GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER

February 25, 2017

corrupt_header_murder

WHEN JONATHAN Rees was released from prison in 2004 he was shunned by most of the media.

He’d just completed a seven year sentence for a conspiracy to plant cocaine on an innocent woman.

Even his former close contact, Gary Jones at the Daily Mirror, would have nothing to do with him.

But the News of the World, as ever, danced to a different tune.

REES_and_FILLERY_210

THE STORY SO FAR …
PRIVATE EYE Jonathan Rees (left) should have been a prime suspect in the murder of his partner Daniel Morgan in 1987 — the two men were love rivals and were arguing about a botched security operation. But Rees’ friend, Scotland Yard detective sergeant Sid Fillery (right), kept that crucial information — and his involvement  in the security operation — from the murder squad for several vital days. For the events leading up to the murder, the early contaminated murder inquiry, the sensational inquest which saw Rees’s book-keeper accuse him of planning the murder, see Part One — An Axe To Grind. The second part of The No 1 Corrupt Detective Agency — Rogue Journalists & Bent Coppers — reveals how Rees and his new partner Fillery became key players in the unlawful sale of confidential police information to Rupert Murdoch’s empire, especially the News of the World. Attempts by anti-corruption detectives to end this corrosive trade came to nothing. Part Three — Porridge — tells the story of how Jonathan Rees was gaoled for 7 years after he was caught conspiring to plant drugs on an innocent mother. When indecent child abuse photos were found on Sid Fillery’s computer — he was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register — the detective agency collapsed  But Scotland Yard hadn’t finished with the two men … 
Photos: PA

BBC journalist Robert Peston — who had close links to the Murdoch organisation — revealed that from October 2005 to September 2006 the paper paid Rees around £6,000.

The editor of the News of the World employing a convicted criminal was Andy Coulson.

The relationship came to an end with the conviction of the News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman and private eye Glen Mulcaire in 2007.

The News of the World position at the time was that Goodman was a single “rogue reporter”.

When Goodman was gaoled, Coulson resigned from the News of the World — and went on to become David Cameron’s controversial press secretary.

Coulson was given an 18 months prison sentence in July 2014 for his part in the hacking scandal.

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Just after Jonathan Rees came out of prison in 2004, two of ITV’s regional current affairs strands — the London Programme and Wales This Week — combined resources to make documentaries about the murder of Daniel Morgan.

At the time Press Gang editor Paddy French worked for ITV Wales as a producer on the Wales This Week programme.

He carried out a doorstep on Jonathan Rees at his south London home.

“It was one of the most disturbing doorsteps I’ve ever done,” said French.

“We were on station early in the morning outside the house in Thornton Heath where Rees lived, waiting for him to come out.”

“But right from the start we felt we were also being watched — the same car cruised past us several times.”

“Eventually, after moving our position several times, we saw Rees leaving — he must have thought the coast was clear. As soon as he saw us, however, he went back into the house.”

“We didn’t give up. We left the area for some time and then came back for a second attempt. As the cameraman and I were waiting, I turned round and saw a man watching us.”

MAN WATCHING 12

WATCHER
WHEN ITV Wales were staking out Jonathan Rees’ south London home in 2004, they were being watched by an associate of Rees. He’s never been identified …
Photo: ITV Wales

“That wasn’t the end of the tale.”

“That evening we had two phone calls from the Metropolitan Police warning us that if we went back to the house, we would be arrested for harassing Jonathan Rees.”

“I made it clear that we were doing no such thing — and their threats were an infringement of press freedom.”

“They insisted that if we returned to Rees’ home, they would arrest us.”

♦♦♦

FOUR YEARS after he was released from prison, Rees was back behind bars.

In April 2008 he was arrested and charged with the murder of Daniel Morgan.

Charged with him were his former brothers-in-law Glenn and Gary Vian and ex-Southern Investigations employee Jimmy Cook.

Gary Vian was already serving a long sentence for drug smuggling offences.

The others were to spend 22 months in prison on remand before they were allowed bail.

SUSPECTS_400

SUSPECTS
AN ARTIST’S impression of the five men in the dock charged in connection with the Daniel Morgan murder. From left to right, Jonathan Rees, Glenn Vian, Sid Fillery, Gary Vian and James “Jimmy” Cook.
Illustration: Elizabeth Cook, PA

Former detective sergeant Sid Fillery was charged with perverting the course of justice.

He spent just over three months in gaol on remand.

The charges were the result of the fifth attempt to bring Daniel Morgan’s murderers to book.

The man who headed the inquiry was Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Cook.

The prosecution case was largely based on evidence coming from criminal associates of the five men.

This was a high-risk strategy but no other avenue remained.

The prosecution said Jonathan Rees ordered the killing and Glenn Vian carried it out.

His brother Gary was the lookout and Jonathan Rees lured Daniel Morgan to the pub where the murder was to be carried out.

Jimmy Cook, who was employed by Southern Investigations at the time, was the driver of the getaway car.

As a serving officer, Sid Fillery warned one of the witnesses to keep quiet about the murder — or he would suffer a similar fate.

The defence argued that prosecution witnesses were unreliable and should not be allowed to give evidence.

They claimed police officers coached witness and deliberately with-held documents favourable to the defence.

The judge in the case, Sir David Maddison, agreed with many of these arguments.

GLENN VIAN

GLENN VIAN
THE MAN the prosecution claimed had axed Daniel Morgan to death. Vian, it was alleged, was paid by Jonathan Rees. His defence team claimed 40 other possible suspects were not investigated properly.
Photo: PA

One key witness, Gary Eaton, was a career criminal with convictions for drugs dealing, armed robbery, blackmail, firearms offences, violence against women and conspiracy to murder.

He claimed he’d been asked to commit the murder.

But, although he admitted more than 20 serious offences and voluntarily surrendered £80,000 of his criminal proceeds, much of his testimony was found to be unreliable.

He falsely claimed his father was dead and that he’d served in the Falklands.

He was not allowed to give evidence.

Since he was the only witness against Sid Fillery — he claimed the former police sergeant had told him to keep his mouth shut or what had happened to Daniel Morgan would happen to him — Fillery was released.

Judge Maddison criticised DCS Dave Cook for his handling of Eaton.

Once Eaton was accepted as an “assisting offender” under the 2005 Serious and Organised Crime and Policing Act, the rules required that he be dealt with by officers not involved in the murder investigation.

DCS Cook was not supposed to have any contact with him.

But there were phone calls and texts between Cook and Eaton, many of which were not disclosed.

Cook insisted the calls concerned Eaton’s welfare.

Another witness was Jimmy Cook’s former girlfriend.

She said he’d told her Rees organised the killing, using the Vians as the muscle and himself as the getaway driver.

But she also said she knew where the bodies of another 30 murder victims could be found.

Detectives were unable to find any evidence to support her claims.

She, too, was excluded — this led to the release of Jimmy Cook.

Finally, the credibility of another key witness, James Ward — a criminal associate of Gary Vian’s — was undermined when his claim that he’d never been a police informant turned out to be untrue.

Ward was already serving a 17 year prison sentence for drug smuggling.

Also gaoled in the same case was Gary Vian, who got 14 years.

Ward claimed Glenn Vian had told him he killed Morgan.

Ward said Vian called it the “Golden Wonder” murder because the dead man was holding two packets of crisps.

Ward said Glenn Vian said the price was  £20,000.

The defence accused DCS Cook of  prompting Ward in an early interview.

David Whitehouse QC, for Glenn Vian, said Ward

“is a career criminal who has been able to remain active in crime by playing the informant — he has had relationships, including financial relationships with police officers.”

He added he “has given information to the police, some of it true some of it not true.”

“The result is the police have been prepared to make representations to judge to seek lighter sentences when he is caught.”

Ward’s 17 year drugs sentence was reduced to three because of his assistance in the Daniel Morgan case.

When a large number of documents in the case were discovered which had not been disclosed to the defence, the CPS and the Metropolitan Police decided to throw in the towel.

In March 2011, Jonathan Rees and the Vian brother left the dock free men.

The case never went before a jury.

Scotland Yard had failed in its efforts to bring a conclusion to the Daniel Morgan murder.

The judge in the case, David Maddison, made it clear police

” … had ample grounds to justify the arrest and prosecution of the defendants.”

At the end of March 2011, Scotland Yard issued a public apology to the Morgan family.

Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin said:

“I recognise how important it is to the family that the part played by corruption in the original investigation is acknowledged publicly.”

The source of that corruption was Sid Fillery who, as a detective sergeant on the first murder investigation, had fatally contaminated the inquiry.

Godwin continued:

“You are entitled to an apology not only for this failure but also for the repeated failure [by Scotland Yard] … to accept that corruption had played such a part in failing to bring those responsible to justice.”

♦♦♦

IN MARCH 2011 the BBC Panorama programme carried out an investigation into one of Rees’ assignments for the News of the World after he came out of prison.

Rees had been asked to try to find information about a former British Army intelligence officer, Ian Hurst.

This was part of the paper’s attempts to uncover the identity of a key undercover intelligence officer — known as Stakeknife — who had infiltrated the IRA.

The programme alleged that Rees commissioned a former colleague of Hurst’s to hack into Hurst’s computer.

In July 2006 a fax was sent to Alex Marunchak, then the editor of the Irish edition of the News of the World, based in Dublin.

Panorama said the fax contained copies of emails that Hurst had sent from his computer in France.

This interception was illegal.

Ian Hurst arranged a meeting with his former colleague — who cannot be named for legal reasons — and recorded him admitting the offence.

He said that he had sent an email containing a ‘trojan’, a virus that allowed him to see the entire contents of Hurst’s computer.

Panorama doorstepped Rees about his activities outside the Old Bailey after the charges of murdering Daniel Morgan were dropped in March 2011.

Rees asked Panorama reporter Vivian White if the programme paid police officers for information:

“Are you denying you paid serving police officers? Because you’ve got information that could only have come from serving police officers.”

Vivian White said:

“Unlike Jonathan Rees, Panorama had not paid any police officers for information. We do know the police were fully aware that Rees had been involved in computer hacking. The question is — why didn’t the Metropolitan Police pursue this as well?”

Alex Marunchak gave an interview about the Panorama allegations to the UK Press Gazette.

He said the unnamed private detective who told the programme he had hacked into Ian Hurst’s computer was a “con-man”.

Of the fax sent to his Dublin office containing e-mails from Ian Hurst’s computer, he stated:

“It is absolutely untrue any unlawfully obtained material was ever received by me at the News of the World offices in Dublin.”

He insisted he never paid police officers:

“I deny ever facilitating the payment of any money to police officers.”

He denied commissioning work from Rees after his conviction:

“This is untrue. Information offered and brought in by sources of their own volition is not the same thing as being commissioned to obtain it in the first place.”

Marunchak said of Rees’ 2000 conviction for conspiring to plant cocaine on an innocent woman:

“The conviction and sentence to which you refer, as I understand it, is currently being examined by the Criminal Cases Review Commission  … to assess if convictions should be referred to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration on the grounds that the original conviction was unsafe.”

(For this article, Press Gang asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission for a statement.

A spokesman said:

“I can confirm that the CCRC received an application from Jonathan Rees in April 2007, in respect of his December 2000 conviction for conspiring to pervert the course of justice.”

“The CCRC review was concluded in August 2013 and the case was closed.”

“It was not referred to the Court of Appeal.”)

The Panorama allegation was investigated by Operation Tuleta, part of Scotland Yard’s phone-hacking operation.

No charges were ever brought.

♦♦♦

JONATHAN REES denies all the allegations made in this Press Gang article.

His solicitor gave us the following statement in 2011.

“Mr Rees has not the spare time to reply to the many questions that have been raised, often on the basis of ill-informed or malicious allegations.”

“Defamation claims are being pursued … in respect of some past publications; and the police have been asked to investigate any use by journalists or others of confidential or forged material improperly released by police officers or others.”

At the first session of Lord Leveson’s inquiry into press ethics Rees’ barrister, Richard Christie, argued that his client should be considered a “core participant” and be allowed legal representation at public expense.

Christie pointed out that if his client was to give out material from an unused prosecution case against him he was committing a criminal offence, with up to two years imprisonment.

If the media used exactly the same information, there was no penalty at all.

Lord Leveson refused the application.

♦♦♦

NEXT
PART FIVE: THE BUSINESS OF MURDER
AFTER THE collapse of the criminal case against him in 2011, Jonathan Rees went on the offensive. He, Sid Fillery and the Vian brothers brought a High Court action against Scotland Yard complaining of malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office. The four men were confident they would succeed — but in February 2017 Judge Mitting dismissed all the claims made by Rees and the Vians. Fillery succeeded in his action for misfeasance in public office and will receive substantial damages. The failure of the case means that Jonathan Rees’ debts — which have been mounting for several years — are now so great that he may have to sell his £900,000 house in Weybridge, Surrey …

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Re-published: 25 February 2017
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

Notes
1.
This article is based on a series of articles first published on the Rebecca Television website in September 2011.
Rees and Fillery were sent letters outlining the article and asking for their comments. 
Fillery never replied but Rees’ solicitor said (as reported above):
“Mr Rees has not the spare time to reply to the many questions that have been raised, often on the basis of ill-informed or malicious allegations.”
“Defamation claims are being pursued … in respect of some past publications; and the police have been asked to investigate any use by journalists or others of confidential or forged material improperly released by police officers or others.” 
No legal action was taken against Rebecca Television.
2.
There are five parts to The No 1 Corrupt Detective Agency:
An Axe To Grind
Rogue Journalists & Bent Coppers
Porridge
Getting Away With Murder
The Business Of Murder.
3.
The series draws on material provided by the Morgan family as well as published material by other journalists, notably Nick Davies of the Guardian. Former BBC reporter Graeme McLagan devoted a detailed chapter on the murder as early as 2003 in his book Bent Coppers: The Inside Story of Scotland Yard’s Battle Against Police Corruption (Orion). It also featured in Laurie Flynn & Michael Gillard’s The Untouchables: Dirty Cops, Bent Justice and Racism In Scotland Yard (Cutting Edge, 2004). Several books on the phone hacking scandal have highlighted the key role the murder plays in the saga: Nick Davies’ Hack Attack (Chatto & Windus, 2014) , Tom Watson MP & Martin Hickman’s Dial M For Murdoch (Allen Lane, 2012) and Peter Jukes’ The Fall Of The House Of Murdoch (Unbound, 2012). Peter Jukes has also produced a podcast series — listened to by more than 4 million people — Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder 
4.
Press Gang editor Paddy French made several programmes on the murder while a current affairs producer at ITV Wales. 

♦♦♦

COMING
SKY FALL?
THIS YEAR will see a major battle for control of Britain’s airwaves — Rupert Murdoch’s bid t.                                           o take overall control of Sky TV. The mogul scuttled an earlier attempt in 2012 because of the public outcry over the phone hacking scandal. The battle for Sky will be a key battleground in 21st century British media because of the decline in newspapers. If Murdoch gets Sky, he will move to smash the powerful broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, and convert Sky News into a British version of his US Fox News. This is part of a plan to replace the fading populist power of the Sun with a new right-wing  TV version. All the signs are Theresa May’s government will give Rupert Murdoch what he wants. But all is not lost — the Murdochs are vulnerable to a charge that, despite claims to have cleaned up their criminal stable since the closure of the News of the World in 2012, some areas of their empire remain as corrupt as ever …

♦♦♦

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PORRIDGE

February 11, 2017

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BY THE late 1990s Scotland Yard had made no progress in catching the men who butchered private detective Daniel Morgan in 1987.

Then in 1998 anti-corruption detectives — worried that bent policemen were selling sensitive information to the detective agency Southern Investigations  — installed a bug in the firm’s offices.

Southern’s owners — murder suspect Jonathan Rees and retired police sergeant Sid Fillery — had no idea they were under surveillance.

REES_and_FILLERY_210

THE STORY SO FAR …
PRIVATE EYE Jonathan Rees (left) should have been a prime suspect in the murder of his partner Daniel Morgan in 1987 — the two men were love rivals and were arguing about a botched security operation arranged by Rees. But Scotland Yard detective sergeant Sid Fillery (right) kept that crucial information from the murder squad for four days. For the events leading up to the murder, the early contaminated murder inquiry, the sensational inquest which saw Rees’s book-keeper accuse him of planning the murder, see Part One — An Axe To Grind. The second part of The No 1 Corrupt Detective Agency — Rogue Journalists & Bent Coppers — reveals how Rees and his new partner Fillery became key players in the unlawful sale of confidential police information to Rupert Murdoch’s empire, especially the News of the World. Attempts by anti-corruption detectives to end this corrosive trade came to nothing.
Photos: PA

Detectives listened as Rees hatched a conspiracy with serving Scotland Yard detectives to plant drugs on an innocent woman.

The plotters were caught red-handed and Rees was gaoled for 7 years.

But the bug picked up no clues about the murder.

Pressure from Daniel Morgan’s family finally forced the Met to open a new murder inquiry in 2002.

It started with a dramatic BBC Crimewatch reconstruction.

Instantly Rees — from prison — and Fillery started a campaign to subvert this new inquiry.

They targeted the family of the detective in charge — hacked his personal records and had him followed.

Scotland Yard hit back — they raided Southern Investigations and found extreme child pornography on Sid Fillery’s computer.

He was convicted and ordered to sign the Sex Offender’s Register.

With Rees in prison and Fillery disgraced, Southern Investigations finally came to an  end.

But the Morgan family’s battle to bring Daniel’s killers to justice ploughed on …

♦♦♦

IN 1999 detectives listening to the bug planted in the offices of Southern Investigations began to hear a plot unfold. 

A London businessman, Simon Jones, came to see if the agency could help him win a custody battle with his wife.

James asked Jonathan Rees to see if there was any evidence that his wife was involved in drugs.

