Thanks to Steve – Laura
Murdoch driver: I told Jeremy Hunt about cash drops to Met police at Hyde Park tennis courts
- Ex-News International chauffeur delivered ‘£5,000 bungs’ – and will now send report to Leveson inquiry
- Embattled Minister alerted Chief Constable after extraordinary tip-off
- Paul Maley claims he delivered 17 packages to 10 Metropolitan Police officers
- Saga took fresh twist when Mr Maley was accused of ‘impersonating a police officer’
- He claims charges were trumped up to portray him as a fantasist – and he was acquitted on the grounds of a lack of evidence
By Glen Owen
UPDATED: 21:11 GMT, 12 May 2012|
Cash drops: Paul Maley, who has chauffeured Rupert Murdoch says he told Jeremy Hunt about ‘bungs’
The controversy over Jeremy Hunt’s dealings with Rupert Murdoch’s empire took a bizarre twist last night after it emerged he held a meeting with one of the mogul’s former drivers to discuss his alleged role in illegal payments to police.
Paul Maley, who worked as a News International chauffeur for four years until 2009, is preparing extraordinary evidence for the Leveson Inquiry in which he is expected to reveal a 40-minute encounter with the Culture Secretary.
Mr Maley told Mr Hunt during the meeting last September that he handed more than a dozen packages containing cash to police officers while working for the company.
He also told Mr Hunt that his lawyers had a ‘black book’, which had been held by News International drivers and contained the names of the allegedly corrupt officers. He said it was being kept under ‘lock and key’ in a secret location.
Mr Maley claimed in the meeting that since passing his information to the police he had become the target of a ‘campaign of intimidation’ designed to deter him from identifying the officers who took the payments – including threatening phone calls, damage to his car and even dog excrement posted through his letterbox.
The driver alleges Mr Hunt ‘fobbed him off’ – claims which were strenuously denied by the Cabinet Minister last night.
Mr Maley’s evidence is being submitted by Collyer Bristow Solicitors, who have successfully represented a number of phone hacking victims, including Lord Prescott, in their battle for compensation from News International.
The company confirms that Mr Maley worked as a driver but will not comment publicly on his claims.
However, one senior source last night questioned his ‘credibility’ and accused him of ‘going around trying to hawk his story for months’.
But friends of Mr Maley said: ‘Paul has been banging his head against a brick wall trying to get his story out, but no one will believe him. Leveson is a chance for him to set out the facts.’
Senior Labour sources said last night that MP Tom Watson, who has campaigned for full disclosure on phone hacking and illegal payments, believed Mr Maley, 43, to be a credible witness.
The Culture Secretary’s job has been hanging in the balance since last month when his special adviser Adam Smith was forced to resign. Mr Smith secretly passed on privileged information on News Corp’s takeover bid for BSkyB while Mr Hunt was supposed to be ruling on the bid as an impartial quasi-judicial watchdog.
Driver: Rupert Murdoch has been driven by former News International chauffeur Paul Maley who worked for the newspaper company until 2009
Mr Hunt secured a stay-of-execution by pleading to be allowed to argue his case when he appears at Leveson within the next few weeks.
But Labour yesterday stepped up calls for Mr Hunt’s resignation following the disclosure of a bombshell email to the inquiry on Friday which alleged that Mr Hunt asked News Corporation to ‘guide his and No 10’s thinking’ on the unfolding phone hacking scandal.
Mr Maley is expected to claim in his evidence that while working for News International between 2005 and 2009 most of his time was spent driving Clive Milner, the Chief Operating Officer – but that he also chauffeured other senior figures, including Rupert Murdoch, in Mr Milner’s BMW 740IL.
He recalls driving Mr Murdoch from a lunch at Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair back to the Wapping plant in East London.
Meeting: Mr Maley said he held a 40 minute meeting with Jeremy Hunt, he claimed
The company was last night unable to confirm the identity of the executives driven by Mr Maley.
Between 2006 and 2007 Mr Maley alleges that he delivered a total of 17 packages containing cash to ten police officers stationed around London.
Mr Maley says he only realised that he was delivering money during the third journey. This was when he opened a package and counted up to £3,000 before re-sealing it. He estimates that it probably contained around £5,000 in total.
He claims the packages were always handed over in public locations, such as by tennis courts in London’s Hyde Park. He would park up and wait for the recipient – briefed in advance about Mr Maley’s description and licence plate number – to approach his car.
Another popular handover location was ‘close to the London Dungeon’.
The police are carrying out two parallel investigations into alleged criminal activity by journalists. Operation Weeting was launched in January 2011 to examine the phone hacking allegations which led to the closure of the News of the World. Meanwhile Operation Elveden started six months later to look into claims of inappropriate payments to police.
After Mr Maley reported his allegations to the police last summer – which if accurate could lead to him being charged with aiding and abetting any offences – he says he was subject to a prolonged campaign of harassment, which is still ongoing, at the home he shares with his wife in Haslemere, Surrey.
On September 30, Mr Maley met Mr Hunt, his constituency MP, to ask him to help stop the intimidation.
Mr Maley claims that he had no further contact from Mr Hunt and that his phone calls to the constituency office went unanswered.
He also believes Mr Hunt should have done more to publicise his plight to help protect him, and believes that he was inhibited by his friendships with News International executives.
But last night a spokeswoman for the Culture Secretary said that after meeting Mr Maley, Mr Hunt had written to the then Chief Constable of Surrey Police, Mark Rowley, the head of Operation Elveden, Sue Akers.
The spokeswoman said that the Chief Constable wrote to Jeremy on October 3 to say that he had been in touch with both the Met Police and Mr Maley regarding the driver’s allegations.
A fortnight later they received a letter from Mr Maley to say he would be appearing at Guildford police station to detail his claims of harassment.
The spokeswoman added that Mr Hunt had written to the Met Police again in November to request an update on the case.
She said: ‘Mr Maley made allegations about criminal activity in his meeting with Jeremy Hunt. Jeremy thought the best course of action was to report those allegations to both the Surrey and Metropolitan Police. This approach was agreed with Mr Maley.’
Axe: Adam Smith, Mr Hunt’s special adviser, who was forced to stand down as the Culture Secretary came under pressure over his links to News International
Shortly after meeting Mr Hunt, Mr Maley claims he was contacted by a senior figure at News International who said, ‘I understand that you have an artefact’ – which Mr Maley says is a reference to the diary – and suggesting they ‘sort this out’.
The saga took a fresh twist in January this year when Mr Maley was tried at Guildford Crown Court on charges of impersonating a police officer.
The driver believes that the case was trumped-up as part of efforts to discredit him and portray him as a fantasist. The judge acquitted him on the grounds of lack of evidence.
Mr Maley’s defence lawyers say the prosecution was in possession of documents which would have helped Mr Maley’s case but were barred from handing them over by order of a Public Interest Immunity Certificate – a ruling which allow government ministers, prosecutors, police and even private companies to ensure evidence remains secret from those facing trial. The Crown Prosecution Service refused to comment on the abandoned case.
A News International spokesperson said: ‘Any evidence of wrong doing should be passed to the police as part of its Operation Elveden investigation.
‘News International is co-operating fully with the Leveson Inquiry and News Corporation’s Management and Standards Committee is assisting the Police with its on-going investigations. News International declines to make any further comment.’
Collyer Bristow’s Steven Heffer who is representing Mr Maley, said: ‘I can confirm I have been instructed to prepare a statement for submission to the police, the Leveson Inquiry and others, concerning certain payments made in 2006 and 2007’.
A spokesman for Leveson said: ‘We would not comment on any evidence which may or may not come to the Inquiry’.
It’s Nadinistas v Cameroons – Dorries accuses Osborne ‘gang’
by SIMON WALTERS and BRENDAN CARLIN
Supporters of rebel Tory MP Nadine Dorries last night claimed George Osborne was behind a ‘mob-handed’ attack on her by loyal Conservatives at a secret Commons meeting.
Conservative MP Kris Hopkins rounded on Ms Dorries and fellow Tory critics of Mr Osborne and David Cameron at a heated meeting of the party’s backbench 1922 Committee.
The rebels claimed Mr Hopkins and his allies were ‘put up to it’ by the Chancellor and Prime Minister in a bid to silence growing dissent in Tory ranks.
Quips: Ms Dorries with Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You on Friday
They said Mr Hopkins was spotted leaving Mr Osborne’s Westminster office hours before he ambushed Ms Dorries and her supporters – dubbed ‘Nadinistas,’ after the Left-wing Sandinista revolutionaries in Central America.
Mr Hopkins last night admitted he had met Mr Osborne but refused to say what they talked about. However, The Mail on Sunday understands the two men did discuss the 1922 committee meeting.
The row followed Ms Dorries’s strident call in this newspaper last week for Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne to step down to avoid a Tory defeat at the next Election.
It led to a ferocious backlash at a series of private meetings and in exchanges between the ‘Nadinistas’ and the ‘Cameroons’.
Mail on Sunday last weekend
Tory MP Anna Soubry reportedly said that colleagues who were openly disloyal to Mr Cameron ‘should be shot’. At the 1922 Committee meeting, Ms Dorries faced cries of ‘treason’, ‘shameful’ and ‘disgusting’ from opponents in what one MP said was ‘clearly a mob-handed, orchestrated operation by the party leadership’.
Witnesses said that ex-soldier Mr Hopkins said: ‘We need more discipline in this organisation. If that does not work, these people should be thrown out of the party.’
Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson defended Ms Dorries, saying: ‘The Tories have always been a broad church and critics have a right to be heard.’
But Devizes MP Claire Perry reportedly interrupted him, shouting: ‘Who cares!’ Mr Jackson hit back: ‘I have been an MP longer than some people here have been in the party and we all know who I am talking about, Ms Perry.’
But Ms Dorries continued her attacks when she appeared on BBC1’s Have I Got News For You on Friday. She ridiculed last Tuesday’s Coalition relaunch by Mr Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg for looking like a ‘re-affirmation of marriage vows’ ceremony. When panellist Ian Hislop said Mr Clegg was the bride, Ms Dorries quipped: ‘We know what happens to the bride on a wedding night, don’t we!’
Mr Hopkins denied plotting with Mr Osborne and sources close to the Chancellor also insisted they had not discussed the 1922 committee. Ms Soubry and Ms Perry both denied the remarks.
Elections for the 1922 executive, where Cameron loyalists are bidding to unseat Tory rebels, take place this week.