Kay, 58, from Henley, Oxfordshire, who got four months after paying the detective agency to hack into another business's computer system and retrieve more than 100 e-mails.