It would help him get sole custody of the couple’s little boy.

Rees could find no evidence that his wife Kim was dealing in drugs.

In a bugged conversation, he hinted that he might be able to do something:

Rees  “I just wondered…  We can do things.”

James  “I’m not being funny. I’d rather you talk to me straight.”

SIMON_JAMES_200

SIMON JAMES
A POLICE surveillance photograph taken while the self-employed jeweller was plotting to gain custody of his son by planting drugs on the mother. Jonathan Rees was prepared to send an innocent woman to prison to satisfy his client …
Photo: Press Association.

Rees  “I just wondered if it might be worthwhile, going in and planting some gear. Now, having said that it’s done, it’s available, but it costs.”

James  “I’m not averse to doing anything.”

Rees  “What we are doing is fraught … Me and you could end up doing porridge as well, if we get caught out.”

James  “Yeah, I mean, you’re professionals. That’s why I have come here…”

Rees  “All right, I’ll have a chat to our people today.”

Three days later, James returned to the office with £7,500– some of which was used to buy cocaine.

As the plot to frame the innocent woman got underway, anti-corruption officers were watching every move.

They were about to catch the plotters red-handed.

A man called Jimmy Cook, who worked for Southern Investigations, broke into Kim James’ car and planted bags of cocaine.

Undercover officers were waiting and, as soon as Cook was out of the way, removed the cocaine and replaced it with packets of harmless powder.

Another contact, a corrupt detective constable called Austin Warnes, tipped off the police that Kim James was dealing in drugs.

She was raided and a suspicious package found in her car.

She was arrested.

The police pounced on the conspirators.

They arrested Rees, Simon James and Austin Warnes.

Austin Warnes was gaoled for five years for his part in the plot.

Rees got seven years — as did the businessman Simon James.

One of those acquitted in the case was Jimmy Cook, the Southern Investigations employee who would later be charged with being the getaway driver in the Daniel Morgan murder.

AUSTIN_WARNES_200

ANOTHER BENT COPPER
CORRUPT DETECTIVE Austin Warnes. He pretended he had intelligence that Simon James’ wife was dealing in drugs …
Photo: Press Association

♦♦♦

IN 2002 detective chief superintendent Dave Cook of Scotland Yard’s murder squad was approached by anti-corruption detectives.

They wanted him to do them a favour.

They had decided to try and break the stalemate in the Daniel Morgan murder investigation.

They wanted the BBC Crimewatch programme to highlight the murder with the Metropolitan Police offering a £50,000 reward for information.

Their problem was that they didn’t want Rees and Fillery to know that it was the anti-corruption team who were in charge.

Would Cook appear on the programme to give the impression that he was heading up the inquiry?

Cook was an ideal candidate because his wife, policewoman Jacqui Hames, acted as a presenter on the porgramme.

Cook agreed.

On 26 June 2002 he appeared on the programme to appeal for witnesses to the murder.

The next day, Cook was told by anti-corruption officers that Sid Fillery had been in touch with reporter Alex Marunchak at the News of the World asking him to “sort out” the detective.

(At the time, Rees was still in prison for the Simon James conspiracy, although he was still in touch with both Fillery and Marunchak).

Shortly afterwards Cook spotted a white van outside his house.

The next day there were two.

When Cook took his young son to nursery, the vans followed.

Cook later arranged for police to stop one of the vans on the grounds that a rear light was defective.

The driver turned out to be a photojournalist working for the News of the World.

Both vans were leased by the newspaper.

Cook’s wife, Jacqui Hames, told witness protection officers that she had been photographed outside the couple’s home.

The couple were later told that the Met’s media boss Dick Fedorcio contacted the News of the World.

Fedorcio was told that the paper had been tipped off that Cook was having an affair with the Crimewatch presenter.

dave_cook_200

DAVE COOK
THE EXPERIENCED murder squad detective was disturbed when he and his wife were placed under surveillance by the News of the World as soon as he appeared on the BBC Crimewatch programme. Murder suspect Jonathan Rees had asked his friends on the paper to target the chief superintendant … 
Photo: Press Association. 

This was an incredible answer.

Cook and Hames were married, had two children and had been featured as a couple in Hello! magazine.

The surveillance ceased.

A few days later Cook was told by Surrey Police, where he worked from 1996 to 2001, that someone had rung asking for his address.

The caller said they were working for the Inland Revenue and wanted it to send Cook a tax refund.

Surrey Police refused to give it.

Later in 2002, anti-corruption officers raided the offices of Southern Investigations.

At this point, Jonathan Rees was still in prison.

On Sid Fillery’s computer officers found indecent images of young children.

In October 2003 Bow Street Magistrates gave him a three year community rehabilitation order.

District Judge Caroline Tibbs said she’d taken into account his guilty plea and what his defence claimed was his previous good behaviour.

The court was told nothing about his role in the Daniel Morgan murder case.

After the conviction, the detective agency collapsed.

Fillery went to live on the Norfolk Broads, running a pub called the Lion at Thurne.

It later became clear that Glen Mulcaire — the private eye gaoled in 2007 with News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman for hacking into royal mobiles — obtained Cook’s address, his internal Met payroll number and the amount he and his wife were paying on their mortgage.

Phone hacking claims

REBEKAH BROOKS
THE EDITOR of the News of the World when the paper mounted a surveillance operation against Dave Cook, Rebekah Brooks was untroubled that the paper was allowing itself to be used to pervert the course of justice …
Photo: PA 

Mulcaire also obtained the mobile number for Cook’s wife as well as the password she used.

Mulcaire was apparently acting on the instructions of Greg Miskiw, the News of the World assistant editor at the time.

On 9 January 2003 Rebekah Brooks was at Scotland Yard on a social visit when she was asked to have a word with Dave Cook “to clear the air”.

Present at the meeting was the Yard’s media boss Dick Fedorcio.

By that time, Cook was in charge of the latest Daniel Morgan murder investigation.

At first Brooks claimed to know nothing about the surveillance of Cook and his wife.

When Cook took her through the events, she insisted Marunchak was a fine reporter.

She promised to look into the matter.

We asked Dave Cook [in September 2011] to be interviewed for this article.

He declined.

The Met Commissioner at the time of Cook’s meeting with Brooks was Sir John Stevens.

He’s known to have dined regularly with Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

After he left the Met he was commissioned by Coulson to write a column for the News of the World — called “The Chief”.

♦♦♦

EVER SINCE the phone hacking scandal destroyed the reputation of the News of the World, Alastair Morgan has been thinking about the surveillance operation the paper mounted against detective superintendent Dave Cook and his then wife in 2002.

He believes it was an attempt to intimidate the detective.

Morgan believes that a similar operation was mounted against him and his family in May 1998.

The family were campaigning for a public inquiry into the events surrounding Daniel’s death.

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THE MORGAN FAMILY
HIS MOTHER Isobel, sister Jane and brother Alastair have been relentless in their campaign to bring Daniel’s killers to justice.
Photo: PA

“I was living in Glasgow,” Alastair Morgan explains, “and one night I noticed two men standing openly on the corner of the street where my flat was located.”

“The next day they were there again. I was sure they were watching me — they made absolutely no attempt to conceal themselves.”

“I rang my mother Isobel who lives in Wales and told her.”

“She then told me that she’d also had a strange encounter — she was just going into her house when a woman photographer walked up behind her and took a couple of photographs.”

“She didn’t say anything — just got into a car which drove off.”

“And when I told my sister Jane, who lives in Germany, she said that she’d seen a white van parked outside her home in the countryside.”

“A man was lying in a ditch with a telephoto lens pointed at her home.”

“All of these incidents were reported to the police — in Scotland, Wales and Germany. We were all worried.”

Alastair Morgan told us:

“I have written to James Murdoch at News International to ask him to tell us if it was the News of the World who were watching us. And, if they were, what exactly was the justification for the intrusion.”

He had not received a reply by the time this article went to press.

We asked News International for a response but the press office told us:

“NI declines to comment”.

♦♦♦

THE FINAL instalment of The No 1 Corrupt Detective Agency — Getting Away With Murder — will cover the events that followed Jonathan Rees’ release from prison in 2004.

His criminal record was no barrier to his continued working for the News of the World.

But police were closing in.

In 2008 he — and four others — were arrested and charged with involvement in the murder.

By 2011 the prosecution decided to offer no evidence.

The evidence of three supergrasses — “assisting offenders” is the official term — was discredited.

And police failed to disclose some of the 750,ooo pages of documents to the defence.

But the judge, David Maddison, made it clear police “had ample grounds to justify the arrest and prosecution of the defendants.”

That has not stopped four of them bringing a civil action for malicious prosecution and malfeasance in public office.

This is on-going.

At the same time a review of the scandal headed by Baroness Nuala O’Loan is preparing its report.

Set up in 2013 by then Home Secretary Theresa May, its hearings were held in secret.

♦♦♦
Re-published: 11 February 2017
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

Notes
1.
This article is part of a series first published on the Rebecca Television website in September 2011.
Rees and Fillery were sent letters outlining the article and asking for their comments. 
Fillery never replied but Rees’ solicitor said:
“Mr Rees has not the spare time to reply to the many questions that have been raised, often on the basis of ill-informed or malicious allegations.”
“Defamation claims are being pursued … in respect of some past publications; and the police have been asked to investigate any use by journalists or others of confidential or forged material improperly released by police officers or others.” 
No legal action was taken against Rebecca Television.
2.
There are four parts to The No 1 Corrupt Detective Agency: Click on the title to read.
An Axe To Grind
Rogue Journalists & Bent Coppers
Porridge
Getting Away With Murder.
3.
The series draws on material provided by the Morgan family as well as published material by other journalists, notably Nick Davies of the Guardian. Former BBC reporter Graeme McLagan devoted a detailed chapter on the murder as early as 2003 in his book Bent Coppers: The Inside Story of Scotland Yard’s Battle Againats Police Corruption (Orion). It also featured in Laurie Flynn & Michael Gillard’s The Untouchables: Dirty Cops, Bent Justice and Racism In Scotland Yard (Cutting Edge, 2004). Several books on the phone hacking scandal have highlighted the key role the murder plays in the saga: Nick Davies’ Hack Attack (Chatto & Windus, 2014) , Tom Watson MP & Martin Hickman’s Dial M For Murdoch (Allen Lane, 2012) and Peter Jukes’ The Fall Of The House Of Murdoch (Unbound, 2012). Peter Jukes has also produced a podcast series — listened to by more than 4 million people — Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder 
4.
Press Gang editor Paddy French made several programmes on the murder while a current affairs producer at ITV Wales. 

♦♦♦

COMING
SKY FALL?
THIS YEAR will see a major battle for control of Britain’s airwaves — Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take overall control of Sky TV. The mogul scuttled an earlier attempt in 2012 because of the public outcry over the phone hacking scandal. The battle for Sky will be a key battleground in 21st century British media because of the decline in newspapers. If Murdoch gets Sky, he will move to smash the powerful broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, and convert Sky News into a British version of his US Fox News. This is part of a plan to replace the fading populist power of the Sun with a new right-wing  TV version. All the signs are Theresa May’s government will give Rupert Murdoch what he wants. But all is not lost — the Murdochs are vulnerable to a charge that, despite claims to have cleaned up their criminal stable since the closure of the News of the World in 2012, some areas of their empire remain as corrupt as ever …

♦♦♦

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THE FALL OF MAZHER MAHMOOD

October 5, 2016

mahmood_head_with_words_06

TODAY A jury found Mazher Mahmood guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The verdict was unanimous.

The 53-year-old Mahmood and his former driver Alan Smith, 66, were convicted of plotting to doctor a statement in the Tulisa Contostavlos drugs trial in 2014.

[The two men were sentenced on October 21.

Mahmood was gaoled for  15 months — Smith received a 12 months suspended sentence.]

The verdict destroys Mazher Mahmood’s reputation.

Mahmood did not dare to give evidence because of the substantial body of evidence the prosecution would have marshalled against him.

Some of this comes from Press Gang:

— Mahmood lied to the Leveson Inquiry about the number of criminal convictions he as responsible for.

He claimed more than 250 but Press Gang could only find 70.

Mazher Mahmood court case

FALSEHOOD
MAZHER MAHMOOD arrives at the Old Bailey still determined to preserve his anonymity. The jury were told that there were 11 emails between Mahmood and his driver Alan Smith. When police inspected their computers they found they’d all been deleted …
Photo: PA

Our investigation forced him to go back to Leveson and admit that Murdoch lawyers had come up with just 94.

— in 2012 Press Gang warned Murdoch’s ethics watchdog (the Management and Standards Committee) that Mahmood was a serial perjurer.

eg3wf0naz323j5yhprao

SNAPPED
THE PICTURE taken by police after Mahmood was convicted  …

Over and over again, he’d gone into the dock and lied about his success in securing convictions.

These inflated claims made it more and more difficult for his victims to defend themselves.

Mazher Mahmood court case
ALAN SMITH
THERE WERE four phone calls between Smith and Mahmood at this time. Police wanted to examine Smith’s mobile phone but he told them it had been destroyed either after it was run over by a motor car or after a jacked-up vehicle had been dropped on it. He was given a suspended 12 months prison sentence.
Photo: PA

The Management and Standards Committee didn’t reply.

— Press Gang revealed that two years before the Tulisa exposé, Mahmood used an associate to prostitute herself to persuade a dentist to agree to carry out female genital mutilation.

This was for a front page exposé for the Sunday Times in 2012.

The case against the dentist collapsed when the journalist / prostitute refused to sign a statement.

(The story is told in Withering Heights.)

John Kelsey Fry QC at Lewes Crown Court
“FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED”
DEFENCE BARRISTER John kelsey-Fry QC said the case against Mahmood was “fundamentally flawed and illogical and defies common sense.” His client “repeatedly insists he did not discuss Smith’s evidence with him and he repeatedly insists he could not discuss Smith’s evidence.”
Photo: PA

The most detailed account of how Tulisa turned the tables on Mahmood is the following Press Gang article published in August 2014.

It’s a shocking story …

 ♦♦♦

STING IN THE SINGER'S TALE

Originally published:
29 August 2014

♦♦♦

THE FULL story behind the dramatic collapse of the trial of singer Tulisa Contostavlos — and the unscrupulous role of Sun on Sunday reporter Mazher Mahmood — has not been told.

During the trial in July [2014] it became clear that one of Mahmood’s associates, a driver called Alan Smith, changed his witness statement after a discussion with the reporter.

Mahmood had claimed, at an earlier hearing, that he hadn’t spoken to him.

Press Gang can now reveal that Smith has a criminal record.

And it’s not the first time he’s played a devious role in one of the undercover reporter’s stories.

The judge in the Tulisa Contostavlos case concluded Mahmood deliberately lied to the court.

The case was dismissed.

Mahmood has now been suspended by The Sun and the Metropolitan Police are investigating the allegation that he committed perjury.

But the extraordinary sequence of events which led to the singer walking free has not been revealed — even though reporters were well aware of it.

The case also calls into question the willingness of Scotland Yard to base criminal cases on the work of a journalist with a long history of perjury allegations.

Long before Tulisa Contostavlos was charged, the editor of this website wrote to the Metropolitan Police asking them to investigate Mahmood for perjury.

We pointed out that Mahmood had not only lied to the Leveson Inquiry about the number of convictions he’d secured but may also have lied about the issue in several of the criminal prosecutions he generated.

The Met did not reply.

This article tells the inside story of how one of Rupert Murdoch’s favourite reporters fell from grace …

Tulisa Contostavlos court case
TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS
THE SINGER’S trial collapsed in July after the judge found that mazher Mahmood had lied under oath. Photo: PA THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood was caught lying in the witness-box …
Photo: PA

♦♦♦

ON MAY 10 last year a gang practiced in the arts of entrapment prepared for another session with one of their victims.

The group had rented a suite at the 5 star Metropolitan Hotel just off Park Lane in the centre of London.

The target was the singer Tulisa Contostavlos.

She’d enjoyed a successful career with the hip hop band N’Dubz and had been a judge in the TV series The X Factor for two years running.

The man after her scalp was Mazher Mahmood.

In a controversial career spanning more than three decades, Mahmood had chalked up a reputation as one of the most dangerous adversaries in Fleet Street.

As the “Fake Sheik” he’d humiliated the rich and the powerful — including Prince Edward’s wife, the former Sophie Rhys-Jones, and the Duchess of Kent.

But he’d also seen famous celebrities and sportsmen gaoled after his elaborate stings.

This time it was to be a battle between the experienced Mahmood and a young woman from a broken family in North London.

The odds were stacked against the singer.

Tulisa Contostavlos was just 25.

At 50, Mahmood was twice her age.

She was the only child of musician parents who broke up when she was young.

She lived with her mother who had a long history of mental health problems.

Mazher-Mahmood
STRAIGHT STALKING
MAZHER MAHMOOD targeted the singer because she held out the promise of a “gold standard” sting — a huge story with criminal convictions at the end of it. Tulisa was young, beautiful and had taken her career in a successful hip hop band to a new level when she became an X Factor judge. But Mahmood also thought she was likely to be a cocaine user — one of the million or so British people who regularly use the drug with a heavy concentration in the entertainment business. By early 2013 she’d made it plain she wanted a career in Hollywood — and was therefore ripe for a classic Mahmood sting … In her autobiography Honest (2012) she revealed she’d self-harmed as a teenager.
Photo: BBC

She joined the hip hop band N’Dubz — named after the London district NW1 where she grew up — when she was 12.

The band had its first chart success in May 2007.

In November of that year — when she was 18 — she appeared in the Channel 4 programme Dubplate Drama.

She played a cocaine addict.

In 2011 and 2012 she was one of the judges on Simon Cowell’s The X Factor series.

In May 2012 her solo single “Young” went to No 1.

But a few months earlier her ex-boyfriend Justin Edwards posted online a sex video of the couple.

She took him to court and won damages against him.

By early 2013, she was disillusioned with the music business in Britain.

“I wanted to get out. I wanted to go into acting and piss off to America,” she said later.

She went to Los Angeles to audition for parts.

That’s where Mazher Mahmood and his gang targeted her.

He created a sting based on her public comment that she was a big fan of the actor Leonardo DiCaprio..

He pretended to be a Bollywood producer called Samir Khan and offered her a £3.5 million role in a movie starring alongside DiCaprio.

He flew her to Las Vegas in March 2013 and gave her and her entourage two suites at one of the city’s top hotels, the Venetian.

During her stay, she was given bodyguards and the best tables at nightclubs.

By the time the Las Vegas trip was over, she was convinced she was in line for a major movie that would transform her life.

“I was like a lost puppy,” she later recalled, “because I wanted it so badly to be true.”

♦♦♦

WHEN TULISA and her team arrived at the Metropolitan on May 10, Mahmood and his gang were ready.

The reporter and his entourage were armed with hidden cameras and microphones.

But the singer proved a tough nut to crack.

Throughout the long, six-hour session — and the constant flow of alcohol — she kept a cool head.

She clearly didn’t take drugs.

Tulisa Contostavlos court case
TABLES TURNED
ON THE journey home from a six-hour session where she was plied with drink by Mazher Mahmood’s gang, the singer made it clear she disapproved of drugs. It was a statement that was to save her from a criminal conviction — and dramatically turn the tables on her accuser. Mahmood is now being investigated for perjury … a far more serious offence than the one she was charged with.
Photo: PA

She was also discreet.

She was careful not to badmouth the famous people she knew — like Simon Cowell, the man behind X Factor.

Mahmood had brought up the subject of “celebrity prostitution”.

When it was suggested that she go to Mahmood’s bedroom, she refused.

She was going to land the part on the basis of her acting ability alone.

But Mahmood had a trick up his sleeve.

He didn’t believe in formal auditions, he said.

He preferred “social auditioning” and urged her to demonstrate that she could play the character of a young London druggie in order to get the part.

She played the part, pretending to be a member of a drug gang in her past.

Mahmood said he was coming back to London later that month and planning a night out for his friends at a strip club.

Could she help set up the evening?

Still in character, she said it would be no problem.

At the end of the evening, Mahmood’s driver took the singer and her team home.

The driver was a long-standing associate of Mahmood’s called Alan Smith.

During the journey Tulisa and her associates talked about the evening.

The singer said that a member of her family had a drug problem — and that she personally disapproved of them.

At this point she was revealing her real views on drugs …

♦♦♦

ON MAY 21 Tulisa spoke to Mazher Mahmood on the phone about the proposed evening at the night club.

He challenged her to prove her street credentials by giving him the name of a cocaine dealer.

She didn’t know any — but thought that her rapper friend Michael Coombs might pretend to be one.

He’d acted alongside her in the Channel 4 programme “Dubplate Drama” back in 2007 — Coombs had played the dealer to her character.

She thought he’d be able to string the producer along.

On May 22 Mahmood rang Coombs who agreed to supply cocaine.

At a meeting at the Dorchester in the early hours of the next day, Coombs sold the reporter just under half an ounce — 13.9 grams — of cocaine for £820.

Tulisa Contostavlos court case
MICHAEL COOMBS
The 36-year-old rapper friend of Tulisa C, known as Mike GLC, pleaded guilty to selling Mazher Mahmood 13.9 grams of cocaine for £820. The case against him was also dropped when the judge realised that Mahmood had lied under oath.
Photo: PA

 The exchange was filmed.

On June 2 [2013] the Sun on Sunday “World Exclusive” front page proclaimed “Tulisa’s Cocaine Deal Shame”.

She was arrested two days later.

By the time the trial began on July 14 this year, the omens were not good for the singer.

Mike Coombs pleaded guilty to supplying the drug — and was likely to face a prison sentence.

The singer pleaded not guilty to being involved in the supply of cocaine.

Her defence team had earlier failed to have the case struck out.

Her barrister said that the offer of a £3.5 million role in a film alongside DiCaprio was an “exceptional inducement”.

He also argued that the evidence Mahmood supplied was invalid because it broke the Police and Criminal Evidence Act — it was tainted by the amounts of alcohol the singer had consumed.

Judge Alistair McCreath rejected both applications.

He also refused to allow the defence to introduce details of other criminal cases involving Mahmood which had collapsed.

And he would not allow the defence to bring evidence of Mahmood’s bad character.

The defence team were still confident that they had a strong defence.

But Tulisa later said she was 100 per cent certain she was going to be convicted:

“I was preparing for prison.”

♦♦♦

BUT A miracle was about to happen.

When Mahmood handed over the sting material to the police, there was nothing from the driver Alan Smith.

The defence had a hunch that his vehicle had been bugged on the night he took her home from the Metropolitan.

A few weeks before the trial, the defence insisted police take a statement from him.

On June 23 a detective constable rang Smith and took notes of the conversation.

Smith told the detective that the subject of drugs came up and Tulisa had been very negative about them.

The detective prepared a statement and rang Smith to check it.

He made sure that the driver understood his obligations as a potential witness.

Smith said he was happy with the statement and would sign it.

The detective emailed the statement.

The next day, Smith rang the detective.

He said he was no longer sure it was the singer who had made the comment — it might have been another woman in the car.

The statement was changed and Smith signed it.

The next day, June 25, both statements were provided to the defence.

Here, they thought, was a ray of hope.

Smith’s initial statement gave credibility to the singer’s story that she was only playing a part when she was talking to Mahmood.

On June 27 — three days after Smith signed his changed statement — Mazher Mahmood was giving evidence under oath at a pre-trial hearing.

He was questioned by Tulisa’s barrister Jeremy Dein, QC about Alan Smith’s comment.

First, he was asked if the conversation between Alan Smith and the singer had been recorded.

“No”, answered Mahmood.

“But did you subsequently ask or find out, discuss with Mr Smith anything that was said in the car?

The answer was again “No”.

“Because I just want to see whether you were aware of this.”

“Mr Smith made a statement to the police saying that in the car Ms Contostavlos was talking about drugs and saying that a member of her family had a drug problem and she disapproved of drugs.”

“All I want to know from you is whether you discussed that with Mr Smith at any stage?”

The answer from Mahmood was clear and emphatic:

“No.”

Mahmood’s answers intrigued the defence team.

Lawyers from Hickman Rose, who represented the singer, began to make inquiries about Alan Smith.

They quickly discovered he’d been a long-term member of Mahmood’s team.

And he had a criminal record.

He’s also been involved in some of the reporter’s stories.

In May 1997, while he was Investigations Editor at the News of the World, Mahmood published an exposé of  a centre in Hayes where the courts sent prisoners to do community service.

One of the people he exposed was an unemployed chauffeur called Alan Graham who was photographed sleeping in the back of a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit.

The caption read “Snooze a Naughty Boy?”

What Mahmood did not tell News of the World readers was that Graham was actually one of his drivers, Alan Smith.

Mahmood calls him “Smithy” and describes him as a “bald-headed burly” and said he was a “wide boy”.

The Rolls Royce had been hired by the paper.

Smith had been sentenced to 100 hours community service by Uxbridge magistrates for fraud.

Mahmood later said that Smith had been included in the article under an alias to disguise the fact that he was the informant for the story …

♦♦♦

THE WEEK before the trial opened, the defence asked the Crown Prosecution Service to bring Alan Smith to the court as a potential witness.

On July 16, the third day of the trial, Smith was interviewed by defence solicitors in the presence of a Metropolitan Police detective.

This took place while Mahmood was on the stand, giving evidence for the prosecution.

_DSC9278
BEN ROSE
THE LAWYER headed the legal team representing Tulisa Contostavlos. Solicitors suspected there was something fishy about the evidence given by Mazher Mahmood’s driver.
Photo: Hickman Rose

Smith confirmed that the original version of his statement stated that the subject of drugs had come up.

The singer had been very negative about them.

But he’d become unhappy about the statement.

He told the defence he’d sent a copy of the initial statement to Mahmood and then spoke to him about what he should do.

He said that Mahmood told him that, if he was unhappy with his statement, he should ring the police and change it.

The defence team were stunned.

Mahmood had said, on oath on June 27, that he hadn’t discussed anything with Smith.

Now the driver was saying the exact opposite.

One of the two men was lying…

♦♦♦

THE NEXT day, Thursday, was the fourth day of the trial.

It was to be a day of high drama.

Mazher Mahmood was back in the witness-box to be cross-examined by defence QC Jeremy Dein.

Overnight, Mahmood had learned what Smith had told the defence — and realised he now faced a serious dilemma.

Once again, Dein asked him if he’d discussed with Smith what was said in the car.

Mahmood now changed his story.

He admitted he had talked to the driver two weeks earlier.

He said that Smith had rung him and said he wasn’t happy with his statement.

Mahmood told the court Smith had emailed the statement and the two men then had a conversation about it.

Mahmood told him that he should ring the police and change it if he was not sure Tulisa had made the remark.

Dein put it to Mahmood that he had lied when he gave evidence at the earlier hearing.

“I disagree with you,” was Mahmood’s answer.

The barrister put it to him that it was he, Mahmood, who had persuaded Smith to change his statement.

“I did not,” replied Mahmood.

Mahmood added that the change made no difference.

Smith, he said, was sensitive about drugs because his son had recently died of a drugs overdose.

After Mahmood left the box, Judge Alistair McCreath sent the jury out.

He then addressed both the prosecution and the defence.

He made it clear that he felt Mahmood had told a “knowing lie” when he gave evidence on June 27.

And that he did so, in his opinion, to conceal “improper conduct”: he had interfered with evidence that would have been to Tulisa’s advantage.

In circumstances where a key witness was guilty of “gross misconduct”, he added, it would be an abuse for the state to rely on him.

It would also compromise judicial integrity — “it would be on the court’s conscience,” he said.

He then adjourned the court.

Throughout these proceedings, the press gallery was packed.

Reporters cannot report what’s said when the jury is out but the judge’s comments would have made it clear that Mahmood’s earlier dramatic climb-down was not only sensational — it now threatened the entire case.

Yet not a word of what had happened was reported by that evening’s radio and television news.

The next morning, the press were also silent.

The Daily Mail, for example, led with the story that one of Tulisa’s aides told Mahmood that he believed Simon Cowell was gay.

The defence team were disappointed.

They’d hoped press reports of the sensational developments might generate other material helpful to their case.

♦♦♦

FRIDAY WAS the fifth day of the trial.

By now it was clear that the judge was proposing to reopen the abuse application he had turned down the previous month.

The prosecution, though, were unable to get advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about contesting it.

So the matter was left to the following Monday.

By then, the CPS had thrown in the towel and made no objection to the judge re-opening the defence application to stop the proceedings.

Judge McCreath not only halted the trial — he also dismissed the case against Michael Coombs, who had already pleaded guilty to supplying the cocaine.

He said that if he had thrown out the case earlier, Coombs would not have had to stand trial.

In his judgment, McCreath was scathing about Mahmood’s evidence about Alan Smith’s statements:

“When he gave evidence last week, he was asked questions on the same topic and gave answers which were entirely inconsistent with his earlier evidence.”

“And it certainly appears that the contact he had with Mr Smith was not unconnected with a fundamental change in the evidence which it was anticipated Mr Smith was going to give.”

“He was, as you will have understood, expected to be able to give evidence supportive of Ms Contostavlos — that she told him she disapproves of hard drugs.”

RUPERT MURDOCH - PICASA POSTERIZED
RUPERT MURDOCH
WHY DOES one of the world’s most powerful men continue to support the discredited Mahmood — a man accused by a judge of lying in the witness-box?
Photo: PA

“But after his conversation with Mr Mahmood, he had changed his mind.”

“It should not be forgotten that Mr Mahmood is

– the sole progenitor of this case

– the sole investigator

– the sole prosecution witness

– a man who has exercised his journalistic privilege to create a situation where the identities of others involved in the investigation are unknown to the defence (or the prosecution or even to me)

– someone who appears to have gone to considerable lengths to get Ms Contostavlos to agree to involve herself in criminal conduct, certainly to far greater lengths that would have been regarded as appropriate had he been a police investigator.”

He concluded:

“there are strong grounds for believing that Mr Mahmood told me lies when he gave evidence to me on June 27”.

And he added:

“there are also strong grounds for believing that the underlying purpose of these lies was to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence in this case by getting Mr Smith to change his account.”

He ended by saying, ominously for Mahmood:

“My view of the evidence cannot bind any other court which may (or may not) be called on to consider this matter in a different context.”

The fall-out from the collapse of the case was instant.

The Sun suspended Mahmood until an “immediate internal investigation” was complete.

The paper issued a statement:

“We are very disappointed with this outcome, but do believe the original investigation was conducted within the bounds of the law and the industry’s code.”

But it added:

The Sun, of course, takes the judge’s remarks very seriously.”

A spokesman for The Sun told us this week Mahmood remains suspended and that “the internal investigation is ongoing.”

“I will not divulge further details of an internal investigation.”

He added that Alan Smith “worked on an ad-hoc basis with Mr Mahmood.”

The Met said:

” … the Metropolitan Police Service have been able to consider the judgment issued by the trial Judge along with other material supplied by the Prosecution Counsel …”.

“As a consequence of the information supplied officers from Specialist Crime and Operations are now investigating whether any of the matters highlighted amount to the commission of any criminal offences.”

The CPS said it “has no investigative powers and therefore any criminal investigations following the conclusion of this case are a matter for the Metropolitan Police Service.”

On September 30 lawyers for Tulisa Contostavlos will be in court for a hearing to determine if the Sun on Sunday should pay her legal costs.

They have still not decided if she will sue the newspaper.

♦♦♦

THE COLLAPSE of the trial raises many questions.

There’s no doubt the Metropolitan Police had no choice but to investigate when presented with clear evidence that Michael Coombs had sold drugs to Mahmood.

But the force was well aware that Mahmood, throughout his career, has come in for sustained criticism about his methods, some of it from judges.

They should have subjected his evidence to a forensic investigation of their own.

It should have been the force that interviewed Alan Smith and not have left it to the defence to force them to do it.

If Smith had not been interviewed, it’s possible Tulisa Contostavlos would now have a criminal record.

NEW SCOTLAND YARD
NEW SCOTLAND YARD
IN 2012 Press Gang editor Paddy French wrote and asked the force to investigate allegations that Mazher Mahmood may have committed perjury in many of the cases where he gave evidence. There was no reply.
Photo: Rebecca

The force can’t say it wasn’t warned about the possibility of Mahmood committing perjury.

In November 2012 the editor of this website, Paddy French, wrote to Sue Akers, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, asking her to investigate allegations that Mahmood was a serial perjurer.

The letter cited the claim he made to the Leveson Inquiry, under oath, that he had more than 250 criminal convictions to his credit while he was Investigations Editor at the News of the World.

This was untrue.

Paddy French and researcher Chris Nichols had examined the News of the World throughout Mahmood’s career — and could find reports of only 70 convictions.

The full story is contained in the article Fake Convictions.

In the wake of this investigation, the Leveson Inquiry put the allegation to Mahmood.

What was then called News International called in the lawfirm Linklaters to carry out a proper audit.

In a subsequent statement to Leveson, Mahmood admitted that Linklaters could only find 94.

The letter also drew attention to the case against the London’s Burning actor John Alford who was gaoled in 1999 for supplying cocaine to Mahmood.

“In the September 2000 judgment refusing the actor known as John Alford leave to appeal against a nine month sentence for supplying cocaine to Mazher Mahmood’s undercover team in 1999, the court noted that Mahmood claimed 89 SCPs [successful criminal prosecutions]”.

At that point, Press Gang had found only 28.

The letter concluded by asking the Met “to examine Mr Mahmood’s testimony in all the court cases he gave evidence in to see if he has potentially committed perjury …”

A press officer told us Akers had retired and “the letter has been forwarded to deputy assistant commissioner Steve Kavanagh for consideration.”

“You will be contacted in due course.”

Kavanagh never replied.

♦♦♦
Published: 4 October 2016
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

NOTES
1
This the sixth article in the Press Gang series “The Life & Times Of A Serial Perjurer”. The previous articles and their links are:

Fake Convictions 
http://wp.me/p3kXx7-3
The Sting In The Singer’s Tale
http://wp.me/p3kXx7-12
Lying to Leveson
http://wp.me/p3kXx7-5O
Withering Heights 
No 10 Silent On “Fake Sheik” Intervention
2
The relevant statements about Mazher Mahmood’s claims about the convictions he secured to the Leveson Inquiry were made by Rebecca Television:
FIRST STATEMENT
http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Witness-statement-of-Paddy-French-including-exhibits.pdf
SECOND STATEMENT
http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Second-witness-statement-of-Paddy-French2.pdf
FIRST WITNESS STATEMENT – MAZHER MAHMOOD
http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140122145147/http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Witness-Statement-of-Mazher-Mahmood.pdf
FOURTH WITNESS STATEMENT – MAZHER MAHMOOD
http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Fourth-ws-of-Mazher-Mahmood.pdf

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CITIZEN SMITH

September 7, 2016

 

Owen_Smith_head_citizen

ONE OF the most common criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn is that he’s unelectable.

Critics point to the poll ratings, with Labour currently trailing the Tories.

But little attention has been paid to challenger Owen Smith’s electoral record.

In the past decade he and his wife have stood in four elections — all in traditional Labour strongholds.

They’ve lost two of them.

Even when Owen Smith wins, he does so with a reduced majority.

Some voters are not impressed with his style: he was nicknamed “Oily” in one election and arrogant in another.

Is there something toxic about “brand Smith”?

♦♦♦

THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was the driving force behind a political manifesto.

He co-edited a series of essays called One Nation: power, hope, community.

The Guardian said:

” … a group of the party’s rising stars call for it to end the lockout of local communities from power and to bury top-down statist solutions that have failed in the past.”

It was a time when Labour was searching for a way to appeal to the middle ground of British politics.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband summed it up in the preface:

“… a One Nation Labour Party is a party of the national interest, not one part of the country or any sectional interest.”

In the opening chapter Owen Smith was candid about the problems he faced in his own constituency, Pontypridd in south Wales.

“Membership and majorities are counted carefully now, when once they were weighed. Belief in our mission is dwindling.”

He was also clear about the solution:

“I believe the answer comes in two parts: we need both bottom-up participation and leadership from the top; to simultaneously cultivate our roots and command the heights.”

But he admits his attempt to regenerate Labour grass-roots in Pontypridd isn’t working:

“ … in the three years since I was elected the means to galvanise that engagement has proved elusive and frustrating.”

“This is undoubtedly partly a result of the many previous false dawns that have promised progress but failed to deliver: it’s hard to feel progressive when there seems so little sign of progress for you and yours.”

But he was still confident things could be turned around.

“Slowly but surely, Labour is re-engaging with dialogue in our communities, and developing new common objectives and solutions that will prove the real foundations for our rebuilding.”

Part of the strategy was a move to bring greater democracy to the party:

“Iain McNicol [Labour’s General Secretary] has been leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.”

Labour leadership challenge
BACK TO THE FUTURE?  
THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was praising Labour for “… leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.” But it was not until Jeremy Corbyn stood for leader that membership began to rocket — from under 300,000 to more than 500,000. Ironically, the party’s National Executive Committee have now barred some 130,000 recently joined members — most of them believed to be Corbyn supporters — from voting in the leadership election.
Photo: Ben Birchall / PA

In Pontypridd Smith thought he’d found a way to galvanise the community:

“Pontypridd Citizens, which will bring together churches and parties, unions and residents, in order to determine local needs and empower local leaders, is launching this year, taking its cue and its form from similar schemes that are energising communities across Britain.”

“It will mark a new beginning in the politics of Pontypridd, and Labour will be at its heart.”

The organisation should be three years old by now.

But Press Gang could find no evidence of Pontypridd Citizens — and when we asked people in the constituency, no-one had never heard of it.

We asked Owen Smith for an explanation.

He didn’t reply.

♦♦♦

WHEN OWEN SMITH was chosen to be the Labour candidate for the 2006 Blaenau Gwent election, he had no experience of grass-roots politics. 

The seat had a troubled past but the party was expecting it to revert to being a Labour stronghold.

Owen Smith probably thought he had a safe seat for the rest of his political career.

In 2005 popular local politician Peter Law stood as an independent.

A former Labour member of the Welsh Assembly, he’d been barred from standing as a candidate for the general election because the party had imposed an all-woman short-list.

Labour nominated trade union leader Maggie Jones.

Many Labour voters deserted the official candidate and chose the independent.

But Law — already diagnosed with brain cancer — died the following year.

His agent, Dai Davies, decided to stand in the by-election that followed.

Labour strategists felt Law’s death had taken the sting out of the rebellion — and that the faithful would return to the fold.

In the early days of the campaign a poll gave Owen a massive 12 per cent lead.

Labour mounted a huge campaign to retake the seat — spending £56,000 to Davies’ £7,000.

But Smith’s organisation was cack-handed.

Telephone canvassers angered voters when they began calling within days of Law’s death.

Activists were bussed in from all over Britain but they knew nothing about Blaenau Gwent.

Smith himself acquired the nickname “Oily”.

Dai Davies was a well-known political figure who outgunned Smith on many fronts.

One of them was Nye Bevan, the political midwife of the NHS, whose old Tredegar constituency was now part of Blaenau Gwent

Smith claimed Nye Bevan as his hero.

But Dai Davies could trump that.

He was a trustee of the Bevan Foundation, a left-wing think tank formed in his memory.

Smith did not become a trustee of the Foundation until after the by-election.

The result was Dai Davies won a narrow victory — by just 2,488 just votes.

It was a bruising experience for Smith and he decided not to seek the nomination again.

Labour regained the seat in 2010.

♦♦♦

THE LIKELIHOOD is that plans were already afoot to shoehorn Owen Smith into the Pontypridd constituency.

Just before Christmas 2009 the sitting MP, Kim Howells, announced he was standing down as the MP.

Soon after, there were press reports that Owen Smith was ringing members of the constituency Labour Party to make his pitch to replace Howells.

Howells is, of course, an old friend of Owen Smith’s father, Dai Smith but Owen Smith denies that the Howells played any part in his selection.

Smith gained the nomination.

IMG_1090
NEPOTISM HOUSE?
OWEN SMITH’S home in his Pontypridd constituency has an intriguing past. Shortly after he was elected in 2010, the MP paid £285,000 for the north wing of the listed building in Llantrisant. It was previously owned by the sister of former BBC boss Menna Richards who bought the property shortly after she formed an independent production company. She won millions of pounds worth of contracts from the Corporation. It was under Menna Richards that Owen Smith made his breakthrough into television — as producer of the politics series Dragon’s Eye in 2000.
Photo: Press Gang

In Pontypridd Labour was united — but there were other problems.

The Lib Dems, led by Nick Clegg, were riding high in the polls — and they had a well-known local candidate in Mike Powell.

When Labour councillor Glynne Holmes had his picture taken with Powell as part of a campaign to save the Post Office in Llantrisant, he found himself the subject of a disciplinary hearing.

He was cleared but it was a sign of how anxious Labour officials were.

In the end, Smith won by just 2,791 votes.

The Western Mail noted:

“There were relieved faces as Labour held on to the Pontypridd seat.”

Smith polled 14,200 votes — a drop of more than 6,000 on Howells’ figure in 2005.

In the 2015 election, when Lib Dem support collapsed, Smith was able to clawback less than 1,400 of the lost votes.

In the ten years from 2005 to 2015, Labour has lost a quarter of its support in Pontypridd.

♦♦♦

EARLY THIS year Owen Smith’s wife, primary school teacher Liz, decided to stand for election to the Llantrisant town council.

There was a vacancy in the Llantrisant ward where she and Owen Smith had lived for five years.

The Labour Party ticket plus the fact that her husband was the MP were expected to secure her election.

But there was another candidate who was far more active in the town.

Louisa Mills, an independent, had started a local charity and was campaigning for a community garden.

She beat Liz Smith by 320 votes to 273.

Owen Smith may not have been as asset in the poll.

Some residents find him arrogant.

One said:

“He’s risen quickly … due to his PR skills and actually believes his own hype.”

“In my view he cares more about power than he does about using that power to help people.

All of this means Owen Smith and his wife have now contested four elections between them.

They’ve lost two.

In the two elections Owen Smith has won, he has presided over a decline in the Labour vote.

What will happen when the right-wing press goes to work on him?

♦♦♦
Published: 7 September 2016
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

Notes
1
The statistics for Owen Smith’s Pontypridd constituency make disturbing reading for Labour. These are are the number of votes cast for Owen Smith’s predecessor Kim Howells and the share of the poll:
1989   20,500   53%
1992   29,700   61%
1997   29,290   64%
2001   23,000   60%
2005   20,900   53%
From a peak of 64% of the vote in 1997 — the landslide year when Tony Blair became Prime Minister — it was down to 53% by 2005.
Owen Smith hasn’t arrested the decline. The result for the two elections he’s fought are:
2010   14,200   39%
2015   15,600   41%
In the face of a Lib Dem resurgence in 2010 he was lucky to hold on to the seat. And even with the collapse of the Lib Dems in 2015 he was able to retrieve only a small proportion of the Labour vote he’d lost in 2010.
2
This the fourth instalment of this investigation. The other articles are:
Owen Smith: Forged By Patronage and Nepotism?
Owen Smith: A Man For All Seasons
BBC Forced To Correct Owen Smith Profile.
Click on a title to read it.
3
Press Gang editor Paddy French declares personal interests in this story:
— in the 1980s he was the editor of Rebecca magazine which was in competition for a substantial Welsh Arts Council grant. One of the competitors was Arcade magazine and Dai Smith, Owen Smith’s father, was one of its supporters. The council’s literature committee chose Rebecca but the full council overturned the decision — and gave the grant to Arcade
— French is one of the thousands of traditional Labour voters who have joined the party following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader. He will be voting for Corbyn in the Leadership election.
4
The Rebecca investigation into nepotism and patronage at BBC Wales is explored in the articles:
The Son Of The Man From Uncle
In The Name Of The Father?
5
The cover block pic is by Gareth Fuller / PA.

♦♦♦

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BBC FORCED TO CORRECT OWEN SMITH PROFILE

August 13, 2016

 

Owen_Smith_head_BBC

THE BBC has been forced to correct an inaccurate profile of Owen Smith following a complaint by Press Gang.

In July the Corporation published an online article which included details about Smith’s career at BBC Wales.

Press Gang complained to Director General Lord Hall.

We said the article gave the false impression that Owen Smith was already at the BBC before his father, the historian Dai Smith, became involved.

In fact, the evidence suggests it was Smith the father who introduced Smith the son to the Corporation.

Press Gang also cited several errors of fact — and criticised the fact that the BBC has not provided a detailed CV of Smith’s broadcasting career.

Yesterday the BBC corrected the article but didn’t admit the original errors.

The Corporation also acknowledged the complaint.

Smith has declined to provide a full CV of his career as a journalist, lobbyist and politician.

The Press Gang investigation continues.

We have now asked Smith:

if he’s ever been a member of the National Union of Journalists

if he’s been a member of the Labour Party continuously since he joined at the age of 16 and

if he will, as Jeremy Corbyn has done, make his tax returns public.

There was no reply by the time this article went to press.

♦♦♦

JUST TWO days after he became the sole challenger to Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership, BBC online published an article called “Profile: The Owen Smith story”.

It contained the following statement about Owen Smith’s early career:

“After studying history and French at the University of Sussex, he joined BBC Wales as a radio producer. His father, Dai, was appointed editor of BBC Wales and head of programmes in the same year.”

Press Gang complained about this paragraph to BBC Director General Lord Hall.

First, we said it gave the impression that Owen Smith was at BBC Wales before his father.

Press Gang was concerned that the paragraph was a “red herring” designed to avoid the question of nepotism and patronage in Owen Smith’s career.

rhodri-talfan-davies
TAFFIA TELLY
RHODRI TALFAN DAVIES, BBC Wales Director, controls an organisation which has been dogged by allegations of nepotism and patronage for more than a quarter of a century. There was controversy when he was appointed in 2011 at the age of 40 because he’s the son of former BBC Wales boss, Geraint Talfan Davies. It was Geraint Talfan Davies who appointed Owen Smith’s father, Dai Smith, to the second most powerful post in BBC Wales in the 1990s …
Photo: BBC Wales

The evidence is that his father was already an established broadcaster at BBC Radio Wales and that it was he who introduced his son to a senior producer at the station.

Second, the paragraph is inaccurate: there’s no such role as editor of BBC Wales (the post is Editor, Radio Wales) and Dai Smith was not appointed head of programmes until much later.

Finally, Press Gang complained that BBC Wales is refusing to release a full CV of Owen Smith’s broadcasting career.

Yesterday, the BBC corrected the errors — but didn’t admit the original mistakes.

The BBC journalist who wrote the piece, Brian Wheeler, told Press Gang he talked to BBC Wales political journalists at Westminster before filing the article.

He said he wasn’t aware there were allegations of nepotism and patronage at BBC Wales.

The Director General’s office also acknowledged our complaint.

But the Corporation has still not provided Smith’s broadcasting CV.

Owen Smith denies that nepotism or patronage played any part in his broadcasting career.

We asked him for a full CV of his career as a journalist, a lobbyist and a politician.

So far, he’s not provided one …

♦♦♦

FOR EIGHT days we’ve been waiting for Owen Smith to answer questions about other aspects of his career.

On August 4 his press team apologised “for the delay in getting back to you — as you’ll be aware it’s an incredibly busy campaign and we have a lot of competing demands … … please do bear with us as we try to reply to everyone.”

One of the questions we put to him was his salary as a lobbyist for Pfizer.

In June 2014, when Smith was shadow Welsh Secretary, he told the Sunday Telegraph his salary was £80,000.

Press Gang found a Times article of 2006, when he was the candidate for the Blaenau Gwent by-election, which said he was a “… £200,000-a-year lobbyist for Pfizer.”

We asked him which figure was correct.

There was no reply by the time this article went to press.

We also asked him to expand on his statement:

“I want to be a force for good in the world. Therefore, you need to achieve power. Nye Bevan, my great hero, said it’s all about achieving and exercising power. I’ve devoted my life to that.”

We asked him for proof of this devotion.

The available evidence suggests that, until he was in his early thirties, his interest in politics was virtually nil.

We’ve now asked him if he’s been a Labour Party member continuously since he first joined at the age of 16.

He says Nye Bevan, one of the founders of the NHS, is his great hero.

A think tank in Bevan’s memory — the Bevan Foundation — was established in 2001.

Smith said he did not become a trustee until 2007 — after he was selected as Labour candidate for the Blaenau Gwent by-election in 2006.

Blaenau Gwent includes Tredegar which was Bevan’s constituency.

And Smith didn’t stay long  — he resigned in 2009.

Yesterday we asked him if he’d been involved in the Foundation before joining as a trustee in 2007.

We have also asked Smith if he was a member of the National Union of Journalists during his career as a broadcaster.

There’s no evidence in the public record of any membership.

Finally, we have also also asked him if he will make his tax returns public, as Jeremy Corbyn has done.

He did not answer any of these questions before this article went to press.

♦♦♦
Published: 13 August 2016
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

Notes

1. This the third instalment of this investigation:  the first, Owen Smith: Forged By Patronage and Nepotism?, was published on August 3. The second, Owen Smith: A Man For All Seasons, was published on August 8.  Click on a title to read it.
2. Press Gang editor Paddy French declares personal interests in this story.
— in the 1980s he was the editor of Rebecca magazine which was in competition for a substantial Welsh Arts Council grant. One of the competitors was Arcade magazine and Dai Smith was one of its supporters. The council’s literature committee chose Rebecca but the full council overturned the decision — and gave the grant to Arcade.
— he’s one of the thousands of traditional Labour voters who have joined the party following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader. He will be voting for Corbyn in the Leadership election.
3. The Rebecca investigation into nepotism and patronage at BBC Wales is explored in the articles The Son Of The Man From Uncle and In The Name Of The Father?
4. The cover block pic is by Gareth Fuller / PA.

♦♦♦

DONATIONS Investigative stories like this one are expensive and time-consuming to produce. You can help by making a contribution to the coffers. Just click on the logo …

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

EXCLUSIVE — OWEN SMITH: A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

August 8, 2016

 Owen_Smith_head_seasons

THE BATTLE for the Labour leadership is in full swing.

But so far the personal integrity of Owen Smith has not been an issue in the campaign.

The mainstream media have accepted his own sanitized version of his career.

The result is that it has largely been left to Press Gang to ask the searching questions about Owen Smith.

He still declines to provide the detailed CV we’ve asked for.

But, after some delay, he’s finally started to answer some of our questions.

He denies that nepotism and patronage in South Wales played any part in his rise to become a possible future Prime Minister.

But some of his answers are unconvincing.

And more questions are emerging …

♦♦♦

SEVEN HOURS after Press Gang published the article “Owen Smith: Forged by Patronage and Nepotism?” the Labour leadership candidate finally answered some of our questions.

His press team told us on Wednesday:

“The suggestion that Owen received any of his roles through patronage are (sic) completely false.”

A spokesperson said Owen Smith had forwarded our questions to Nick Evans, the senior BBC Wales radio producer who first hired him.

Nick Evans then sent us two emails.

Labour leadership challenge
LEFT — AND LEFT AGAIN?
JEREMY CORBYN and Owen Smith at the first public hustings of the leadership campaign in Cardiff on Thursday night. The British media have concentrated most of its forensic firepower on Jeremy Corbyn and have largely taken the challenger at face value. Press Gang is one of the few investigative outlets examining Owen Smith’s career in detail.
Photo: PA

In the first, Evans said it was Owen Smith who first approached him for work.

In his second, he gave a different version: Owen Smith had come into BBC Wales with his father and it was Evans who offered him work.

We asked Owen Smith about this contradiction.

His press team replied:

“Owen’s appointment followed casual work he had gained at BBC Wales, after contacting Nick directly, … without any input from his father.”

The press team also forwarded our questions to the man who was BBC Wales’ head of human relations at the time, Keith Rawlings, adding:

” … he would be able to confirm all of your allegations are completely false.”

“Keith sat on the interview panel alongside Nick [Evans] when Owen was originally interviewed.”

Press Gang rang Keith Rawlings.

He told us he wasn’t on the interview panel when Owen Smith was originally appointed.

He said the first he knew of Owen Smith was much later, after Dai Smith had been appointed Editor, Radio Wales.

In other words, Rawlings knew nothing about how Owen Smith was first introduced to Radio Wales …

♦♦♦

HAVE THE BBC been complicit in Owen Smith’s attempts to avoid questions about nepotism and patronage?

Two days after Owen Smith became the sole challenger to Jeremy Corbyn, the BBC political reporter Brian Wheeler posted a profile of the candidate headed “The Owen Smith story”.

This article set the tone for much of the general media treatment of Owen Smith’s early BBC career.

It contained this paragraph:

“After studying history and French at the University of Sussex, he joined BBC Wales as a radio producer. His father, Dai, was appointed editor of BBC Wales and head of programmes in the same year.”

