Murdoch company in pay-TV piracy scandal 'paid Surrey Police'

 

The News Corp subsidiary at the heart of claims it used computer hackers to crack rivals' technology made a £2,000 payment to a British police force for "assistance given to us in our work", The Independent can reveal.

NDS, a London-based specialist in satellite television encryption technology, said yesterday that a payment made to Surrey Police in the summer of 2000 was a “charitable donation” for which it had received a written acknowledgement.

But a cache of 14,000 internal emails belonging to the London-based company shows that its deputy head of security, Len Withall, asked for a cheque to be drawn for £2,000 as payment for “some work” he had been doing with the force over the previous six months.

Mr Withall, who was a former detective chief inspector with Surrey Police before joining NDS in the early 1990s, asked for the payment to be made from a special budget “set aside to Police/Informants for assistance given to us in our work”.

Surrey Police, which was rocked last year by revelations linked to the News of the World’s hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s mobile phone, said it could not find a record of the payment on its accounting records but was conducting further investigations.

Payments to police by private companies are not illegal and are made frequently for events such as the policing of a football match.

But the revelation that a corner of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire was seeking to pay a British police force for unspecified work will fuel the controversy surrounding allegations that NDS supplied the encryption codes of rival companies to hackers in several countries, including Britain, who then created pirated “smart cards” for sale on the black market.

NDS, which is being sold to computing giant Cisco for a $5bn in a deal which is expected to net News Corp $1bn, has issued a comprehensive statement strongly denying that it promoted piracy or provided any codes to hackers, saying it was in contact with them only to gather intelligence on their activities and assist law enforcement bodies. It has successfully defended four claims from rivals complaining their business was damaged by its activities.

The NDS email cache, published yesterday in Australia by the Australian Financial Review, suggests that the company was also prepared to pay police in return for their assistance. The payment was first identified by the BBC’s Panorama but it was not included in this week’s programme outlining allegations about the activities of NDS in Britain after Surrey Police failed to confirm it.

In a message written at 9.27am on 9 June 2000 with the subject title “Cheque for Police”, Mr Withall outlined the reasons for the payment, mentioning that it would need to be authorised by his superior, Ray Adams, a former commander in the Metropolitan Police and its one-time head of criminal intelligence.

Mr Withall wrote: “Over the last six months, I have been doing some work with the Surrey Police. In our budget under code 880110 there is an amount set aside for payment to Police/Informants for assistance given to us in our work. With Ray’s authority, could you please make out a cheque in the sum of £2,000 payable to the Surrey Police and forward it to my office.”

The Australian Financial Review, which yesterday produced a fresh barrage of allegations about the business activities of NDS in Australia, said it had received a demand from London law firm Allen & Overy on behalf of the company asking for the email cache to be removed because it contained confidential details about NDS staff.

When The Independent yesterday approached NDS asking about the nature of a payment made to Surrey Police, the company said in a statement: “This was a one-off charitable donation of £2000 to Surrey police in August 2000. NDS’ support and donation was acknowledged with a thank you from Surrey Police.”

After being provided with details of Mr Withall’s email, the company said: “Thank you for pointing out the copy of the email from the 9th June 2000 that highlighted a request made by the appropriate channels to our finance department. The payment was a charitable donation and we have a letter of thanks from Surrey Police to confirm that.”

Mr Withall did not respond to a request last night to comment on his email.

In a statement Surrey Police said: “Surrey Police has been made aware of an apparent payment of £2,000 made by NDS to the Force in August 2000. We are currently making further enquiries regarding this matter.”

Under so-called “private hire” rules, police forces can be requested to provide officers for duties such as the policing of large public events such as sports matches or music festivals. Such arrangements are governed by strict rules of transparency and it would be unusual for a company to have to pay officers carrying out law enforcement work.

The requested payment to Surrey Police by NDS, whose global headquarters is located in Staines, a part of west London which falls under the responsibility of the Surrey force, is part of a pattern of links between the company and law enforcement bodies around the world which have proved a valuable recruiting ground for the News Corp subsidiary.

As well as recruiting former British police officers, the company has employed former members of the Israeli security services, including the former deputy head of the Shin Bet domestic security service, and an American Army intelligence officer.

In separate development, the Australian Federal Police also revealed yesterday that it was assisting Scotland Yard with its inquries following a referral “in relation to News Corp” received at the height of the News of the World phone hacking scandal last summer.

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
Review: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit