A private investigator commissioned a conman to use the "dark arts" to extract illegal data – including bank transactions, mobile-phone records and information from Interpol – on behalf of a roll call of wealthy clients, a court heard yesterday.
Graham Freeman, 51, jointly ran a Northamptonshire-based investigation agency that employed Daniel Summers, a so-called "blagger" who was adept at tricking banks, phone companies and public bodies into releasing private information for onward sale at up to £1,000 a time. A jury at Kingston Crown Court in south-west London heard that Summers and Philip Campbell-Smith, Mr Freeman's business partner, have already pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit fraud by obtaining illegal information to be sold to customers.
Mr Freeman has denied the same charge, saying he knew nothing of the methods employed by Summers.
The three men were arrested in 2009 after an investigation into Summers by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) that involved an undercover officer buying the conman's second-hand computers after they were advertised for sale in a local newspaper.
Forensic experts then recovered from the machines a large number of emails between the men which Summers had attempted to delete. Tim Probert-Wood, the prosecutor, said: "There is no doubt that there was a conspiracy between Daniel Summers and Philip Campbell-Smith to blag and unlawfully obtain private and personal information by deceit. The one issue is, was Graham Freeman part of that conspiracy or was he in the dark?"
The court heard that Mr Freeman was copied into emails between Campbell-Smith and Summers detailing the type of information he had been commissioned to obtain. In one case, a Mayfair-based businessman asked an investigation agency to find out the origin of a £40,000 payment made to the bank account of a family member. The case continues.