By focusing on the actual appointments of Owen Smith to a post on Radio Wales and Dai Smith as Editor of Radio Wales, it gave the impression that Owen was already at the BBC when his father was picked to be the next Editor of Radio Wales.

It failed to say that Dai Smith had already introduced Owen before either appointment took place.

DaiSmith_35
DAI SMITH
OWEN SMITH’S father has been an important figure in Welsh public life for decades. He was the second most powerful man at BBC in the late 1990s and close to the clique that controlled broadcasting at that time. As one of the main historians of the south Wales miners, he’s also close to some of the key political figures in Welsh Labour. Owen Smith insists his father played no part in his career …
Photo: Parthian Books 

Given that the information in this article could only have come from one of two places — the BBC itself or Owen Smith — it raises the question of bias.

On Thursday Press Gang editor Paddy French wrote to BBC Director General Lord (Tony) Hall.

The email said there were several errors in the paragraph’s second sentence:

“His father, Dai, was appointed editor of BBC Wales and head of programmes in the same year.”

French noted:

” — there has never been an Editor of BBC Wales. The post being referred to here is Editor, Radio Wales.”

” — there is an issue about the date of [Dai’s] appointment: former BBC Wales contacts tell me this was actually 1993, not 1992.”

” — Dai Smith was not appointed head of programmes in the same year: that actually happened, as I understand it, in 1994.”

The Press Gang editor added:

“I am also concerned at the possibility that this paragraph was a deliberate red herring, designed to deflect attention away from the question about how Owen Smith was introduced to BBC Wales in the first place.”

“Given the sensitivity that surrounds the Corbyn-Smith contest for the Labour leadership, this article also raises questions about BBC impartiality.”

A spokeswoman for Tony Hall acknowledged receipt of the email but, at the time this article went to press, there was no reply.

♦♦♦

OTHER SERIOUS challenges to Owen Smith’s reputation for honesty are beginning to emerge.

In 2002 he left BBC Wales and took a post as special adviser to Labour Cabinet Minister Paul Murphy, the MP for the Welsh constituency of Torfaen.

Owen Smith insists his family connections played no part in this appointment.

His press team told us:

“With regards to Owen’s appointment with Paul Murphy — again Dai [Smith] had absolutely no involvement.”

“Dai did not even know Paul Murphy at all, until after Owen began working for him.”

Paul Murphy also denied that Dai was involved in the appointment but wouldn’t explain how Owen Smith came to be selected.

Murphy told us:

“He came from BBC Wales, although I knew his father through Welsh Labour history circles.”

In 2005 Owen Smith joined the controversial US pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

His exact role is not clear — one press report said he was Head of Policy and Government Relations.

We asked Pfizer for more information.

The company told us:

“We are unable to discuss the details of individuals’ roles; however, we can confirm that Owen Smith was employed by Pfizer UK in our Corporate Affairs Department between January 2005 and September 2008.”

The job involved a substantial increase in salary.

Owen Smith moved his family from London down to a £489,000 house in the Surrey village of Westcott near Dorking.

In 2006 Pfizer allowed him time off work to contest the Blaenau Gwent by-election.

Owen Smith said the company had been “extremely supportive” of his aspirations to public office.

But the fact that Labour had selected a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical giant was not popular in a seat which included Nye Bevan’s old powerbase.

Labour party annual conference 2015
“DRUG PUSHER”
WHEN OWEN SMITH was selected as the candidate for the by-election in Blaenau Gwent in 2006, there was concern that he was a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company — Labour MP Paul Flynn called him a “drug pusher”.  In the general election of 2005 local politician Peter Law had left the party in protest at the imposition of an all-woman shortlist and captured the seat as an independent. He died of a brain tumour a year later and Labour, dropping its all-woman shortlist, selected Owen Smith. The party confidently expected to regain the seat and spent more than £56,000 on the campaign, including holiday accommodation outside the constituency for party activists drawn in from all over Britain. Dai Davies, Law’s agent, spent less than £7,000 on his campaign but still managed to beat Smith with a majority of 2,484 votes.
Photo: PA 

Newport Labour MP Paul Flynn said:

“I wasn’t too pleased that we had a drug pusher as a candidate.

He added:

“The lobbyists are a curse, a cancer in the system. It’s insidious. One of my main interests in politics is areas in which lobbyists used their wicked wiles to get access to government. One example is the pharmaceutical industry, who are the most greedy and deceitful organisations we have to deal with.”

♦♦♦ 

OWEN SMITH’S time as a lobbyist with Pfizer haunts his political career.

In June 2014, when Owen Smith was shadow Welsh Secretary, there was a major controversy involving Pfizer.

The American company made a £69 billion bid for AstraZeneca, the Anglo-Swedish company, which would have made Pfizer the world’s largest drug business.

It was opposed by then Labour Leader Ed Miliband who didn’t want a flagship UK company falling into US hands.

The fact that Labour were attacking a company when one of its own shadow Cabinet members had worked for the company as a lobbyist attracted media attention.

Owen Smith told the Sunday Telegraph:

“… obviously having worked there I’m probably a little more understanding than some of those other members …”

The paper added:

“Mr Smith said he was paid £80,000 a year to lobby for Pfizer.”

Pfizer eventually dropped the bid.

There have been suspicions that Owen Smith was paid far more than £80,000, so Press Gang did some digging.

Back in 2006, when he was working for Pfizer and contesting the 2006 Blaenau Gwent by-election, The Times sent two reporters to the constituency.

Their report contained the following statement:

“The Labour Party’s candidate for Westminster, Owen Smith, a … £200,000-a-year lobbyist for Pfizer ….””

We asked Owen Smith which was true: the £80,000 a year he told the Sunday Telegraph or The Times which said it was £200,000?

At the time we went to press, he had not replied.

♦♦♦

OWEN SMITH left Pfizer in 2008 and went to work in a similar role for the pharmaceutical company Amgen.

In 2010 he was selected as the Labour candidate for the safe Pontypridd constituency.

Again, he insists that his family and friends played no part in his selection.

One of these friends is Kim Howells, the MP who held the seat for Labour and had decided to step down at the 2010 election.

Howells is an old friend of Dai Smith and knows his son well.

Kim Howells MP
KIM HOWELLS
THE LABOUR politician held the safe Labour seat of Pontypridd for 21 years. Although he’s a friend of Dai Smith, and knows his son well, Owen Smith insists Howells played no part in his selection for one of the safest Labour seats in the UK.
Photo: PA

Owen Smith’s press team told us:

“The suggestion Kim helped Owen in his selection as the candidate for Pontypridd is also entirely false.”

“Whilst it is correct that Kim knew Dai, at no stage did Kim support or endorse Owen’s candidature.”

Once again Press Gang went back to the newspaper cuttings.

In a Western Mail report on Owen Smith’s selection in March 2010, the paper reported that he’d been selected after a second round of voting, winning by 104 votes to 74.

The article then states:

“Mr Smith … was supported by Kim Howells …”

Press Gang asked Owen Smith to clear up the contradiction.

There had been no reply by the time this article was published.

When Owen Smith was elected Labour MP for Pontypridd, he sold his Surrey home for £745,000.

♦♦♦ 

THE PROBLEM with Owen Smith is no-one knows what he really stands for.

In 2006 The Independent called him a “dyed-in-the-wool” New Labourite.

Now he’s the man to carry out the old Labour policies Jeremy Corbyn has revived.

Which of these two Owen Smiths is the real one?

Or is he just a political chameleon?

The manner in which he and his team have dealt with his past career is disturbing.

Take his political commitment.

“I grew up in South Wales during the miners’ strike, he says, “That’s when I came alive politically.”

He adds that he then joined the Labour Party in 1986.

Yet between 1986 and his selection as Labour candidate in the 2006 Blaenau Gwent by-election — two entire decades — there’s no evidence at all of any involvement in labour Party politics.

He doesn’t seem to have served a political apprenticeship at all.

Jeremy Corbyn, in contrast, was active in politics while at school, became a trade union official at 21 and a London councillor at 24.

In fact, Owen Smith’s career is much closer to David Cameron’s — a spell as a special adviser and years working in the corporate affairs of a major company.

When Smith says —

“I want to be a force for good in the world. Therefore, you need to achieve power. Nye Bevan, my great hero, said it’s all about achieving and exercising power. I’ve devoted my life to that.”

 — it’s the last sentence that rings false.

He’s been an active politician for just six years.

His attempt to push back from suggestions that his father helped his career is unconvincing.

He seems to believe any hint of nepotism and patronage is toxic to his reputation.

He doesn’t seem to understand that it’s not so much the fact that his father helped him — it’s the fact that he seeks to deny it.

He doesn’t seem to understand that it’s not so much what his salary was at Pfizer —  a huge salary is inevitable when working for a global combine — it’s the fact that he seeks to minimise it.

It’s a question of personal integrity.

If he can’t be trusted to give a true account of his own career, how can he be trusted to be the custodian of the values which Jeremy Corbyn has brought back into mainstream politics?

♦♦♦

THIS INVESTIGATION continues.

A crowdfunding project has been launched on the By-line site here.

♦♦♦
Published: 8 August 2016
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

Notes
1. The first part of this investigation was published on August 3 — Owen Smith: Forged By Patronage and Nepotism? Click on the title to read it.
2. Press Gang editor Paddy French declares personal interests in this story.
— in the 1980s he was the editor of Rebecca magazine which was in competition for a substantial Welsh Arts Council grant. One of the competitors was Arcade magazine and Dai Smith was one of its supporters. The council’s literature committee chose Rebecca but the full council overturned the decision — and gave the grant to Arcade.
— he’s one of the thousands of traditional Labour voters who have joined the party following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader. He will be voting for Corbyn in the Leadership election.
3. The Rebecca investigation into nepotism and patronage at BBC Wales is explored in the articles The Son Of The Man From Uncle and In The Name Of The Father?
4. The cover block pic is by Gareth Fuller / PA.

♦♦♦

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EXCLUSIVE — OWEN SMITH: FORGED BY PATRONAGE AND NEPOTISM?

August 3, 2016

Owen_Smith_head_400c

WHY HAS there been so little examination of Owen Smith’s career by the British press?

In the two weeks since Smith became Jeremy Corbyn’s sole challenger for the Labour leadership, journalists have largely accepted his CV at face value.

For national newspapers he’s a credible candidate.

Smith says:

“I want to be a force for good in the world. Therefore, you need to achieve power. Nye Bevan, my great hero, said it’s all about achieving and exercising power. I’ve devoted my life to that.”

No-one has drilled down into this statement.

A Press Gang investigation into Owen Smith’s 24 year career shows little dedication to politics — or any other profession:

he displayed no appetite for a political career — until he walked into a plum job for Cabinet Minister Paul Murphy.

he had no experience of lobbying — until he was appointed to handle “government affairs” for the UK branch of global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

he had absolutely no journalistic experience — until he was appointed a producer at BBC Radio Wales.

The only constant in his working life is his father Dai Smith, historian-turned-broadcasting mandarin and a key figure in the Welsh establishment.

Dai Smith was a senior manager at BBC Wales for most of his son’s ten-year stint there — and he and his friends have been influential figures in his political career.

So is Owen Smith’s current high-profile the result of nepotism and patronage?

♦♦♦

TWO DAYS after Owen Smith became the sole challenger to Jeremy Corbyn, the BBC published an article called “The Owen Smith Story”.

There’s a fascinating paragraph about his early career:

“After studying history and French at the University of Sussex, he joined BBC Wales as a radio producer. His father, Dai, was appointed editor of BBC Wales and head of programmes in the same year.”

DaiSmith_35
NEVER SAY DAI
DAI SMITH, Owen Smith’s father, insists he’s played no part in his son’s career. Smith the father was born in the Rhondda valley, educated at Oxford and is a well-known Welsh left-wing historian with several landmark books to his name. By the early 1980s he was also presenting TV programmes for BBC Wales and gradually became an important figure at its HQ in Cardiff. In 1992 he became editor of Radio Wales and, in 1994, was appointed head of English language programmes — becoming the second most powerful BBC man in Wales.
Photo: Parthian Books 

Ignoring the inaccuracies — there has never been an editor of BBC Wales and Dai Smith didn’t become head of programmes until 1994 — it’s worth noting the order of these two sentences.

The first sentence says Owen Smith joined Radio Wales as a radio producer.

The second says his father was appointed editor of BBC Wales “in the same year”.

The impression being conveyed is that Owen was appointed first and his father Dai Smith second.

In other words, the egg (Owen) got his job before the chicken (Dai).

But, if that’s the case, why didn’t the BBC just say so?

Press Gang has been trying to solve this riddle.

We spoke to Dai Smith — he insisted that Owen was already working at BBC Wales when he arrived.

We asked BBC Wales boss Rhodri Talfan Davies which came first: Owen Egg or Chicken Dai?

There was no answer.

We also asked Owen Smith about this.

He never came back to us.

But then, out of the blue, we received an extraordinary email from the man who claims to have first employed him at BBC Wales …

♦♦♦

AT FIVE o’clock on Monday night Nick Evans, a former senior producer on Radio Wales, wrote to us from Tenerife.

“Owen and Dai have forwarded the points you put to Dai about his role in Owen’s career,” he wrote.

“I hope I can clarify some aspects of the timeline.”

Nick Evans said that in the early 1990s he was working on the Meet For Lunch midday programme presented by Vincent Kane, BBC Wales’ leading presenter.

When Kane wasn’t able to present the programme, Dai Smith would often stand in.

On some of these occasions, in the summer and early autumn of 1992, Dai Smith brought the young Owen Smith into Broadcasting House in Cardiff and introduced him to Evans.

Evans said:

“As I did with anyone who approached me for work (it was Owen himself) and who was clearly bright, committed and possessed of proper integrity, I gave him some casual work.”

“So it is no surprise that he rose quickly — both in Wales and London.”

Press Gang asked Evans for more detail.

When he replied, there was a change of emphasis:

“When Owen started it was when he was still considering the Swansea option.

(Owen Smith had been planning to do an MA at Swansea University.)

“I liked him”, said Evans, “and knew he was considering his options and offered as I often did the chance to come in and ‘shadow’ / work as a researcher on MFL [Meet For Lunch].

After a few days unpaid work experience, Evans gave him paid freelance work.

“Then he got a contract job on the programme as a researcher through the next competitive board (which no-one other than myself had any say over, apart from HR [Human Resources].”

“He had no experience as such … but then again nor did many of the others who came through the same (yes loose) process.”

“It might not have been as rigorous a system as has became the norm but it had its merits and I can put my hand on (very self-examining) heart and say that Owen got where he got (when I had a say) absolutely because he was (often head and shoulders) the best person.”

When Dai Smith became Editor of Radio Wales, Evans said the two of them tried to avoid favouritism:

“… much of what myself and Dai attempted was to try and move away from the kind of nepotism that had pervaded the Welsh media for years … maybe didn’t work for long … but I tried.”

He made it clear that “Owen became (as Dai did) a close friend.”

Nick Evans’ comments leave many unanswered questions but it’s clear Dai Smith was already an important fixture at Radio Wales long before he was appointed Editor — and while his son was still a student at Sussex University.

It’s also clear that Dai Smith was instrumental in introducing his son to a senior producer on the Meet For Lunch programme.

The unanswered question is: would Owen Smith ever have got a foothold in the BBC if his father hadn’t been Dai Smith?

♦♦♦ 

FOR TEN years Owen Smith was a competent but undistinguished broadcaster.

Neither Owen Smith nor the BBC would provide a detailed chronology of his career.

There’s no evidence Dai Smith intervened to further his son’s prospects.

There’s no evidence Owen Smith tried to take advantage of his father’s position.

Owen Smith worked on many radio programmes before moving to television producing the BBC Wales flagship political programme Dragon’s Eye.

Insiders say his Dragon’s Eye performance ranged from “tough and uncompromising” to “heavy-handed” with some accusations of “bullying” of junior staff.

For a spell he worked on the Radio 4 Today programme in London.

Owen Smith claimed there was a culture of bullying at Today.

rhodri-talfan-davies
FATHERS’ BOYS
THERE ARE remarkable similarities between the current Director of BBC Wales, Rhodri Talfan Davies (above), and Owen Smith. They’re both in their mid 40s — Talfan Davies is 45, Owen Smith 46. Both rose to prominence when relatively young, both have powerful fathers — and both face questions about the role of nepotism and patronage in their careers. Rhodri Talfan Davies is a member of a powerful media clan which has controlled BBC Wales for a quarter of a century — his father Geraint Talfan Davies was BBC boss from 1990 to 2000. An investigation by Press Gang’s sister website Rebecca entitled The Son Of The Man From Uncle revealed that Rhodri Talfan Davies’ rise to the top was eased by the previous Director, Menna Richards, who was a close friend of Geraint Talfan Davies. Rhodri Davies was just 40 when he took over from Menna Richards in 2011 but the appointment was dogged by controversy. He was initially rejected before BBC Director General Mark Thompson stepped in to confirm the post. BBC Wales is extremely touchy about allegations of nepotism and patronage surrounding the Talfan Davies clique. In 2014 it refused to answer any further questions on the subject, telling Rebecca “… we will not be commenting in future other than in truly exceptional circumstances”.
Photo: Wales Online

Former Today editor Rod Liddle believed that charge was levelled against him because he had once criticised Smith.

Smith had been asked to arrange a police spokesman for the programme.

To the amazement of colleagues he picked up the phone and dialled 999 to arrange one.

The police complained.

Liddle said:

” … there was a culture of shouting at Owen when he did something deranged”.

Liddle added that, aside from this one mistake, he was “perfectly competent”.

But Smith never secured promotion to senior editorial roles at the BBC, either in London or Cardiff.

By the early 2000s, according to one insider, he faced a future of either moving sideways — or out.

In 2000 the boss of BBC Wales, Geraint Talfan Davies, retired.

