A private investigator at the centre of a row over a secret list of blue-chip companies that hired corrupt private detectives has claimed they are being protected by the police.
Graham Freeman, one of four private detectives jailed last year for stealing confidential information on behalf of big business clients, says publication of the names of the companies would rock the City and lead to high-profile prosecutions.He claims the police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) are also reluctant to release the details because it would expose their own failure to investigate serious fraud allegations over years.
Last year’s case prompted SOCA secretly to compile a list of 102 names of well-known financial institutions, law firms and insurance companies all linked to the corrupt investigators.Freeman is the first of the four detectives to break his silence about SOCA’s controversial list and the extent of the alleged conspiracy.His revelations will add to concerns that while Lord Justice Leveson has dealt with some newspapers’ use of criminal private detectives, nothing has been done to tackle the much greater use of them in the City.
Freeman told The Mail on Sunday last night that City clients sometimes turned to private investigators because the police failed to investigate claims of property and investment fraud.Freeman, who lives in Spain and now works on maritime security, was jailed for six months last year for conspiring to defraud by ‘blagging’ – or stealing – personal information through phone calls to banks and companies.The investigation was led by SOCA and codenamed Millipede because its ‘legs’ connected so many financial institutions, firms and high- profile figures to the work of corrupt private investigators (PIs).
But before the trial started, SOCA and the Crown Prosecution Service took the decision not to let the names of the PI clients become public knowledge. None of the clients’ names was read out in court as would have been customary.Instead, SOCA, often described as Britain’s version of the FBI, secretly compiled a list of many of the country’s best-known financial institutions, law firms and insurance companies linked to the four PIs convicted in the case.It is this list that was finally surrendered to Parliament by SOCA last week, but only on the strict condition that it was kept under lock and key and not shown to the public.
SOCA claimed names could not be released because of human rights concerns or the risk of harm to the companies’ commercial interests. MPs now want to know which companies on the list behaved illegally.Freeman, who was released from Wandsworth Prison in London after just eight weeks, warns that the SOCA list is a ‘Pandora’s Box’ which, once opened, will bring about a criminal investigation that will end in the jailing of dozens of bankers, lawyers and boardroom executives.He says any of the PI clients that requested the information could be charged with the same conspiracy for which he and the three other detectives were jailed.
He said: ‘If they were to name our clients, on the evidence we were charged on, our clients would be open to the same conspiracy [charges].’In 2011, Freeman, 52, Daniel Summers, 33, Philip Campbell Smith, 54, and former policeman Adam John Spears, 73, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud. Freeman, who received the shortest sentence, says he was working for three major clients at the time – a law firm in the south of England, an international foreign exchange company and a third unidentified company.
His detective agency, Brookmans International, was at the centre of the trade in personal information ‘blagged’, or stolen, from banks and Government agencies.Freeman and business partner Campbell Smith, a former Army intelligence officer, used Summers, who specialised in ‘blagging’ private data by calling banks, phone companies and other organisations and impersonating ‘targets’ or pretending to be an employee to obtain confidential details.Freeman, who was a co-director of Brookmans and has also provided personal security for celebrities including Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, still refuses to name his clients because he says he doesn’t want to go through any more court proceedings.
But he told The Mail on Sunday: ‘SOCA doesn’t want to give up the Millipede names because if they did, they would be forced to investigate them and charge them for conspiracy to defraud as they did us. On that list are the names of law firms, banks and insurance companies who all used private detectives for all sorts of reasons.’He said many of the cases he was involved with were driven by a police refusal to act and commit resources to investigate fraud.
‘One solicitor who hired me had 35 clients who had lost millions in a property scam. The police didn’t want to know, so she resorted to private investigators,’ he said.A SOCA spokesman said that while further investigations were on-going, the information provided to MPs ‘does not allege that the individuals and companies named in it . . . have or even may have committed a criminal offence.’He added: ‘Evidence chosen to be presented to the court is a matter for the CPS.’ – DailyMail