Thursday 21 November 2019

Questions for RTE as disgraced private eye says it used his services

Jonathan Rees: sentenced to six years in 2001
Jonathan Rees: sentenced to six years in 2001

Greg Harkin

A controversial private investigator at the centre of the British hacking scandal has claimed to have sold his services to RTE.

Jonathan Rees (56) is at the centre of two separate police investigations in England over his role in providing information to media outlets there.

He was paid up to £150,000 (€187,000) a year by the 'News of the World' for providing information from corrupt police officers and other illegal sources.

But a legal document obtained by the Irish Independent shows how Rees once claimed to have been hired by Ireland's state broadcaster.

In an affidavit provided to the UK's Criminal Cases Review Commission, Rees named RTE as being one of the clients of his firm Southern Investigations.

He was jailed for six years after an undercover Metropolitan Police operation caught him trying to frame a woman at the centre of a custody battle.

In September 1999, the unit's anti-corruption unit charged him with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

In 2001, he was sentenced to six years in prison, increased to seven years on appeal.

In his affidavit for the appeal, Rees wrote: "During the 1990s my company received more and more instructions from the media, especially the red-top papers, 'News of the World', 'Sunday Mirror', 'The Sun', 'The Daily Mirror' and other media sources such as the 'Express', 'Guardian', 'BBC Panorama' programme and Irish TV company RTE.

"Our normal business activities and media work placed us in daily contact with serving police officers, several of whom supplied stories that we would pass on to our journalist contacts for a fee."

He did not expand on his Irish work, but reliable sources have told the Irish Independent that Rees was regularly used for surveillance operations and for the procurement of private personal information here.

To date, however, the Metropolitan Police have not had any contact from gardai.

"Crucial to this is the fact that undercover Met police detectives had surveillance of Rees for a six-month period and there may well be evidence in those records of his work in Ireland," said one source.

Hacking

An RTE spokeswoman said: "An initial trawl of the company's records could find no record of any payments made to either Jonathan Rees or Southern Investigations."

She said, however, that she could not "rule out" that Rees was used as "many of the people who would have been in news and current affairs in the 1990s are no longer with RTE".

Two Met police investigations involve new probes into Rees -- Operation Weeting which is examining phone-hacking claims, and Operation Tuleta, a probe into the hacking of computers.

Irish Independent

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