Talfan Davies had been a strong supporter of Dai Smith.

The new broom, Menna Richards, was not.

Dai Smith left BBC Wales to become Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan.

In 2002, Owen Smith also decided to switch tack — and became a special adviser to the South Wales MP, Paul Murphy, who was Secretary of State for Wales.

♦♦♦ 

AGAIN, THERE’S no evidence of a political backstory.

Owen Smith is on record as saying the 1984 miners’ strike was his “political awakening” and that he joined the Labour Party when he was 16.

However, as far as the public record is concerned, he then seems to have lapsed into a political coma.

Press Gang asked him what other political activity he’d been involved in  — student politics, constituency activism or involvement in local politics.

He didn’t answer the question.

His appointment as a “special advisor” to Paul Murphy, a veteran Labour MP representing the South Wales seat of Torfaen, came as a surprise to many Labour Party members in Wales.

Smith’s experience as a political journalist at BBC Wales qualified him to be a special adviser at the Wales Office.

But was another family connection also involved in the appointment?

Paul Murphy is a friend of Dai Smith.

Press Gang asked Murphy if this played any part in the appointment.

He replied saying it hadn’t.

Paul Murphy
MURPHY’S LAW
PAUL MURPHY insists Owen Smith’s appointment as one of his special advisers at the Wales and Northern Ireland Office had nothing to do with his friendship with Dai Smith. But he wouldn’t explain how Owen Smith came to be chosen. Murphy was a leading figure in Welsh Labour for many decades and MP for the south-east Wales seat of Torfaen from 1987. He was made a life peer in 2015, taking the title Baron Murphy of Torfaen.
Photo: PA 

We asked how Owen Smith came to be selected.

Murphy’s reply was enigmatic:

“He came from BBC Wales, although I knew his father through Welsh Labour history circles.”

Owen Smith was a special adviser until 2005 when he left to join the controversial US pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer.

But his political connections were powerful enough for him to secure the Labour nomination for the 2006 by-election in Blaenau Gwent.

Normally this was a safe Labour seat.

But Peter Law, the dominant Labour politician in the area, had fallen out with the party — and won the 2005 general election as an independent.

His death led to the 2006 by-election — and many expected the seat to return to Labour.

But Labour remained deeply unpopular in the constituency and Owen Smith failed to turn the tide — he was convincingly beaten by an ally of Law’s.

It was another four years before another opportunity arose, this time in Pontypridd.

The sitting Labour MP, Kim Howells, is another friend of the Smith family.

Owen Smith was selected and this time was elected MP — although with a reduced majority.

But he remains an elusive character for many in Welsh Labour — a man who seems to have emerged out of the shadows.

One Labour MP, who didn’t want to be named, told Press Gang he was a deeply unimpressive character:

“I can’t believe the Parliamentary Labour Party have been taken in by him.”

Within six years of taking Pontypridd, Owen Smith is a candidate for the Leadership of the Labour Party …

♦♦♦

Notes
1. Press Gang editor Paddy French declares a personal interest in this story. In the 1980s he was the editor of Rebecca magazine which was in competition for a substantial Welsh Arts Council grant. One of the competitors was Arcade magazine and Dai Smith was one of its supporters. The council’s literature committee chose Rebecca but the full council overturned the decision — and gave the grant to Arcade.
2. The Rebecca investigation into nepotism and patronage at BBC Wales is explored in the articles The Son Of The Man From Uncle and In The Name Of The Father?
3. The cover block pic is by Gareth Fuller / PA.

♦♦♦

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THE PEOPLE v. MURDOCH: ENGAGEMENT

January 19, 2016

MURDOCH v THE PEOPLE- 2

LAST WEEK there were two major announcements about Rupert Murdoch.

On Tuesday the Times revealed he was engaged to fellow American citizen Jerry Hall.
 
They’re planning a marriage.
 
On the same day Press Gang asked Ofcom to hold an inquiry into the media mogul’s fitness to hold the Sky TV licence.
 
We’re planning a divorce.
 
If Ofcom declares Murdoch “unfit”, his forthcoming bid to take overall control of the broadcaster will fail.
 
He tried before — an attempt in 2011 was wrecked by the phone hacking scandal. 
 
If he’s found “unfit”, Murdoch will also be forced to sell his remaining 39 per cent stake in the broadcaster.
 
It will be the end of his TV empire in the UK.
 
Ofcom has acknowledged receipt of our request but has not formally responded.
 
This article spells out why this could be an important battlefield …

 ♦♦♦

IN JANUARY 1999 the Sun ran a World Exclusive.

The paper had discovered Jerry Hall had decided to end her marriage with Mick Jagger.

“Jagger divorce” was the front page headline on January 15.

The paper reported:

“The Texan model finally buckled yesterday as she ordered lawyers to start proceedings at the High Court in London.”

It was a famous scoop.

But how did the Sun get it?

The finger points to a young reporter who joined the paper in the late 1990s.

He’d discovered a new way of obtaining stories: hacking phones.

Andy Coulson — associate editor at the Sun at the time — was impressed.

It was later claimed he said of the reporter:

“He’s a one trick pony. But what a trick!”

It’s alleged the journalist was listening in to the voicemail messages of Jagger’s PR man Bernard Doherty. 

RUPERT MURDOCH Rupert Murdoch announced his engagement to Jerry Hall last week. The media have missed the allegation that personal information about Jerry Hall’s divorce from Mick Jagger was illegally obtained by the Sun. The story is told in Nick Davies’ book Hack Attack. Davies claimed a Sun reporter listened to the voicemail messages of one of Jagger’s team. This would given the paper the phone numbers of Jagger — and Jerry Hall … Photo: PA

ENGAGED
THE BILLIONAIRE announced his engagement to Jerry Hall last week. The media have missed the allegation that personal information about Jerry Hall’s “divorce” from Mick Jagger was illegally obtained by the Sun. The story is told in Nick Davies’ book Hack Attack. Davies claimed a Sun reporter — he gave him the codename “Sand” — listened to the voicemail messages of one of Jagger’s team. This would have given the paper the phone numbers of Jagger — and Jerry Hall …
Photo: PA

Coulson and the paper had been following the Jagger-Hall “marriage” — it was later ruled invalid — closely.

In November 1998, for example, the Sun discovered a lawyer acting for Jerry Hall was secretly meeting Jagger’s mistress in New York.

The lawyer was hoping the woman would provide ammunition in the event of divorce proceedings.

A Sun reporter was waiting for the couple when they left a restaurant.

The reaction of Jagger’s girlfriend was: “Oh my God, how did you find me?”

The lawyer asked the reporter: “How DID you know we were here?”

(The emphasis is in the original Sun article.)

Articles like these helped to build Coulson’s reputation.

In 2000 he joined News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks as her deputy.

He was already her lover.

Coulson was married, she was in the middle of a long relationship with EastEnders actor Ross Kemp.

In 2003, when Brooks was promoted to Sun editor, he took the reins of the News of the World.

In 2007 the paper’s royal editor Clive Goodman was gaoled for hacking phones — and Coulson resigned.

He later lied to a House of Commons select committee:

“… if a rogue reporter decides to behave in that fashion I am not sure that there is an awful lot more I could have done.”

The Goodman case would have been the end of most people’s career — but not Coulson’s.

Just four months later Opposition Leader David Cameron made him the Tories’ Director of Communications.

One of his champions was shadow Chancellor George Osborne.

Osborne owed Coulson.

Coulson had been kind to the shadow Chancellor. 

In October 2005 the Sunday Mirror published a photograph suggesting Osborne had been a cocaine user.

Taken when he was 22, the snap showed him with his arm around a dominatrix known as Madam Pain.

She was the partner of a friend.

In the background was a line of white powder Madam Pain claimed was cocaine.

The paper’s headline: “Vice Girl: I Snorted Cocaine With Top Tory Boy”.

A CRIMINAL AT NO 10 ANDY COULSON was David Cameron’s communications boss from 2007 until 2011. Critics warned Cameron’s team there were indications Coulson might be involved in the phone hacking scandal. Cameron, who denied ever hearing the warninss, described Coulson as a “friend”. Photo: PA

A CRIMINAL AT NO 10
ANDY COULSON was David Cameron’s communications chief from 2007 to 2011. Critics told Cameron’s team there were indications Coulson might be involved in the phone hacking scandal. Cameron, who denied ever hearing the warnings, described Coulson as a “friend”.
Photo: PA

Coulson also published the picture but the News of the World was unusually sympathetic.

“It was a stark lesson,” Osborne said, “of the destruction which drugs bring to so many people’s lives.”

He denied using cocaine.

When David Cameron became Prime Minister, Coulson joined him at No 10.

When the phone hacking scandal broke in 2011, Coulson resigned.

The rest is history: in July 2014 he was gaoled for 18 months for phone hacking.

There’s nothing new in the rise and fall of Andy Coulson — but it underlines the seriousness of the wrong-doing at Murdoch’s newspapers.

It forms part of our case that, by allowing Coulson to run a criminal enterprise at the News of the World, Rupert Murdoch is “unfit” to run Sky … 

♦♦♦

INCREDIBLY MURDOCH is now poised to make a new bid for Sky.

Like the film Back To The Future  — where a time traveller changes the past — it’s as if the criminal enterprise that thrived at the Sun and News of the World had never happened.

In 2011 David Cameron wouldn’t touch Murdoch with a barge pole.

Now they’re best friends again.

The once disgraced Rebekah Brooks is back as chief executive of Murdoch’s British newspapers. 

The scene is set for Murdoch to make another bid for the 61 per cent of the company his 21st Century Fox business doesn’t already own.

He’s been quietly preparing the ground — the company recently changed its name from BSkyB to Sky plc.

And it also bought Murdoch’s German and Italian satellite interests. 

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON DAVID CAMERON has performed a complete U-turn in his dealings with Rupert Murdoch. In 2011, agreeing that politicians had become too close to media tycoons, he promised: “It’s on my watch that the music has stopped.” Just before Christmas, he and his wife attended a party at Rupert Murdoch’s central London apartment. Photo: PA.

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON …
DAVID CAMERON has performed a complete U-turn in his dealings with Rupert Murdoch. In 2011, agreeing that politicians had become too close to media tycoons, he promised: “It’s on my watch that the music has stopped.” In December he and his wife attended a party at Rupert Murdoch’s central London apartment …
Photo: PA.

There are concerns the move will increase Murdoch’s share of the British market — bringing him closer to the stranglehold Silvio Berlusconi wields in Italy. 

When he tried to buy Sky in 2011, he was also opposed by an unlikely alliance of newspaper groups and other broadcasters.

The BBC and BT joined the Guardian, Telegraph, Mirror and Daily Mail groups in calling for the bid to be blocked.

But the real anxiety is over Sky News.

There are fears Murdoch will try and turn it into a version of his Fox News in the USA.

Fox has earned a reputation as an extreme right wing channel: its journalism the TV equivalent of the Sun.

This isn’t a problem for the Tories — but it is for those for oppose Murdoch.

Commercial broadcasting is tightly regulated in the UK, demnding high editorial standards and political impartiality.

Murdoch plans to deal with these concerns by hiving Sky News into a separate company, guaranteeing its editorial independence in the articles of association.

This solution satisfied Ofcom at the time of the 2011 bid.

Some critics are reassured: the watchdog is a formidable regulator, thwarting Sky’s ambitions on several occasions.

In 2006 Sky had bought an 18 per cent stake in ITV to prevent it merging with another company and creating a competitor to Sky.

An Ofcom inquiry decided the stake gave Sky too much influence in the UK and, eventually, Sky was forced to sell the stake at a loss.

Ofcom has also ordered Sky to reduce the price it charged rivals for the use of its material.

In 2009 Murdoch’s son, James, attacked the watchdog for imposing “astonishing” burdens on broadcasters. 

His solution was brutal:

“There is an inescapable conclusion that we must reach if we are to have a better society.”

“The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit.”  

The danger here is that David Cameron and George Osborne also have Ofcom in their sights. 

In July 2009 David Cameron said that he wanted to restrict Ofcom to its “narrow technical and enforcement roles” rather than issues of public policy.

“Ofcom, as we know it, will cease to exist,” he said.

The Tories were unable to carry out the pledge because they were in coalition with the Liberal Democrats until 2015.

Critics fear the Tories will now move to cripple Ofcom — and then quietly relax the restrictions on Sky News … 

♦♦♦

THE PRESS GANG campaign The People v. Murdochis designed to force Murdoch’s withdrawal from the UK TV scene.

A week has passed since we asked Ofcom to launch an inquiry into the “fitness” of Rupert Murdoch and his family to be involved in British television.

Under the 1996 Broadcasting Act Ofcom is charged with making sure licence holders are “fit and proper” persons to hold the licence.

Ofcom has already held an inquiry, in 2012.

Although it criticised James Murdoch for his handling of the phone hacking crisis, it decided there wasn’t enough evidence to take the licence away from the Murdochs.

But since then a vast amount of damaging material has emerged — see the previous article, Fightback, for more details. 

Alongside the campaign is a petition on the 38degrees website, here.

And a small crowd-funding project has been launched to pay the initial expenses of the campaign, here.

You can also follow the campaign on Twitter — @pguk10

♦♦♦

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THE PEOPLE v. MURDOCH

January 12, 2016

Murdoch_series_head_1

AT THE beginning of 2016 Rupert Murdoch once again dominates British media.

David Cameron is back on side.

Juries have refused to convict Sun journalists of bribing corrupt police officers.

The threat of a tough new media regulator has all but vanished.

In September Murdoch felt strong enough to rehabilitate his beloved Rebekah Brooks.

In December the most dangerous threat — the possibility of corporate charges — was lifted.

Today, the billionaire is more powerful than ever.

But all is not lost.

There are millions of people on three continents who oppose him.

Today Press Gang launches a new campaign — The People versus Murdoch.

We’ve found an important chink in the media mogul’s armour …

♦♦♦

THIS MORNING Press Gang sent a four page letter to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

We asked chief executive Sharon White to launch an inquiry into whether Rupert Murdoch and his family are “fit and proper” people to be involved in the satellite television company BSkyB.

Ofcom has this duty under the Broadcasting Acts of 1990 and 1996.

The watchdog looked at the issue back in September 2012 when the phone hacking scandal was at its height.

(Its report can be read here.)

Ofcom criticised Murdoch’s son James, who was in charge of the News of the World, for his handling of the crisis.

It found his actions:

” … fell short of the exercise of responsibility to be expected of the chief executive officer …”

But there wasn’t enough evidence to declare him unfit.

PRIME CONCERNS FOUR DAYS before Christmas the Prime Minister and several Cabinet members attended a private party at the London home of Rupert Murdoch. In 2011, at the height of the hacking scandal, Cameron told Parliament: "The truth is, we have all been in this together. The press, the politicians and the leaders of all parties — and, yes, that includes me ... Throughout all this, all the warnings, all the concern, the government at the time did nothing." The party — reported only by the Guardian — shows Cameron and Murdoch are now comfortably back in harness, "in this together"... Photo: PA

PRIME CONCERNS
FOUR DAYS before Christmas the Prime Minister and several Cabinet members attended a private party at the London home of Rupert Murdoch. In 2011, at the height of the hacking scandal, Cameron told Parliament: “The truth is, we have all been in this together. The press, the politicians and the leaders of all parties — and, yes, that includes me … Throughout all this, all the warnings, all the concern, the government at the time did nothing.” The party — reported only by the Guardian — shows Cameron and Murdoch are now comfortably back in harness, “in this together”…
Photo: PA

Of Rupert Murdoch it said there was no evidence he’d behaved inappropriately.

But Ofcom also made it clear that it was working “on the evidence available to date”.

It added:

“As Ofcom’s duty to be satisfied that licensees remain fit and proper is ongoing, should further material evidence become available, Ofcom would need to consider that evidence in light of its duty.”

Since that statement an enormous amount of new material has come into the public domain.

Ofcom has confirmed it has not considered this evidence.

Press Gang has now asked it to do so …

♦♦♦

FOUR MONTHS after Ofcom published its findings, Lord Justice Leveson produced his report.

He was much more critical of the Murdoch family than Ofcom.

On the response of senior management to the phone hacking scandal, he noted:

” … the evidence … points to a serious failure of governance within the NoTW [News of the World], NI [News International] and News Corporation.”

The key point here is that Lord Leveson’s criticisms extended all the way to the top of the empire.

Leveson said:

“If News Corporation management, and in particular Rupert Murdoch, were aware of the allegations, it is obvious that action should have been taken to investigate them.”

“If News Corporation were not aware of the allegations which, as Rupert Murdoch has said, have cost the corporation many hundreds of millions of pounds, then there would appear to have been a significant failure in corporate governance …”

A SERIOUS FAILURE OF GOVERNANCE LORD JUSTICE LEVESON took a long, hard look at the Murdoch empire — and wasn't impressed by what he saw. But his report is just half of the exercise — when David Cameron announced the inquiry back in July 2011 he said it would take place in two parts. The second part, to be held after all the criminal trials are over, "will examine the extent of unlawful or improper conduct at the News of the World and other newspapers, and the way in which management failures may have allowed it to happen." Although almost all cases have now been heard, Cameron is using the fact that a few are still in the pipeline to delay making an announcement. Rupert Murdoch is desperate to make sure it does not happen ... Photo: PA

A SERIOUS FAILURE OF GOVERNANCE
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON took a long, hard look at the Murdoch empire — and didn’t like what he saw. But his report is just half of the exercise — when David Cameron announced the inquiry back in July 2011 he said it would take place in two parts. The second part, to be held after all the criminal trials are over, “will examine the extent of unlawful or improper conduct at the News of the World and other newspapers, and the way in which management failures may have allowed it to happen.” Although almost all cases have now been heard, Cameron is using the fact that a few are still in the pipeline to delay making an announcement. Rupert Murdoch is desperate to make sure it does not happen …
Photo: PA

Leveson examined one of the key issues of the phone hacking saga.

This was the meeting in June 2008 where James Murdoch met with News International’s legal manager Tom Crone to discuss legal action taken by hacking victim Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association.

Taylor’s lawyers had obtained a devastating document — the celebrated “for Neville” email — which contained transcripts of 35 voicemail messages.

Tom Crone took this email to the meeting — and told James Murdoch it shattered the company’s public insistence that phone hacking was restricted to just one “rogue reporter”.

James Murdoch denied Crone told him this.

Murdoch agreed to settle the case for the colossal sum of £425,000 providing Taylor agreed to keep it confidential.

When Ofcom examined this issue, it concluded Crone’s evidence was not:

” … sufficient to demonstrate that James Murdoch was made fully aware of the implications of the evidence disclosed in the Taylor litigation at the time he authorised the payment.”

Lord Justice Leveson took a different view.

On the conflict between James Murdoch and Tom Crone he said:

“I … conclude that Mr Crone’s version of events as to what occurred on 10 June 2008 should be preferred to that of James Murdoch.”

This is just one dramatic part of the Leveson Inquiry that Ofcom should consider.

♦♦♦ WHEN OFCOM examined the fitness of Rupert Murdoch and his family back in 2012, its emphasis was on the phone hacking saga at the News of the World.

It wasn’t able to examine the corruption scandal which erupted in 2011 when News International handed over emails implicating scores of Sun journalists.

The result was Operation Elveden — the Metropolitan Police investigation into the bribing of public officials.

Many Sun journalists had been arrested but the sub judice rules prevented Ofcom from considering the issue in 2012.

In the years that followed, Elveden saw many public employees — including police officers and prison warders — convicted.

Almost all of the Sun journalists were cleared by juries.

SCARLET WOMAN AFTER FOUR years in the wilderness, Rebekah Brooks is back in charge of Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers. Back in 2011 — a week after it was revealed the News of the World had hacked the phone of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler — Rupert Murdoch was asked what his priority was. "This one", he said, pointing to Brooks. She was later arrested and charged but was cleared by a jury at the Old Bailey in 2014. During the trial, it was revealed that during her marriage to the actor Ross Kemp, she'd had a secret affair with Andy Coulson ... Photo: PA

SCARLET WOMAN
AFTER FOUR years in the wilderness, Rebekah Brooks is back in charge of Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers. Back in 2011 — a week after it was revealed the News of the World had hacked the phone of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler — Rupert Murdoch was asked what his priority was. “This one”, he said, pointing to Brooks. She was later arrested and charged but was cleared by a jury at the Old Bailey in 2014. During the trial, it was revealed that during her marriage to the actor Ross Kemp, she’d had a secret affair with Andy Coulson …
Photo: PA

Operation Elveden points to the Murdoch family tolerating a culture of paying corrupt public officials at both the News of the World and the Sun.

This culture was long-standing.

The practice was extensive — four public employees alone were paid a total of £146,000.

In 2004, press reports show the Sun paid sources £362,000 — an unspecified but clearly significant amount going to corrupt public employees.

Rebekah Brooks, Sun editor from 2003 to 2009, admitted at a Culture Media and Sport select committee hearing in 2003 that she had paid police officers for information.

Sitting at her side, News of the World editor Andy Coulson broke in to say they only did so “within the law”.

Chris Bryant MP told them paying police was unlawful.

Despite this clear warning, the Sun went on paying corrupt police officers for another eight years.

One of these was Surrey police detective Simon Quinn.

He’d been on the paper’s books since 2000 — and had supplied confidential information about the Milly Dowler case in 2002.

Quinn was later gaoled for 18 months after admitting taking £7,000 from the paper over a ten year period.

Press Gang has asked Ofcom to examine the implications of this scandal.

♦♦♦

IN ITS 2012 report, Ofcom considered Rupert Murdoch’s role in the “dark arts” saga.

“We do not consider that the evidence currently available to Ofcom provides a reasonable basis on which to conclude that Rupert Murdoch acted in a way that was inappropriate in relation to phone hacking, concealment or corruption by employees of … News International.”

Again, new evidence has since emerged which undermines that conclusion.

Two days after the hacking scandal erupted, in July 2011, Rupert Murdoch made a statement:

“Recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police with respect to the News of the World are deplorable and unacceptable.”

This was his public, penitent face.

DEPLORABLE AND UNACCEPTABLE THOSE WERE the words Rupert Murdoch used when the news hacking scandal broke in 2011. But the media mogul has a habit of saying one thing in public — and another in private. In 2013 he was recorded telling a private meeting of Sun journalists that, well, after all, paying cops was part of the general culture of Fleet Street ... Photo: PA

DEPLORABLE AND UNACCEPTABLE
THOSE WERE the words Rupert Murdoch used when the news hacking scandal broke in 2011. But the media mogul has a habit of saying one thing in public — and another in private. In 2013 he was recorded telling a private meeting of Sun journalists that, well, after all, paying police was just part of the general culture of Fleet Street …
Photo: PA

But he also knew News Corporation — worried about corporate charges that might destroy the business — had just handed over a huge cache of emails incriminating Sun journalists.

There was no mention of this in his statement.

In March 2013 he agreed to meet Sun journalists.

Morale at the paper was at rock bottom: many journalists felt colleagues had been thrown to the wolves.

The meeting was recorded by one of the reporters.

In a discussion about the possibility of Sun journalists being charged for paying public officials, Murdoch said:

” … I don’t know of anybody, or anything, that did anything that wasn’t being done across Fleet Street and wasn’t the culture.”

Another journalist said:

“You referred to, you used the phrase, things were done at the Sun for over 40 years. I personally have been here for less than ten. But I’m pretty confident that the working practices I’ve seen here were ones that I’ve inherited, rather than instigated.”

He asked:

“Would you recognise that all this pre-dates many of our involvement here?”

Murdoch’s reply couldn’t have been clearer:

“We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years.”

“You didn’t instigate it.”

Rupert Murdoch not only knew police officers were being paid by his journalists.

He approved of it.

♦♦♦

IF OFCOM launches an inquiry, it will be a major blow to Rupert Murdoch’s plans.

Any investigation will take months, if not years.

It will be impossible for Murdoch to launch a bid to buy the remaining 61 per cent of Sky he does not own while it’s taking place.

How can David Cameron’s government agree to his complete takeover if Ofcom is considering whether Murdoch is a “fit and proper” person to be involved in the broadcaster at all?

Press Gang has promised to submit a full statement to Ofcom.

This will include all of the material which has emerged since Ofcom’s report in 2012.

It will also seek to widen the scope of any Ofcom investigation to the Sunday Times where there have also been allegations of illegal news-gathering.

It will also include new criticisms of Murdoch’s own internal watchdog — the Management and Standards Committee (MSC).

In 2012 Press Gang warned the committee that serious problems still existed in the company.

The MSC ignored the warning.

♦♦♦

If you want to support The People v Murdoch campaign, click on the donate button below to make a contribution to Press Gang.

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♦♦♦

NEXT The People v Murdoch examines the possibility of a private prosecution against Rupert Murdoch.

♦♦♦

CORRECTIONS Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

A SLICKER FULL OF LIES

November 4, 2015

PIERS_MORGAN_part_5-1

THE CLOSEST Piers Morgan has come to standing in the dock was in 2000.

He was editor of the Daily Mirror.

The government launched an investigation after he made huge profits from shares tipped by the paper.

Two of his journalists were sacked and later convicted of manipulating the stock market.

One of them went to gaol.

Piers Morgan was not charged.

An internal inquiry by Mirror owners Trinity Mirror cleared him of any “impropriety or wrong-doing”.

The Press Complaints Commission “severely censured” Morgan.

But Mirror directors suppressed key material.

This corporate cover-up continues to this day.

It involves the paper instructing lawyers to deliberately mislead the Leveson Inquiry.

This is the first time the full story has been told … 

♦♦♦

FOR PIERS MORGAN the nightmare began one evening in February 2000. 

It was Tuesday, February 1.

That day he’d had a secret meeting with Arsenal Football Club about becoming the club’s managing director.

“But they couldn’t afford me,” he said.

This was followed by management meetings. 

He arrived back at his 22nd floor office in Canary Wharf at 7pm.

His secretary Kerrie Buckley told him the Daily Telegraph had left a message.

Business reporter Suzy Jagger had a question for Morgan:

“Did you buy shares in Viglen Technology through Kyte Securities on 17 January?”

In his 2005 memoirs, The Insider, Morgan remembers: 

“I froze to the spot”. 

He had indeed bought shares in Viglen — a company owned by Amstrad boss Alan Sugar — on that day.

It was also the day the Daily Mirror business column, City Slickers, were preparing an exclusive story about Viglen starting an internet business. 

The article made the company its tip of the day: 

“We expect the price, which closed last night at 180p, to double in a very short time,” it said.

“Get in quick for the pay-day of a lifetime.” 

The next day, 18 January 2000, the shares doubled in value — from 180 pence to 366 pence. 

TIPPING POINT THE INFAMOUS column of 17 January 2000 sparked a scandal for the Daily Mirror that remains a toxic legacy of Piers Morgan’s editorship. City Slickers was the brainchild of Piers Morgan and former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie who was a Mirror executive. Launched in May 1998 with a “ cheeky irreverent style”, it was soon riding the dotcom boom of the late 1990s. The share price of the column’s top ten tips for 1999 rose by 142 per cent.

TIPPING POINT
THE INFAMOUS column of 17 January 2000 sparked a scandal for the Daily Mirror that remains a toxic legacy of Piers Morgan’s editorship. City Slickers was the brainchild of Piers Morgan and Mirror executive — and former Sun editor — Kelvin MacKenzie. Launched in May 1998 with a “ cheeky irreverent style”, it was soon riding the dotcom boom of the late 1990s. The share price of the column’s top ten tips for 1999 rose by 142 per cent.

His secretary asked if he was OK.

“Well, I’m not sure, to be honest,” Morgan told her. 

“I bought some bloody shares a few weeks ago, and I think it’s about to crash around my ears.”

Morgan rang Jagger back and admitted he’d bought some shares. 

“Better to be open and up front in situations like these,” he wrote.

He also “called the Mirror lawyers and talked them through it all.” 

At 11pm that evening he saw the first editions of the Daily Telegraph which carried his admission that he’d bought £20,000 worth of Viglen shares.

Morgan was relieved: 

“… there was just a small, balanced story on a left-hand inside page.”

“I wasn’t too worried when I saw it: if they’d really thought I’d done something awful, it would have been on the front.”

But the Sun also saw the Telegraph piece.

It changed its later editions, putting the story on the front page  — and carried an editorial calling for Morgan’s resignation.

The next day directors of Trinity Mirror, owners of the Daily Mirror, were getting involved.

They called Morgan down to the executive offices on the 20th floor of the Canary Wharf tower block. 

He told John Allwod, deputy chief executive, he had no idea the City Slickers were going to tip the company.

Morgan said he’d only bought a small number of shares tipped by the City Slickers.

In all, he’d only bought shares on about twenty occasions: 

“ … and made hardly any money on anything”. 

The law firm Lovells were brought in to help the board with its investigation. 

Emails between Piers Morgan, his broker and the City Slickers were examined. 

Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell, the two journalists who wrote the City Slickers column, were questioned.

They said Piers Morgan didn’t know about the Viglen article. 

The investigation took just two days.

On February 4 Trinity Mirror issued a statement to the Stock Exchange saying that an internal investigation had taken place.

“The findings of this inquiry … supported by the group’s solicitors Lovells … show there are no grounds for any accusations of any impropriety or wrong-doing by Piers Morgan.” 

Morgan sold his shares and donated the profits to charity. 

♦♦♦

BUT THE crisis wouldn’t go away.

The Department of Trade & Industry announced an investigation and the Press Complaints Commission launched an inquiry.

On February 17, a month after the Viglen article was published, the City Slickers Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell were sacked for gross misconduct.

“A decision I was not allowed to take any part in,” Morgan later wrote, “but everyone will think I did to save my own scrawny neck”.

“I can sense a certain frostiness among some of the staff, and there are even rumours that some senior journalists are planning a vote of no confidence in me”.

MORGAN THE SLICKER PIERS MORGAN was a greedy editor. On one occasion he emailed Bhoyrul to congratulate him on a piece about a major City figure getting involved in Formula One motor racing. “

MORGAN THE SLICKER
PIERS MORGAN was an avid follower of the City Slickers. On one occasion he emailed Anil Bhoyrul to say “I need some ideas for my general Pep, which is bursting with profit from NXT [a share tipped by the column]. Got any good longer term suggestions for this year?” He also emailed Bhoyrul to congratulate him on a piece about a major City figure getting involved in Formula One motor racing. “”Great story. Does this mean free tickets to the grand prix all round?” Bhoyrul replied: “I already have free tickets to all grand prix.” Morgan replied: “You did, Anil, you did .”
Photo: PA

There was no rebellion.

But the strain was affecting Morgan.

At the Press Gazette awards in March 2000 he got drunk and lost his temper with the team from the Sun.

“Then one of the Sun lot, quite understandably, threw a punch at me, which missed, and all hell broke out — with journalists from the Mirror and the Sun trading shoves, slaps, kicks and abuse.”

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) completed its investigation in May 2000.

Unusually, its rules about financial reporting are more stringent than the criminal law.

Clause 14 of its Editors’ Code of Practice was clear:

“ … although it may not be illegal for journalists to buy shares about which they have recently written or are about to write, such purchases are forbidden by the Code.”

It heard from the senior of the two City Slickers, Anil Bhoyrul.

Bhoyrul had originally told the Trinity Mirror inquiry he had not informed Piers Morgan that the column was about to tip Viglen on January 17.

Now he changed his version of events.

He claimed he’d informed Morgan of the piece on the morning of January 17— and said Morgan later told him he’d purchased shares in the company.

Bhoyrul also confirmed he’d bought shares on at least six occasions which the column had tipped.

James Hipwell admitting 25 such purchases.

Morgan insisted his purchase of the Viglen shares was coincidental — he bought them several hours before the article tipping the company was written.

He didn’t tell the City Slickers he’d bought them.

There was, he said, a general buzz about the company and it was one of the City Slickers’ top ten tips for 2000.

There had been job adverts which indicated that an internet division was being planned.

A relative — a wealthy and apparently successful private investor — thought it a good company.

In an attempt to distance himself from the column, Morgan also claimed he’d had concerns about journalist James Hipwell.

He said he’d been tipped off that the journalist was “being investigated in respect of share dealings”.

Morgan claimed he discussed this with Bhoyrul in June 1999 and personally warned Hipwell not to buy shares in companies the column was tipping.

Bhoyrul and Hipwell denied Morgan had talked to them about this.

No evidence has ever emerged to back up Morgan’s assertion.

In May 2000 the Press Complaints Commission announced its findings.

It issued a “critical adjudication” which “severely censured” Piers Morgan and the City Slickers.

This was the most serious judgment it could make.

(It was the second time Piers Morgan had been censured — the first was in 1995 when he was editor of the News of the World.

See the Press Gang article Whodunnit? for more details.)

The Commission found Morgan had breached Clause 14.

He had bought shares in Viglen and another company.

The PCC did not consider it necessary to decide if he had known the Viglen shares were going to be tipped.

As editor, Morgan had also allowed the City Slickers to engage in “flagrant, multiple breaches of the code over a sustained period of time.”

Morgan had therefore “fallen short of the high professional standards demanded by the code”.

PCC chairman, Lord Wakeham, said there was a “clear climate of slack” at the paper.

The watchdog referred the matter to Philip Graf, Trinity Mirror’s chief executive, “in view of the unsatisfactory state of affairs revealed by this episode.”

According to the PCC, Trinity Mirror issued a “severe reprimand” to Morgan and a “written warning” about his management of the paper.

The PCC congratulated itself:

“This is an example of where the provisions of a tough industry Code are more onerous than the law and an example of the strength of effective self-regulation.”

There were no financial penalties, however.

Naturally, the Sun made the most of the ruling — its editorial verdict on Morgan:

“A lying spiv.”

♦♦♦

SIX MONTHS after the Commission’s ruling, the scandal erupted again. 

On 12 November 2000 the newspaper Sunday Business (it closed in 2006) published emails exchanged between Morgan and Bhoyrul.

The emails — also highlighted in other papers — had been deleted.

But inspectors from the Department of Trade & Industry were able to recover them from Trinity Mirror’s central servers.

One was sent by Morgan to Bhoyrul at 4.33pm on the afternoon of 17 January 2000 — the day he bought the Viglen shares.

KILLER EMAIL THE EXPLOSIVE Sunday Business article which gave the lie to Morgan’s claim that he had not told the City Slickers he’d bought shares in Viglen. The paper obtained an email from a source in the Department of Trade and Industry which was investigating Morgan. It showed Morgan discussing Viglen with one of the City Slickers before the paper went to press — and suggested he had also talked about the company before he bought shares …

KILLER EMAIL
THE EXPLOSIVE Sunday Business front page article which gave the lie to Morgan’s claim that he had not told the City Slickers he’d bought shares in Viglen. The paper obtained an email from a source in the Department of Trade and Industry which was investigating Morgan. It suggested Morgan discussed Viglen with one of the City Slickers before the article went to press …

Earlier that day, Bhoyrul claimed he’d urged Morgan to sell shares he held in a company called Pace Micro Technology — and invest the proceeds in Viglen.

He said Morgan told him he would buy into Viglen but keep the Pace shares.

After seeing the Pace shares rise, Bhoyrul said he e-mailed Morgan congratulating him on his decision to keep his stake.

Morgan sent a message back — at 4.33pm on the day he bought the shares — saying that he’d sold the Pace shares after all.

