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Law firms linked to convicted PIs

Source BBC News@ tienganhvui.com


Telephone keypadThe clients have been identified by type of business but have not been named


Twenty-two law firms commissioned work from four private investigators convicted of illegally obtaining private information, MPs have said.


The Home Affairs Select Committee has published a list of the types of businesses identified as clients of the investigators.


The investigators were given jail sentences last year.


The Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has been accused of failing to take legal action against the clients.


Private data

The list summarises clients identified by Operation Millipede, the inquiry into the activities of four private investigators.


They specialised in illegally obtaining information from holders of private data such as banks, utility companies and HM Revenue and Customs.


The MPs wanted Soca to name the clients but the agency refused, marking the the list as confidential.


As a result the list published by the committee is a breakdown of the clients by business sector.


Law firms made up the largest proportion, and there were eight financial service companies.


The list suggested that private investigators often subcontract work to each other - 16 clients were other private investigation agencies.


Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: "The committee remains concerned that it holds a list that Soca has classified as secret, even though it is evidence given as part of our inquiry."


But the Labour MP added: "This is an important step forward in establishing the facts."


Computers seized

Operation Millipede led to the convictions of Philip Campbell-Smith and Graham Freeman who ran an agency called Brookmans International, and retired Metropolitan Police detective Adam Spears who worked alone.


A fourth defendant, Daniel Summers, was subcontracted by the others to carry out the so-called blagging of private information.


Soca seized computers during raids on the private investigators in 2009.


Evidence from these machines is now being used in another police investigation, Operation Tuleta, which is examining the illegal accessing of private information by the journalist and companies.


Soca has refused to name the clients in the Millipede case because it said that could disrupt the ongoing Tuleta inquiry.


The Metropolitan Police said it would not support the naming of suspects in such circumstances.


Soca also maintained there was no proof the clients acted illegally.


BBC home affairs correspondent Tom Symonds said proving that the clients commissioned work knowing it would breach the data protection act - the most likely charge they might face - could be difficult.


One of the clients, a solicitor, told the BBC she hired Brookmans International to track down a fraudster but insisted she did not break the law.


She said she put in writing her request to the private detectives that they do not do anything illegal.


Vital work

Much of the work of private investigators involves finding out where fraudsters have hidden stolen money or tracking down people who owe money so that civil litigation can begin.


Another law firm which uses private investigators said such work was vital because often police will not go after fraudsters.


The client list published by the committee does not appear to contain any media companies.


Our correspondent said critics of Soca argued it had failed to act on the corporate use of private investigators, while journalists who allegedly obtained private information by the breaking the law were subjected to several major police investigations.


The Millipede case is not one of the five detailed in a widely leaked report compiled by Soca in 2008 which warned of the risk of rogue private investigators.


The report was an analysis of cases that all reached their conclusion before it was written.


Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May is shortly expected to announce proposals that will require private detectives to have a licence to operate, barring anyone found guilty of hacking or blagging - obtaining information by using a false identity.


The Met Police said it supported the "strong regulation of the private investigation industry and a system that allows for a client to perform due diligence checks on the individual or company they wish to hire".





Đăng ký: Tieng Anh Vui

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