Phone hacking exclusive: The News of the World, the army's IRA mole and more questions for Rupert Murdoch

Phone records of IRA terror informant went to News International

Detectives investigating possible corporate charges against Rupert Murdoch's media empire have obtained evidence to suggest that News International paid private detectives to unlawfully access the phone records of a leading IRA mole who lives under the protection of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Senior Scotland Yard officers are analysing an invoice originally seized from a private investigator by the Metropolitan Police in 2007. The document – which dates from the time of the discredited original phone-hacking investigation – bills News International £850 for "Scappaticci phone records".

At the time the invoice was submitted, in April 2006, a senior News of the World executive had allegedly commissioned private detectives to find Freddie Scappaticci, Britain's top agent inside the IRA who was known by the codename "Stakeknife". David Cameron's former director of communications Andy Coulson was the newspaper's editor at the time. Last week, he was convicted of conspiracy to hack mobile phones.

It is understood the explicit request to be paid for obtaining confidential phone records makes the invoice unique amongst the files held by the Metropolitan Police (Met) – and central to possible corporate charges. The request is effectively asking, in black-and-white, to be compensated for a criminal offence.

Given the sensitivities around Scappaticci, it is not clear why Scotland Yard failed to take any action against the News of the World or the private investigator when detectives seized the invoice in 2007. At the time, police chiefs were insisting criminality at the newspaper was confined to "one rogue reporter", Clive Goodman, who was jailed for phone-hacking in 2007.

Scappaticci named in the 2006 invoice Scappaticci named in the 2006 invoice

The private investigator cannot be named for legal reasons, but, to clarify, he is not Glenn Mulcaire, convicted in 2007 in the original phone hacking trial. When The Independent on Sunday approached the unnamed investigator, he made the astonishing claim that the private phone records were obtained via a police source. Despite his involvement in the attempted compromise of one of the British Army's most sensitive assets, the private investigator said he was confident that he would not face any action.

"Nothing we have to worry about," he said. "If they are giving [us] stuff, they are giving [us] paperwork, who cares? That is their risk – nothing for us – nothing for us..." Later he added: "But if I was one of their bosses, I would sack 'em on the spot. 'You can't be trusted mate. Bye!'"

The private investigator, who has a criminal record, said the phone records belonged to Scappaticci's wife, who was thought to have stayed in Northern Ireland while her husband was in the witness protection scheme in the UK. The private detective said the News of the World was trying to track the Army informant's whereabouts "on the mainland". He said they managed to "turn round" a possible number to a phone box which they believed could be used by Scappaticci.

The IoS asked the private investigator whether he was worried he may have "committed any illegal acts by accessing that information from the police source then honing in on the landline number to the phone box". He replied: "Yeah, yeah. Not worried about that, not worried about that at all."

Andy Coulson was The News of the World's editor at the time Andy Coulson was The News of the World's editor at the time

Scotland Yard failed initially to take any action over the Scappaticci compromise. However, the Met has taken a much greater interest in its implications since August last year after a concerned third party emailed it to Commander Neil Basu, who has overall charge of the myriad investigations into News International.

The source was summoned to New Scotland Yard, London, where he was debriefed by Commander Basu, Detective Chief Superintendent Gordon Briggs and a senior Met lawyer. The invoice has also been emailed to Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee.

Yesterday Mr Vaz said: "It is clear we have not reached the end of the revelations relating to hacking.

"The Prime Minister promised that on the conclusion of the criminal investigation into phone hacking a full investigation in to police involvement would be commenced. That time is drawing near and preparation for Leveson 2 must be started now. I will be writing to the PM to ask what steps he is proposing and what his timetable is for the next inquiry which he rightly promised."

Last week, Coulson was convicted of conspiracy to hack mobile phones. Five other News of the World journalists pleaded guilty to similar offences. After an eight-month trial that made headlines around the world, former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks was acquitted of four charges.

Gerson Zweifach, News Corp lawyer Gerson Zweifach, News Corp lawyer (AP)

However, the conviction of such a senior figure as Coulson has raised the possibility that News International – now rebranded News UK – could face a corporate charge, which may have serious consequences for the ability of the parent company News Corp to operate in the United States. The investigation into News UK as a "corporate suspect" caused pandemonium at the upper echelons of the Murdoch media empire when they learnt of the development two years ago.

Shortly after the company was informed it was under suspicion in May 2012, executives in the US ordered that the company dramatically scale back its co-operation with the Met. A News Corp analysis of the effects of a corporate charge, produced in New York, said the consequences could "kill the corporation, and 46,000 jobs would be in jeopardy".

Lawyers for the media giant pleaded with the Met and the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute the company, saying it would not be in the "public interest" to put thousands of jobs at risk.

Gerson Zweifach, group general counsel of News Corp, flew to London for emergency talks with the Met in 2012. According to Scotland Yard, he told police: "Crappy governance is not a crime. The US authorities' reaction would put the whole business at risk, as licences would be at risk."

The MoD has never confirmed or denied whether Scappaticci was "Stakeknife". He has always denied the claims. However, General Sir John Wilsey, a former commander of the British Army in Northern Ireland, was once secretly recorded describing Scappaticci as "our most important secret". "He was a golden egg, something that was very important to the Army," he said. "We were terribly cagey about Fred."

The MoD is mounting an unprecedented legal bid for secrecy in a High Court action against Scappaticci, who was said to be protected by the British state despite his suspected involvement in the deaths of dozens of loyalists, policemen and civilians. The ex-wife of another IRA informant is suing Freddie Scappaticci, along with the MoD and police, for alleged false imprisonment in 1994. The MoD and Police Service of Northern Ireland are seeking Closed Material Procedures, that would deny her lawyers access to material.

Paper trail

2003 Freddie Scappaticci widely reported to be the British Army's leading mole in the IRA's internal security unit known as the "Nutting Squad".

April 2006 A private investigator working for the News of the World sends invoice to News International for "Scappaticci phone records".

January 2007 Former NOTW royal editor Glenn Mulcaire jailed for phone-hacking.

February 2007 Met officers seize invoice in raid on private detective.

2006-2011 In the face of widespread evidence, Met maintains criminality at News of the World confined to "one rogue reporter" convicted of phone-hacking.

August 2013 "Scappaticci" invoice emailed to Commander Neil Basu.

June 2014 Former editor Andy Coulson found guilty of phone-hacking. Scotland Yard continues investigation into corporate offences at News International.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform