The arms company, the oligarch and the ex-PM's sister-in-law: lobby firm's Wikipedia hit list

Hundreds of entries on the site were changed by Bell Pottinger without the subjects' knowledge

Bell Pottinger targeted the Wikipedia entry of Gordon Brown's sister-in-law, the environmental campaigner Clare Rewcastle Brown, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal.

Ms Rewcastle Brown, who campaigns against the destruction of tropical rainforests, has been heavily critical of the state government of Sarawak in Malaysia, and particularly its Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.

A user, "Biggleswiki", which Bell Pottinger has admitted belongs to one of its operatives, amended Ms Rewcastle Brown's Wikipedia entry to include criticisms of Radio Free Sarawak, which she runs. The same user has made positive amendments to the Chief Minister's Wikipedia entry.

The changes were among hundreds carried out by representatives of Bell Pottinger which are now being investigated by Wikipedia. There is no suggestion that those people who had their Wikipedia entries altered by Bell Pottinger knew about the changes. Some of the entries on the site included:

* Addition of material relating to South African arms manufacturer the Paramount Group and its head, Ivor Ichikowitz. When other users tried to put up warnings that the article was being altered for promotional purposes, Biggleswiki removed them. Many edits relate to the "Marauder", an armoured vehicle manufactured by the Paramount Group, which is being sold to Azerbaijan (currently subject to a European arms embargo). Paramount is a client of Bell Pottinger, which recently arranged for the Marauder to be showcased on the BBC show Top Gear. Top Gear's Wikipedia entry was also altered in a minor way by the firm. No one from Paramount was available to comment yesterday.

* Edited material relating to the arrest by appointment last year of Victor Dahdaleh, who was accused of attempting to bribe Aluminium Bahrain, a state-owned metals company – charges that he is "vigorously contesting". Mr Dahdaleh did not respond to a request for comment. He is currently on bail.

* The Wikipedia entry for Rupiah Banda, the former President of Zambia, has also been amended by another username identified by Wikipedia as being associated with Bell Pottinger, Smythej. The amendment said: "It is widely acknowledged that Banda stepped down with good grace. In conceding defeat he was not bitter and wished his successor well." Bell Pottinger acted for Mr Banda in the 2011 general elections in which he was defeated, as well as in the election that brought him to power.

* The removal of a reference to a client's university drugs conviction on Wikipedia, which was replaced with a reference to a favourable interview.

* Other entries that were changed by accounts associated with Bell Pottinger include those of the founder of the law firm Carter Ruck, Boris Berezovsky, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and at least two large financial firms.

Ms Rewcastle Brown said: "I have been aware of Bell Pottinger's interest in me for some while." She said Bell Pottinger should "put their name to these dirty tricks and show the rest of the world who they are prepared to work for, not hide behind fake names on Wikipedia".

Wikipedia has now locked down 10 user accounts that it believes are associated with computers owned by Bell Pottinger, pending an investigation by the website's founder Jimmy Wales.

When approached by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, several companies denied having ever employed Bell Pottinger to manage their reputations, but did reveal that they had signed deals with other companies owned by its parent company Chime Communications.

Moletest, a company that offers skin cancer screening online, said it had hired De Facto Communications, a specialist in public relations and marketing for the healthcare and life sciences industries. Joe Ferreira said the company had been briefed to manage both Moletest's online and offline public relations. De Facto is owned by Chime.

Standard Life, the pensions and insurance group, had its Wikipedia presence edited more than 12 times between November and December 2010. Barry Cameron, head of media at Standard Life, said it had hired Team Spirit, an advertising and marketing firm at Chime, and that the brief had included maintaining the company's Wikipedia profile.

Edits were also made to the online profile of Viscount Weymouth, a peer and businessman, adding information about his business interests. A spokesman for Longleat Enterprises, of which Viscount Weymouth is the chairman, said his company had never employed Bell Pottinger but has received advice from Bell Pottinger on an "ad hoc" basis.

Lord Bell, chairman of Chime Communications, the owner of Bell Pottinger, said an internal review had been launched. On Wednesday the firm admitted it had used a number of accounts to change Wikipedia pages.

"I can't see any bad headlines for our clients," he told the BBC. "You won't find anybody, including journalists, who don't do exactly the same thing." When firms asked Bell Pottinger to post untrue statements it had refused, citing Wikipedia's guidelines, he said.

I don't know who changes entries, says site founder

Of the 10 Wikipedia accounts suspended for being involved in suspected tampering by Bell Pottinger, two go to great lengths to give the impression of being real people.

"Biggleswiki" lists a number of personal details about himself on his user page. He claims that his name is David Biggles, and that he was born on 2 November 1979 in Hammersmith, London.

He provides a selection of details, and claims that he met his girlfriend while living in Newcastle, but has since moved back to London. "I currently work in engineering and really enjoy it. I get to travel around the world doing my job and have been to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, China, New Zealand and Russia," he writes.

"My interests include art, music and photography and I'm rubbish at all of them."

The Bureau has been unable to identify a David Biggles who matches the above description. Searches of the electoral register yielded no results for "David Biggles" anywhere in the UK. Bell Pottinger has since admitted that it used the Biggleswiki account.

A second user, "Diginerd84", claims to be a 50-year-old retired stockbroker living in Mayfair, London named Stephen Draper. "I was born in the East End and I can trace my family history back to 1585. I'm a retired stockbroker having spent over 25 years in the City," he wrote.

He claimed to have two grown-up children who had both moved abroad with their families, one of whom worked for Credit Suisse in New York. He went on to describe his interests, which include "business, political, science, motoring and sports".

"I'm extremely passionate about cars and own a collection of vintage Rolls-Royce motor cars. They have taken up nearly all of my time since I retired but are a huge amount of fun. My most recent and favourite purchase is a 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom II. It can barely hit 40mph, but it's a beautiful piece of engineering," he wrote.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said: "I will personally buy a full tank of petrol for Mr Draper's 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom II if he exists at all."

Related links
* Lobbyists - full related links

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
* thebureauinvestigates.com

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Early Years Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Early Years supply teachers neede...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Progressive Rec.

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

KS2 Teacher required from October

£90 - £120 per annum: Randstad Education Hull: Key Stage 2 Supply Teacher requ...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor