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Amid a slew of new phone-hacking and blagging allegations against the News of the World and News International - the New York Times has alleged that police officers investigating the tabloid where themselves targeted.
The paper alleges that five senior police investigators investigating phone-hacking at the News of the World in 2006 found that their own mobile phone messages had been targeted.
Questions were later raised elsewhere about the business expenses of one of the officers involved - Andy Hayman - and about his relationship with a woman who worked for the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Hayman left the police in December 2007 and worked as a columnist for NoW sister title The Times.
It was also reported that assistant Met Commission John Yates had used Airmiles earned in the course of work to buy flights for relatives - the NYT notes.
The Mail on Sunday carried a story about this at the weekend noting that press photos were taken of Hayman in the company of a female colleague in August 2006 and that the threat of media coverage might have influenced the phone-hacking investigation.
Revelations in this weekend's News of the World, the Sunday tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., have plunged the British Royal family into a new crisis.
The queen's daughter-in-law, Sophie the Countess of Wessex, has ignited a potentially explosive confrontation with the government by revealing the Royal Family's private attitudes on a wide range of politically sensitive issues.
Sophie was duped into allowing herself to be recorded describing the Prime Minister as "President Blair," referring to leader of the opposition William Hague as "sounding like a puppet" and calling Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown's recent budget a "load of pap."
The remarks were recorded by an undercover journalist posing as a potential client of her public relations firm called R-JH, co-owned with Murray Harkin.
The countess announced Sunday that she will step down as chairman of her company.
The Countess's business partner, who was also present at the meeting, made things worse by revealing himself as a drug user and offering to procure young boys for the undercover reporter.
The so-called "Sophie Tapes" story filled the first 10 pages of Sunday's News of the World and is another triumph for investigations editor Mazher Mahmood and his wardrobe of fancy dress clothing.
Mahmood's signature act is dressing in flowing Arab robes and posing as a millionaire sheik. On this occasion the formula varied a little and Mahmood got another journalist - one of his retinue of "stand-in sheiks" - to wear the robes while he posed as his urbane British-educated senior assistant.
Although, over the years, his Arab sheik act has become the stuff of legend, with magazines like Private Eye, the U.K.'s equivalent to Spy magazine, reporting on his antics with glee, Mahmood is rarely short of victims. Recently, the fake sheik was used to expose one of the Queen's top security guards who was moonlighting as a bodyguard. His services included the arrangement of drug-fuelled orgies for wealthy clients and an offer to deliver two blonde hookers for $1000 to the hotel suite where the undercover reporters were posing as foreign VIPs.
The flowing Arab robes also worked on the chairman and deputy chairman of top U.K. soccer team, Newcastle United.
Sitting in a Spanish brothel, the two businessmen made a number of derogatory comments about their fans that were recorded and reported by Mahmood.
Other victims have included TV star John Alford, who was jailed after trying to supply Mahmood with cocaine.
Another victim, the 10th Earl of Hardwicke, offered drugs to the sheik while standing outside the House of Lords.
The tools of Mahmood's trade are a wardrobe of just over a dozen Arab outfits, called jalabia.
To go with the robes he wears expensive shoes and an extremely flashy $7,000 diamond Rolex watch. To complete the look, he always takes an entourage with him.
Mahmood's team includes two stand-in sheiks, security staff, assistants, and Arab women whose faces are covered by traditional veils. The team make sure they always arrive by limousine--rented of course-- and carefully select the venue for their sting, usually one of the large London hotels like the Dorchester or Park Lane Hilton.
The Sophie Tapes are undoubtedly Mahmood's greatest triumph so far and have proven that, despite the pantomime of fancy dress, the fake sheik still works.
Stephen Lavelle wrote:So, what's up with all this?
The News of the World has been criticised for publishing the names and details of "convicted paedophiles" in the wake of the murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne.
It printed and put online the names, photographs and believed whereabouts of 49 people it says are convicted paedophiles.
There are fears the move could encourage members of the public to take vigilante action and may force sex offenders underground.
But the paper's executives defended the action, saying it is urging readers not to take matters into their own hands.
Sarah Payne's naked body was found in Sussex countryside last Monday more than two weeks after she was reported missing.
The News of the World has not printed the exact addresses of the 49 men and women listed in Sunday's edition, but it does reveal which part of the country they live in.
The information also appears on its website, and it says it will eventually publish information on 110,000 "proven" sex offenders.
But the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders has called the move grossly irresponsible.
Policy director Paul Cavadino said it could mean children are put more at risk.
"Past experience shows that when paedophiles are named in this way, they tend to go to ground, they move away, they change their names and the police often lose track of them.
"That means that it's harder to supervise them, it's harder to involve them in treatment programmes, and the result of that is more rather than less risk to the community," he told the BBC.
News of the World executive editor Robert Warren dismissed accusations that the story was an irresponsible stunt to sell more papers.
He said a Mori poll of 614 adults showed 84% thought paedophiles should be named and 88% would want to know if one was living in their area.
"Public opinion is very much on our side," he said.
The charity, Childline, said there was a risk of people taking the law into their own hands.
The paper's managing editor Stuart Kuttner said: "We don't believe there's any room for vigilante action in a civilised society.
"We're going to call on our readers not to act in any unlawful way. What we're doing, to put it simply, is warning and alerting, but most definitely not inciting."
The newspaper said the law to control paedophiles was not tough enough.
Twelve thousand people are on the official sex offenders register, and police sources say that number growing by about 4,000 a year.
The BBC's crime correspondent, Stephen Cape, says senior officers believe there is a loophole in the current legislation which allows convicted paedophiles to avoid registering on their release by constantly moving.
This makes it impossible for the authorities to know where sex offenders are living and whether they have access to children.
Meanwhile, the Home Office has revealed plans to tag for life the most serious child molesters when they are released from prison.
"This is intended to ensure that people who are a risk are not released," a spokesman told the Sunday Times.
MPs are to debate longer sentences and tougher requirements for convicted paedophiles to register with the local police this autumn.
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