As many as 100 people may have had their details accessed by private investigators acting on behalf of companies and individuals, police have revealed.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has obtained evidence showing that 51 of the possible victims “had their personal data fraudulently accessed,” explained Soca director general Trevor Pearce in a letter.
The personal information was obtained by private investigators and passed on to 102 companies and individuals on a client list which was provided to Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee.
In the letter, dated 16 August, Mr Pearce explained that 91 of the potential 100 victims have been contacted by Soca.
While data belonging to 49 other people was also found, there is so far no specific evidence to show this had been obtained fraudulently.
Mr Pearce confirmed to committee chairman Keith Vaz that nobody on the list Soca submitted has been arrested or charged.
He wrote that discussions had taken place between Soca and the Metropolitan Police, the Information Commissioner's Office, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, in order to discuss the next steps on the issue. Further meetings are planned.
Labour committee chairman Mr Vaz said, “It is clear that behind every client's request of a private investigator lies a victim of potential illegality. This information has been in the possession of Soca since 2009.
”It is therefore imperative that those who have committed wrongdoing are brought to justice and I will be requesting a timetable of the action Soca and the MPs intend to take.“
”The scale of the problem is now frighteningly apparent. It seems that for every private investigator in the country, there could be 25 potential victims,” he added.
“The Government's timetable for legislation next year is far too long and may be lost in the wash up before the next election. We will therefore not have regulation for years.
”We need action now. If we have learnt anything from the phone-hacking scandal, it is that the victims must be put first.“
The list contains eight firms that appeared in evidence in prosecutions under Operation Millipede, which led to the conviction of four private detectives for fraud last year, as well as 94 other organisations which were relevant to the inquiry but were not used in evidence.
A total of 22 law firms feature on the 102-strong list, along with several insurance companies, financial services groups and two celebrities, among others.
In his letter, Mr Pearce added, ”that we are not alleging that the individuals or companies named on the list have or even may have committed a criminal offence“.