Senior British journalist implicated in hacking scandal: BBC

15th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's ongoing newspaper phone-hacking scandal intensified Monday after the BBC's Panorama programme accused a former senior journalist of hiring a private eye to illegally obtain army secrets.

The BBC current affairs show claimed that Alex Marunchak, former senior executive editor of the News of the World tabloid, employed a private detective to intercept emails from the computer of an ex-army intelligence officer.

According to the programme, the private detective introduced Marunchak to a a hacker who was able to access Ian Hurst's account, which included secret information relating to the former soldier's time serving in Northern Ireland.

Marunchak is the most senior figure to be implicated in the scandal which was revealed when two of the paper's employees were jailed in 2007 for hacking the voicemail messages of Princes William and Harry.

At the time, no senior editors were questioned, but London's Metropolitan Police (MPS) reopened their investigation in January after the tabloid, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, provided police with fresh information.

The police force refused to say if it would consider the BBC's evidence in their probe.

"Any police investigation follows the evidence and where this exists, or can be developed, and meets a suitable prosecution standard, the (prosecutors' office) recommends appropriate charges," a statement said.

"The phone-hacking investigation led to the first ever prosecutions for telephone voicemail interception. This successful prosecution did not rely on evidence from any other investigation," the statement added.

"Following the provision of significant new evidence... the MPS has reopened the phone hacking investigation. As this is ongoing it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this time."

Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the paper after the royal hacking came to light but insisted he had known nothing about the incident.

Coulson was then hired by Prime Minister David Cameron to serve as communications chief but quit his role in January, saying the row was proving too distracting.

© 2011 AFP

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