Named in six days: Soca told to publish list of blue-chip firms that hired rogue PIs – or MPs will

Soca earlier blocked publication of the list to protect the companies’ reputations

MPs have given the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) six days to publish a list of law firms, insurance companies and celebrities who hired rogue private investigators convicted of unlawfully accessing people’s personal data. The Home Affairs Select Committee told senior Soca officials they had until Monday to publish the names of the 102 blue-chip clients, warning that if they did not, Parliament would be forced to intervene.

If Soca failed to comply with the request MPs would publish the list instead, said Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the committee, which was given the classified information in July. Mr Vaz said such transparency would be in the public interest.

He also said Soca had done “absolutely nothing” to tackle the illustrious clients who had fuelled the trade in illegal data, until The Independent broke the story.

In June, it was revealed that Soca had known for years that some of Britain’s most respected companies routinely employed corrupt private investigators who hacked, blagged and stole personal information on business rivals and members of the public – yet it did almost nothing to disrupt the unlawful trade.

Evidence obtained during a long-running Soca inquiry into four criminal PIs – codenamed Operation Millipede – revealed 102 blue-chip clients, including accountancy firms, leading financial institutions and several pharmaceutical companies, who were never censured in any way for commissioning the investigators.

One of the celebrities who employed the rogue PIs is understood to be so famous “you would have to live down a rabbit hole in the Arctic not to have heard of them”.

During heated exchanges today, Mr Vaz told the Soca director-general Trevor Pearce: “I am still puzzled and the committee is baffled how you could have been sitting on this evidence for four years.” Later he added: “Had it not been for the revelations in The Independent, the public would never have known about this.”

When Mr Pearce tried to deny that Soca had “sat on” evidence of “dirty tricks”, Mr Vaz interrupted to say: “Nothing was happening about this. Absolutely nothing until the stuff in the newspapers. I know we all look young and green around this table, Mr Pearce, but some of these people have been around a long time.”

Mr Vaz dismissed Mr Pearce’s argument that the material was passed last week to an official watchdog for further investigation. He said: “I have spoken to the Information Commissioner and he says he has been asking for this information for years.”

Ahead of Mr Pearce’s appearance in front of MPs, Mr Vaz said it seemed there was a “great flurry of activity last Friday and you rushed over [to the Information Commissioner’s Office] in a taxi”.

Soca passed the list of blue-chip clients to the committee in July but blocked its publication to protect the companies’ reputations.

However, Mr Vaz said: “The committee has taken a view that this list should be published, Mr Pearce. We give you until Monday to publish this list. If you don’t then we will publish it as we believe it is in the public interest to do so. We have taken legal advice.”

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

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory