Murdoch's rivals in City may be victims of phone hacking

 

Commercial espionage became a possible motive for phone hacking today after a top City PR firm said attempts may have been made to access the voicemails of executives who were advising on media takeovers.

Citigate Dewe Rogerson has been told that three executives may have fallen victim to the practice in 2005 and 2006, at the height of the News of the World's campaign of illegal phone hacking.

At the time the PR firm, one of the biggest in the City, was dealing with Virgin Media's merger with the cable TV company NTL with the aim of challenging Rupert Murdoch's dominance in pay TV.

Mr Murdoch's News Corp, which has a controlling stake in Sky TV, closed the News of the World last year in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

Confirming the potential intrusion, a spokesman for Citigate said: "We were told by our mobile provider around 18 months ago that police were investigating allegations that between 2005 and 2006 attempts by unauthorised parties may have been made to hack into three of our company mobile phones.

"We sought further details from the police but there has been no recent follow-up by them."

The spokesman said there was no evidence that Operation Weeting, the Metropolitan Police inquiry into phone hacking, was actively pursuing the Citigate allegation.

However the possibility that messages intended for City figures were intercepted could change the public perception of the hacking scandal. Until now, the assumption had been that the News of the World eavesdropped voicemails only to find stories.

Given that some targets were government media ministers and leading business figures, it is now possible that News Corporation's wider corporate interests were at play too.

In the mid-2000s, Sir Richard Branson, Virgin's founder, and Mr Murdoch fell out over Virgin's attempts to move into television.

Sir Richard revealed last year that police had told him his phone may have been hacked by the News of the World. His right-hand man, Will Whitehorn, Virgin Group's corporate affairs director, is also thought to have been targeted.

Sir Richard has so far remained silent on the hacking, except to say that it was worrying, but in 2006 – after he had been thwarted by BSkyB from buying ITV – he told the Daily Telegraph: "All of us know governments are scared stiff of Murdoch."

As the scandal deepened yesterday, the Independent on Sunday revealed that a report for Trinity Mirror shareholders had found that phone hacking was "systemic" at its national newspapers. The report said six reporters from the Daily Mirror and People were said to have regularly used the technique.

Sir Brian Leveson will issue his report on the press next month. He is expected to recommend some form of statutory newspaper regulation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee