City firm: We might have been hacked

THE PHONE hacking scandal yesterday widened to include City targets, as leading public relations firm Citigate Dewe Rogerson admitted that the voicemails of three of its executives may have been targeted by hackers.

City A.M. understands that the firm was made aware of the potential breach as part of Operation Weeting, the Metropolitan Police investigation into the illegal access of voicemails by journalists.

Until now the inquiry has mainly focused on the hacking of celebrities’ voicemails. This is the first time that it has raised the prospect that attempts were made to illegally access information on corporate deals.

A Citigate spokesman said: “We were told by our mobile provider around 18 months ago that police were investigating allegations that between 2005-2006 attempts by unauthorised parties may have been made to hack into three of our company mobile phones.”

“We sought further details from the police but there has been no recent follow-up by them. And we do not believe this inquiry is ongoing.”

“When we received the original letter we of course reviewed all our procedures but all our staff are in any event very disciplined about the use of mobile phones.”

The spokesman could not confirm whether any specific business accounts were at risk. The potential breaches occurred at a time when Citigate played a leading role in some of the corporate world’s biggest deals, including Telefonica’s purchase of the mobile phone network O2.

Last night rival leading corporate public relations firms were at pains to tell City A.M. that they were not aware of any similar concerns regarding illegal access of voicemails.

One firm said it had not been affected but had taken security measures to avoid such an eventuality, while several other companies insisted they had not been targeted by hackers.

Operation Weeting was prompted by allegations of widespread voicemail hacking at the News of the World and has so far resulted in 24 arrests.

In July it was announced that eight people would be charged as a result of the ongoing probe, including ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, the Prime Minister’s former communications director.

The Metropolitan Police declined to comment on the Citigate allegations.