British minister hired private detectives to spy on aides

10th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British justice minister on Friday admitted hiring private investigators to spy on colleagues, after publication of their findings revealed they thought he was dishonest, lazy and a "disaster" who needed to be removed.

Jonathan Djanogly, a lawmaker in Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party, admitted he might have "overreacted" by using the investigators to unearth their private criticisms of him following allegations about his parliamentary expenses.

But he insisted they had not acted illegally and said he had not used public money to pay for the probe, which he said was sparked by a series of "very malicious, anonymous attacks on my family."

An aide to Cameron said he agreed Djanogly had gone over the top but said: "He will be judged as a minister on the work he does for the government."

Djanogly, who represents an eastern English constituency once held by former Conservative prime minister John Major, spoke out after the results of the private probe were published in The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

The paper revealed that investigators had been instructed by Djanogly to conduct "discreet inquiries under the pretext of writing a newspaper article."

They questioned Peter Brown, the minister's election agent who reportedly described Djanogly as "lazy", as well as another senior colleague who said the minister was "dishonest" over his expenses.

Yet another colleague told an investigator: "He has been a disaster and we need to de-select him (remove him as a lawmaker), but it will take time."

The junior minister at the Ministry of Justice ordered the probe by Morris Chase International, which reportedly cost more than 5,000 pounds (7,700 dollars, 6,000 euros), after the Telegraph alleged last July that he had claimed 13,000 pounds in expenses to pay a Polish student who was working for his family as an au pair.

In a statement Friday, Djanogly said: "Following a series of malicious allegations made against me in newspapers last year, I felt I had to act to find out who was spreading these untrue stories."

He said he was "very disappointed" that the investigators' report had been published, adding: "I am sorry if some people judge that I made a mistake.

"With hindsight I can see that I may have overreacted, but I was being subjected to very malicious, anonymous attacks on my family."

© 2010 AFP

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