This crucial 10 word message reads:

“I sold them this morning for bloody Viglen. Congratulations halfwit.”

Bhoyrul told Sunday Business:

“I said I had an e-mail from Piers about Viglen that day, but it disappeared when I tried to recover it after I was sacked.”

“If it’s turned up, that’s very serious as the Mirror accused me of lying about it.”

Bhoyrul added:

“The Press Complaints Commission may have to look at this again.”

PCC director Guy Black played down the possibility of any new inquiry on the basis of the emails.

He said the Press Complaints Commission had never needed to consider the e-mails between Morgan and Bhoyrul as it was already clear the code had been breached.

“We haven’t been given any of this new evidence yet but a breach of the code is a breach of the code,” he said.

“The Commission found him guilty in the first place.”

“The existence of e-mails may add icing to the cake but it unlikely to change our decision.”

A Trinity Mirror spokesman claimed that the company had known about the e-mails for some time.

“We had a full investigation and nothing new has come to light that leads us to change our minds,” he said.

The PCC did not re-open the investigation.

At the time Morgan declined to comment.

When one reporter rang him, Morgan said “goodbye, mate” and hung up.

By the end of the 2000, it was clear Morgan had weathered the storm.

In April 2001 he signed a new contract — and became editor in chief of the Sunday Mirror as well as the Daily Mirror.

♦♦♦

IT TOOK the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) four years to complete its investigation.

It investigated Morgan because it suspected insider trading.

Insider trading is when employees of companies leak confidential information to outsiders so that shares can be bought before the price goes up.

Viglen was one of the companies investigated.

The shares had doubled as soon as the City Slickers tipped them.

It would later emerge that the Financial Services Authority had — secretly — censured Viglen for not declaring its intention to launch an internet “without delay”.

The rules of the Stock Exchange say price sensitive information should be announced via its own news service.

DTI inspectors interviewed Piers Morgan on several occasions but, in the end, could find no evidence of insider trading either in Viglen or any of the other shares he had bought.

It decided not to prosecute.

City Slickers Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell were charged along with a private investor with another offence — market manipulation under the Financial Services Act.

They had

“conspired to create a misleading impression as to the value of investments for the purpose of creating the impression and thereby inducing other persons to acquire those investments, by using the City Slickers column in the Daily Mirror to tip those investments.”

The prosecution case was that they operated a “first buy, then tip, then sell” policy.

Many of the shares they made a killing on subsequently dropped in value — thus cheating ordinary investors who’d followed the tips.

Ironically, the Viglen investments were not part of the prosecution.

Bhoyrul pleaded guilty — but Hipwell and the investor decided to fight the case.

JAMES HIPWELL THE CITY SLICKER'S decision to plead not guilty led to most of the story finally seeing the light of day. By the time he was sentenced to six months in gaol, he’d had a kidney transplant. Photo: PA

JAMES HIPWELL
THE CITY SLICKER’S decision to plead not guilty led to most of the story finally seeing the light of day. By the time he was sentenced to six months in gaol, he’d had a kidney transplant.
Photo: PA

It was this decision that, finally, brought a fuller version of the scandal into the open.

The trial started at Southwark Crown Court in London in October 2005.

(By then Piers Morgan was no longer Mirror editor.

He’d been sacked in May 2004 after he published photos of British soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq which turned out to be fakes.)

The prosecution said Hipwell made a profit of £41,000 buying and selling shares that were tipped between August 1999 and February 2000.

Bhoyrul made £15,000 in the same period.

Hipwell said he made no secret of his trading and bought shares in his own name.

In the witness box, he said Piers Morgan told him:

“ … if we were in the business of tipping shares he was happy for us to trade and even used the analogy along the lines of you would not learn to drive a car from somebody who had never been in a car.”

To back up his version of events, the defence was to make a series of sensational revelations.

The thrust of these was that there had been a deliberate cover-up by Morgan and directors of Trinity Mirror.

♦♦♦

THE FIRST bombshell was that Morgan and Trinity Mirror had not been telling the truth about the extent of Morgan’s dealing in Viglen shares. 

For nearly five years it was believed Morgan had only bought £20,000 worth of shares.

In fact, the figure was more than three times greater — £67,000.

Morgan had said that he bought the shares on a whim.

In fact, he spent a considerable amount of time and effort in acquiring the shares on 17 January 2000.

Hipwell’s barrister spelt it out:

12.33pm
Morgan arranges for the purchase of 6,884 Viglen shares worth £12,805 through his then wife Marion’s tax-free private equity plan (PEP).

12.45pm
Twelve minutes later, Morgan uses his own PEP to buy a further 19,632 shares worth £36,074.

3.28pm
Morgan rings his broker Antony Laiker at stockbrokers Kyte Securities and buys a final block of 10,000 shares worth £18,275.

This is nine minutes after the Mirror’s editorial computer records Anil Bhoyrul filing the Viglen piece — at 3.19pm.

Morgan’s final purchase is made through a nominee account, a legal device which hides the identity of the purchaser.

It is this last purchase which generates the original tip-off — probably from someone inside Kyte Securities — that Morgan had bought £20,000 worth of shares in the company.

Reporters in court were shocked by this revelation.

It was quickly followed by another.

It was revealed that other journalists had also bought shares in Viglen on the same day: business editor Clinton Manning, news editor David Leigh and reporter Ian Miller.

And other senior figures had bought other shares later tipped by the City Slickers.

They included deputy editor Tina Weaver and the paper’s lawyer Martin Cruddace.

Cruddace is a close friend of Piers Morgan.

In 2010, Morgan wrote of Cruddace:

“A finer, more loyal, trusted colleague and friend it would be impossible to find.”

GAMBLING MAN MARTIN CRUDDACE, the Daily Mirror’s legal manager during the City Slickers scandal, is one of Piers Morgan’s closest friends. In 1999 he organised a syndicate with Piers Morgan and James Hipwell to buy stakes in a racehorse called Ledham. When Morgan was kicked out by his wife in 2000 — after he started an affair with Sun journalist Marina Hyde — Cruddace put him up in his London flat. Cruddace left the Mirror in 2002 and has worked in the gambling industry ever since. Photo: Betfair

GAMBLING MAN
MARTIN CRUDDACE, the Daily Mirror legal manager during the City Slickers scandal, is one of Piers Morgan’s best friends. In 1999 he organised a syndicate with Piers Morgan and James Hipwell to buy a racehorse called Ledham. When Morgan was kicked out by his wife in 2000 — after he started an affair with Sun journalist Marina Hyde — Cruddace put him up in his London flat. Cruddace left the Mirror in 2002 and has worked in the gambling industry ever since.
Photo: Betfair

It was the lawyer’s job to advise Morgan about libel and the Press Complaints Commission’s Editors’ Code.

He also took a close interest in the City Slickers column after the industrialist Victor Kiam sued the Mirror in 1999.

Kiam was later awarded more than £100,000 in damages.

Cruddace also invested £6,500 in several companies — but not Viglen — before they were tipped by the City Slickers.

His mother, his girlfriend and her father also bought shares in some of these firms.

Cruddace told the jury he “regretted” the purchases but insisted it was a “coincidence” they were later tipped by the Slickers.

In his evidence Hipwell claimed he’d asked Cruddace if the column should carry a warning that the City Slickers held shares in some of the companies they were tipping.

He says Cruddace told him it wasn’t appropriate.

Cruddace said he couldn’t remember the conversation but accepted it might have taken place.

At the trial Hipwell also alleged that Cruddace — and deputy editor Tina Weaver — put pressure on him to protect Morgan.

Both denied this allegation.

The jury also heard the transcript of a phone call between Anil Bhoyrul and his broker Richard Grossman of stockbrokers Redmayne Bentley.

Grossman also acted for Hipwell.

Bhoyrul was concerned about buying shares that he and Hipwell were tipping.

“We have been sort of been asking our people at the Mirror …”, he said, “When we tip something, if we have shares in something, is it a problem?”

Grossman replied:

“It’s all to do with something called morality …”

“As far as the law is concerned, I am very surprised your company doesn’t have rules on it.”

Grossman admitted he and other Redmayne Bentley employees also bought shares tipped by the City Slickers but denied the purchases were influenced by the column.

Once again, it was just coincidence …

♦♦♦

THERE WAS another dramatic development when a statement from public relations man Nick Hewer was read out.

Hewer — later to become famous as one of Alan Sugar’s advisers on the television programme The Apprentice — represented Viglen in 2000.

Hewer said that on the day Morgan bought his shares Bhoyrul rang him for a quote for the Viglen story.

After the storm broke in February, he rang him again.

Hewer said Bhoyrul:

“explained that Piers was in trouble and that we needed to help him.”

Hewer was asked to tell the law firm Lovells, who were helping Trinity Mirror executives with their investigation, that the call from Bhoyrul on January 17 came much later than it actually had.

This would show that Bhoyrul wrote the Viglen article late on January 17 — long after Morgan bought his last batch of shares in the company.

“I explained I was unable to help as all the facts were locked in a letter to the Stock Exchange from Viglen,” Hewer wrote.

“This suggestion placed me in a difficult position …”

“My living was to deal with these people and I again explained I could not be pressured into saying anything.”

The statement also revealed that Hewer subsequently spoke personally to Piers Morgan.

They discussed the timing of Bhoyrul’s phone call and Morgan suggested it would be “helpful if the time of the clearance quote could be pushed back from the time it was actually made.”

Hewer told Morgan he was not prepared to lie — but agreed to say the call was made “late in the afternoon”.

(Morgan denies this allegation.

He told Press Gazette after the trial that it was “absolutely cock and bull rubbish”.

“I never asked Nick Hewer to lie.”)

Solicitor Graham Livingston, who carried out the Lovells inquiry into the scandal on behalf of Trinity Mirror, was questioned about Hewer’s testimony when he gave evidence.

He was asked if he would have cleared Morgan of “impropriety or wrong-doing” if he’d known that Hewer had been asked to lie.

Livingston said he would not.

TWO FACED? PIERS MORGAN says Nick Hewer — now the presenter of Channel 4’s Countdown programme — is lying when he claims the former Mirror editor asked him to lie on his behalf ... Photo: PA

TWO FACED?
PIERS MORGAN says Nick Hewer — now the presenter of Channel 4’s Countdown programme — is lying when he claims the former Mirror editor asked him to lie on his behalf …
Photo: PA

It was during the trial that the fact that the Financial Services Authority had censured Viglen for not declaring its decision to launch an internet site “without delay” was revealed.

The criticism had never been made public.

Hipwell’s defence was that he was open about his share dealing — and only did so because Piers Morgan and other senior reporters and executives were also doing it.

The jury wasn’t impressed — and he and the private investor were convicted.

He was sentenced to six months in prison.

Mr Justice Beatson said the sentence would have been longer had Hipwell not been suffering from kidney failure.

And he added:

“There was no guidance from your superiors or from in-house lawyers, and there was evidence of a culture of advance information about tips — and share dealing in the office.”

“I also take into account the fact there was no formal code of conduct for journalists at the Daily Mirror.”

The private investor was gaoled for three months.

Anil Bhoyrul, who admitted the offence, was ordered to serve 180 hours of community service.

♦♦♦

THE TRIAL was an eye-opener for Roy Greenslade, former Mirror editor turned media commentator.

He felt the Press Complaints Commission had been conned by Piers Morgan and Trinity Mirror back in 2000 into believing he’d only purchased £20,000 worth of Viglen shares.

Greenslade believed several Trinity Mirror executives had conspired to give false evidence to the Commission.

Morgan, he thought, would have found it difficult to survive as Mirror editor if the true scale of his dealings in Viglen had been known.

He asked the Commission to reinvestigate.

ROY GREENSLADE THE MEDIA commentator — and a former Daily Mirror editor — was shocked by the revelations which emerged during the City Slickers trial in 2005. He believed Piers Morgan and the Mirror had deliberately deceived the Press Complaints Commission back in 2000. Photo: Roy Greenslade

ROY GREENSLADE
THE MEDIA commentator — and former Daily Mirror editor — was shocked by the revelations which emerged during the City Slickers trial in 2005. He believed Piers Morgan and Mirror directors had deliberately deceived the Press Complaints Commission back in 2000.
Photo: Roy Greenslade

The PCC asked Trinity Mirror to explain why it had suppressed the full value of Morgan’s Viglen purchases.

The PCC reported that the company

“told the Commission it almost became a touchstone of the veracity of Messrs Bhoyrul and Hipwell as to whether they could show independent knowledge of the total of £67,000.”

Directors decided to hold back the total amount involved.

As a result, it had sent the Commission an edited version of the report prepared by the law firm Lovells.

The Commission “considered the logic” behind the company’s strategy “weak”:

“… it was a matter of regret” that the company had “for whatever reason — submitted a partial account of Mr Morgan’s share dealings to the Commission which had the effect of misleading it.”

The Commission also criticised the company for not issuing a statement after the trial explaining why it had suppressed the true amount of Morgan’s Viglen holdings.

But it had “not found evidence to suggest that directors … had conspired to present untruthful evidence to … protect Mr Morgan and to minimise the Commission’s criticisms.”

Roy Greenslade told Press Gang he was convinced the Commission — had it known the full facts — would have issued “an even harsher judgment than it did”:

“In the PCC’s previous verdict against Morgan, over a breach of the Code when he was editor of the News of the World, the chairman had prevailed on the paper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, to admonish him in public.”

“The PCC could have done that over the Viglen affair too and that would have placed the Trinity Mirror board under pressure to fire him.”

He was certain Trinity Mirror management had been

“… complicit in allowing Morgan to escape the appropriate PCC censure.”

One key fact was left out of the Commission’s consideration — the “killer email” Morgan sent to Bhoyrul at 4.33pm on the day he bought his shares.

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IT TOOK five years before the inside story of the City Slickers scandal finally saw the light of day.

But Trinity Mirror continues to deny key elements of it to this day.

David Seymour — political editor of the Mirror newspapers from 1993 to 2007 — made a statement to the Leveson Inquiry in 2012.

He said he had openly expressed concern about the City Slickers long before the scandal broke.

Of the Viglen affair he wrote:

“There was, in my view, a ‘killer email’ showing conclusively that the editor knew what was going on.”

This is a reference to the 4.33pm email Piers Morgan sent Anil Bhoyrul on 17 January 2000.

Trinity Mirror instructed the law firm Herbert Smith to contest this allegation.

In a letter to the Inquiry, Herbert Smith stated:

“Mr Seymour’s allegation … that there was a ’killer email showing conclusively’ that former editor of the Daily Mirror Piers Morgan ’knew what was going on’ in respect of the City Slickers matter, is wrong.”

KILLER EMAIL v URBAN MYTH THIS IS the email David Seymour believed proved Piers Morgan knew the City Slickers were going to tip the Viglen shares. It was published in the Sunday Business in November 2000. Trinity Mirror say it's an

KILLER EMAIL v URBAN MYTH
THE EMAIL former Mirror political editor David Seymour believes proved Piers Morgan knew the City Slickers were going to tip the Viglen shares was reproduced in the Sunday Business in November 2000. Trinity Mirror told the Leveson Inquiry the email was an “urban myth” …

“Trinity Mirror informs us that the existence of such an email was an ’urban myth’ during the City Slickers saga.”

“No such email was ever found despite a thorough investigation by the DTI — which included … the seizure of a number of personal computer hard drives including those of Messrs Morgan, Hipwell and Bhoyrul.”

This article has already shown that this ‘killer email’ — the 4.33pm  email Morgan sent to Anil Bhoyrul on the day of his Viglen share purchases — had been revealed in November 2000.

When Seymour wrote to the Inquiry to give further evidence about the email, he was told that there wasn’t time to add new material…

We asked Trinity Mirror for a comment.

Company secretary Jeremy Rhodes said:

“The contents of your email are noted.”

♦♦♦ 

ONE INTRIGUING question emerges out of this Press Gang investigation.

In 2000 Piers Morgan said he had sold his shares in Viglen — and donated the profits to charity.

MORALLY DEFUNCT AFTER THE trial of the City Slickers in 2005, Piers Morgan told the Independent on Sunday: “I fully accept that I’m a morally defunct human being.” At the height of the scandal, in 2000, he told actress Kate Winslet “ … you don’t get to be the editor of the Daily Mirror without being a fairly despicable human being.” Photo: PA

MORALLY DEFUNCT
AFTER THE trial of the City Slickers in 2005, Piers Morgan told the Independent on Sunday: “I fully accept that I’m a morally defunct human being.” At the height of the scandal, in 2000, he also told actress Kate Winslet — in a conversation about her unlisted telephone number — “ … you don’t get to be the editor of the Daily Mirror without being a fairly despicable human being.”
Photo: PA

At that time, he was only admitting to owning £20,000 worth of shares.

But he and his wife actually owned £67,000 worth.

So did he donate just the profits from the £20,000 block — or did it also include the proceeds of the entire £67,000 investment?

We put this to Piers Morgan this morning.

There was no answer by the time this piece was published.

♦♦♦

NOTE
This is the fifth instalment of the series A Pretty Despicable Man.
Already published are
Dial M For Morgan
Down In The Gutter
Assault On The Bank Of England
Whodunnit?
Click on a title to read the article.

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© Press Gang
Published: 4 November 2015
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COMING UP 
THE MIRROR: CRACK’D FROM SIDE TO SIDE
WHEN THE Daily Mirror started recruiting former Murdoch journalists — like Piers Morgan — it committed itself to the use of the “dark arts” as a way of competing with the Sun. The full extent of the moral corruption of one of Britain’s greatest newspapers is only just beginning to emerge. And yet an ostrich-like management continues to deny the full extent of the catastrophe. Part Six of A Pretty Despicable Man says it’s time the company cleaned out the stables once and for all … 

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