Blue-chip hacking: Soca chief Sir Ian Andrews in ‘conflict of interest’ row over wife's security job


Tom Harper
Monday 22 July 2013 23:53
Sir Ian Andrews: The wife of the Soca chief works for a secretive investigations agency
Sir Ian Andrews: The wife of the Soca chief works for a secretive investigations agency

The security chief who is refusing to publish the names of blue-chip companies who hired corrupt private detectives is at the centre of a new row, after it emerged he failed to disclose that his wife works for a private investigations agency when he gave evidence to Parliament.

Sir Ian Andrews, the chairman of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), has deflected MPs’ requests to reveal suppressed evidence the agency holds on law firms, insurance companies and wealthy individuals who employ criminal PIs that hack sensitive information – claiming the disclosure could damage their commercial interests and breach individuals’ human rights.

Now The Independent can reveal that his wife, Moira Andrews, is employed as the head lawyer for Good Governance Group (G3), a controversial global security firm that was involved in the scandal that forced the resignation of the former Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

Sir Ian, a former senior Ministry of Defence mandarin, failed to disclose the apparent conflict of interest when he gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on the murky world of private detectives last month.

Moira Andrews worked for 30 years as a senior law enforcement official in various government departments including the Foreign Office and the Crown Prosecution Service, before becoming “group general counsel” of G3. The secretive investigations agency also employs the former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who resigned in the wake of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

A spokeswoman for Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “We were not aware of this.”

James Clappison, a senior Conservative MP on the committee, said: “Although it is not strictly required of witnesses, it would have been wise for Sir Ian to have declared this relationship, especially given the circumstances of this extremely sensitive inquiry. I am very surprised that he failed to mention this.”

Alastair Morgan, whose brother Daniel was murdered amid claims he was about to expose corrupt links between the Met and private detectives, said: “I find it uncomfortable that Sir Ian’s wife works in the private investigation industry and it is astonishing that he failed to declare this when he denied the public knowledge of potential blue-chip hacking.”

The Independent revealed last month that Soca knew for years that major companies commissioned criminal investigators who break the law to further their clients’ commercial interests – yet did next to nothing to disrupt the unlawful trade.

The Home Affairs Select Committee asked the agency to publicly disclose the names of the companies involved, but Sir Ian refused, saying it could “undermine their financial viability”.

The decision has triggered outrage from parts of the newspaper industry, which is currently at the centre of one of Britain’s largest criminal investigations over its employment of corrupt private detectives.

Sir Ian is the co-director of a company with Ms Andrews.

In 2011, it emerged that G3 was one of several companies with defence interests to fund the international flights of Mr Fox’s best man and close adviser, Adam Werritty. The revelation prompted the resignation of the Defence Secretary after he was found guilty of a serious breach of the ministerial code.

G3 has reportedly been investigating the listed coal mining company Bumi plc, which is at the centre of a bitter row between the banker Nat Rothschild and Indonesia’s Bakrie family.

It also employs Mr Yates, the Met’s former head of counter-terrorism who left Scotland Yard amid claims he failed properly to investigate phone hacking at the News of the World.

The agency was reportedly paid £1.5m by the government of Bahrain to “support [its] stance before the international community”. Since joining G3, Mr Yates secured a role as police adviser to the dictatorial regime which has been condemned by the international community for its brutal oppression of political opponents.

When the country’s Formula One Grand Prix took place against a backdrop of protests, Mr Yates appeared on news reports defending the stuttering reform process and describing the unrest as “criminal acts” against “unarmed police” who acted with “remarkable restraint”.

Ms Andrews and Mr Yates are not the only former senior law enforcement officials who found work in the private detective industry. Lord Stevens, the former Met Commissioner who headed the inquiry into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, is the chairman of the investigation firm Quest.

The company was hired by Max Mosley to identify who was behind a News of the World sting that exposed his payment to five prostitutes to take part in a bondage session.

Quest is believed to have put the women under surveillance and found one was a professional dominatrix married to an MI5 agent, who was later forced to resign from the security services. Mr Mosley later won a libel victory against the now-defunct title.

Two former Met Police officers-turned private investigators, Keith Hunter and Cliff Knuckey, have been arrested during an investigation into claims that serving detectives on the force’s anti-corruption unit received bribes. Both deny the allegations and are on bail. The long-running investigation is examining claims that Mr Hunter’s PI firm Risc Management was involved in unlawful payments related to a Met inquiry into James Ibori, a notorious Nigerian fraudster.

Mr Hunter worked on “high-profile investigations of national and international organised crime” at Scotland Yard before entering the private investigations industry in 1997, according to the company’s website.

Alec Leighton is another former Met detective who entered the private detective world after he left the force. He is believed to have worked with Jonathan Rees, who is currently on bail over offences relating to alleged computer hacking by the News of the World.

A Soca spokesman said: “Sir Ian Andrews did not consider there to be a conflict of interest that should be declared to the Home Affairs Committee. However, he will be writing both to the Home Secretary and the chair of the committee to explain why this is so.”

G3 said: “It is a matter of public record that Moira Andrews has been general counsel of G3 Good Governance Group since 2011, a role which she has filled on a part-time consultancy basis since 2012.”