Soca will check if directors have links to private investigators

MPs delay release of ‘blue-chip’ client list as agency’s new boss looks for conflicts of interest

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has agreed to review whether its directors have any links to private investigators amid fears that the agency is too close to the controversial industry.

The new Soca chairman Stephen Rimmer, who was appointed in July after his predecessor resigned suddenly over a conflict of interest, will contact senior agency officials to check if any of them also works in the private security sector.

The inquiry was agreed with the Home Affairs Select Committee, which has been investigating the agency’s failure for a number of years to tackle the blue-chip clients of corrupt private investigators that fuel the unlawful trade in personal data.

The MPs are due to publish a secret list of 98 companies and individuals on which Soca had evidence suggesting they employed fraudsters convicted of blagging sensitive information.

The release of the list had been scheduled for later today, but the committee has come under intense pressure not to reveal some of the illustrious names, as police and the information watchdog claim it would hamper ongoing inquiries.

The MPs have delayed publication until after they discuss the matter face-to-face tomorrow. But some are furious that Soca did “absolutely nothing” to deal with the clients of the private investigators until June, when The Independent revealed that the agency had been sitting on the evidence since 2008. One source said: “Given what has happened in the past, I am not convinced the current inquiry, which has suddenly been set up in the last few weeks, will follow the evidence without fear and favour.”

Those on the classified list reportedly include the X-Factor mogul Simon Cowell, accountancy giant Deloitte, the banks Credit Suisse and Chase Manhattan, and the law firms Richards Butler (now Reed Smith), Herbert Smith Freehills and Clyde and Co. The crime agency has stressed that featuring on its list does not indicate wrongdoing as the firms and individuals may have been unaware of the commissioning of private detectives.

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, who has only recently taken possession of the evidence – some of which dates back as far as 2008 – has been called to give evidence tomorrow over his reasons for keeping the list secret.

When Mr Rimmer appeared before MPs last week, he repeatedly denied the sudden resignation of his predecessor, Sir Ian Andrews, had anything to do with the fact that his wife worked for a private investigations firm.

The former Ministry of Defence mandarin, who admitted classifying the list to protect the commercial interests of those on it, quit days after The Independent revealed that his wife Moira was the head lawyer at Good Governance Group. Sir Ian denied his resignation was related to his wife’s job, saying he left because he had failed to declare another interest.

Under hostile questioning last week, Mr Rimmer agreed to undertake a review of other senior Soca personnel to check for “conflicts of interest”.

Keith Vaz MP, the chairman of the committee, mentioned the Soca non-executive director Francis Plowden, a former partner at the accountancy firm PwC, who has “security interests” in Serco, according to the agency’s register of interests.

Mr Vaz also asked Mr Rimmer to ensure he was “absolutely satisfied” that the former Met police chief Peter Clarke, who was involved in the original phone-hacking investigation and who now sits on the Soca board, had no interests in the private detective industry.

The former Labour minister said: “It is in your interests to make sure that none of these board members has conflicts of interest. Because I would be very surprised if one of your directors – for example the one at Serco – I would be very surprised if they had not employed private investigators at some stage. You shouldn’t just assume everything is OK in the garden.”

Meanwhile Ian Hurst, a former Army intelligence officer and a key witness at the Leveson Inquiry, warned the agency two years ago that a private detective convicted of hacking into bank accounts and telephone records had “cultivated” contacts with Special Branch. He says his warnings in May 2011 were ignored.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments