Entries from February 2012 ↓

Lin Homer has responded but not confirmed whether the HMRC will investigate cash payments at News International

Text of letter for those who can’t see iframes:

Date 24 February 2012

Dear Mr Watson,

Thank you for your letter of 17 February 2012 about allegations of payments made by News International and their subsidiary companies to public officials and the tax implications.

As you acknowledge in your letter there are several ongoing police investigations into aspects of the allegations to which you refer. I can confirm that we will look to remain in contact with the police as their investigations develop. All information received by HMRC into possible non-payment of tax is assessed and a decision made on the most appropriate course of action. However, as you may be aware, HMRC is bound by legislative obligations which impose a high level of confidentiality over all of the taxpayer data it holds; this means that we may not disclose any information about a particular taxpayer including updates on any steps taken in consequence of informations received.

Please accept my thanks for taking the time to raise the concern with me.

Yours sincerely,

Lin Homer
Chief Executive.

Request to the HMRC to investigate the tax arrangements of public officials in receipt of cash payments from News International

Ms Lin Homer
Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary
HM Revenue and Customs
100 Parliament Street
London
SW1A 2BQ

17 February 2012

Dear Ms Homer,

THE SUN NEWSPAPER AND CASH PAYMENTS TO PUBLIC OFFICIALS

I am writing to ask you to investigate allegations that News International, and their subsidiary companies, reportedly made payments to public officials that have been undeclared to the Revenue for tax purposes. As you may be aware, ten current and former senior staff at The Sun were recently arrested in connection with making, or receiving, such corrupt payments as part of Operation Elveden by Scotland Yard.

A widely reported source from the Managements and Standards Committee of the company briefed the press on 15 February 2012 that public officials were receiving regular payments from the company, and were effectively on retainers. My own confidential source, who has knowledge of company payments, has told me that these cash in hand transactions amounted to at least a seven figure sum, and were deliberately made without deduction of tax and National Insurance contributions.

I am also informed public officials who were in receipt of cash payments, some of which are reported to run into tens of thousands of pounds, failed to declare this on their Self Assessment tax returns. The company failed to take appropriate measures to ensure the recipients were paying tax. I am told by my confidential source that there is a great deal of anxiety at the company because of this.

In addition, it is my understanding that The Sun should have kept an accurate cash book to summarise their record of income and expenditure by any method. Again, I would ask you to investigate whether a true record of cash payments was kept by the company, and whether any records have been destroyed. I am very concerned that this may not have happened, which would again amount to a serious criminal offence.

To illustrate the problem, I have seen copies of remittance slips from 2005 to a regularly used private investigator by News International, Jonathan Rees. They indicate that Mr Rees was paid as a “contributor”, suggesting, to a cursory glance from an auditor, that he was providing occasional articles for the paper. In fact, he was being regularly used to conduct covert surveillance and other surreptitious acts. The insider went on to describe this tax arrangement to me as “murky”.

Although I appreciate there are currently three ongoing police investigations into criminal wrongdoing at News International, I think it is imperative that reassurance is given from HM Revenue and Customs that these important issues are being investigated in cooperation with the Metropolitan Police. I am sure you will agree that no company, or individual, should be allowed to get away with what amounts to possible tax fraud by paying too little tax and acting in a dishonest manner.

Thank you in advance for your assistance. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Tom Watson
Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East

Was Rupert Murdoch aware of the bail conditions imposed on his staff when he lifted their suspension?

Mr Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM
Commissioner
Metropolitan Police Service
New Scotland Yard
Broadway
London
SW1H 0BG

20 February 2012

Dear Commissioner,

Bail conditions of staff at News International

You will have seen reports that Rupert Murdoch has personally lifted the suspensions of journalists at The Sun newspaper, arrested on suspicion of offences relating to bribery, corruption and similar.

In his email to staff on this matter, Mr Murdoch made a point of saying “We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested…they are welcome to return to work”.

We are all keen to see good journalists employed in the conduct of excellent public interest reporting. I do not want to see Mr Murdoch’s actions undermine your investigation though. Mr Murdoch must not be aware of the terms of the bail that was awarded to his employees. The ‘no contact’ terms were there for a reason.

Are you satisfied that vital evidence will be secure as a result of Mr Murdoch’s actions?

It is known that for many years News International has destroyed evidence and obstructed police and Parliamentary enquiries into its corrupt and illegal practices.

It seems remarkable that the people being investigated of such serious crimes should be put in a position that makes it impossible to determine whether bail terms have been breached.

Can you please confirm that you have secured computer and paper filing systems? The public will think it odd that the circumstances that lead to the bail of a number of high profile individuals will allow them to be in the proximity of evidence that can be tampered with.

Your assurance that all such evidence will be secure from further depredations will put my mind at ease.

Thank you in advance for your assistance. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Tom Watson
Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East

Press release from Aamer Anwar

PRESS RELEASE 14TH FEBRUARY 2012
BY AAMER ANWAR & CO, SOLICITORS & NOTARIES.
TOMMY SHERIDAN- V- NEWSGROUP NEWSPAPERS LTD
AT THE INNER HOUSE COURT, COURT OF SESSION, PARLIAMENT SQUARE, EDINBURGH ON TUESDAY , 14TH FEBRUARY 10.30 AM.

On the 14th February both Tommy Sheridan and News International went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh. At the same court in August 2006 Tommy Sheridan won his libel trial against News of the World. He was granted £200,000 by the Jury, but News Group moved to appeal this decision on the 11th August 2006, requesting a retrial. The monies were never awarded to Mr Sheridan pending the outcome of their appeal.

The appeal however was sisted so as not to prejudice the Lothian and Borders Police investigation into allegations of Perjury. In December 2010 Tommy Sheridan was convicted of Perjury and was released from prison in January of this year, having served one year of his three year prison sentence. Whilst News of the World no longer exist, News International wished today to recall the sist and to amend the grounds of appeal and have the verdict of the jury quashed. This was opposed by us today on behalf of Mr Sheridan.
There is once again a full scale criminal inquiry taking place in Scotland in relation to the Defamation and Perjury case. Officers from the Strathclyde’s Major Investigation Teams have been tasked by the Crown Office to examine aspects of the evidence presented during the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial.

In addition, they are examining specific claims of phone hacking and breaches of data protection in Scotland. Strathclyde Police have been liaising with the Metropolitan Police in relation to any Scottish dimension to their current investigations.

Copies of Correspondence from Strathclyde Police’s Operation Rubicon had been presented to the court by ourselves highlighting their concerns at any prejudice. We argued against the lifting of the sist. In conclusion their Lordships refused the motion of Newsgroup Papers Ltd to lift the sist..

Following the hearing Aamer Anwar, Tommy Sheridan’s solicitor stated:

“For several years the News of the World appeal was sisted so as not to prejudice a police inquiry into Tommy Sheridan. That inquiry cost £2 million and took over 50,000 police hours. Major police inquiries are now ongoing, both North and South of the Border into the defunct News of the World. Strathclyde Police’s Operation Rubicon began on July 7th 2010 after Tom Watson MP and myself handed a dossier to them detailing allegations of criminality. It appears that the shoe is on the other foot, today we were successful in requesting that proceedings remain sisted pending the outcome of the criminal inquiries. It is essential that the present criminal investigations are not prejudiced.”