A top crime reporter was asked to get information out of former Scotland Yard chief John Yates as payback for bottles of champagne, the Leveson Inquiry heard today.
Former Assistant Commissioner Yates was questioned about his close links with the News of the World and his friendship with its deputy editor Neil Wallis.
The inquiry was also told about the 52-year-old's regular dinners at London's best restaurants with property tycoon Nick Candy. Mr Yates, who was forced to resign at the height of the scandal, was asked to explain an email between former News of the World crime editor Lucy Panton and her newsdesk, in which a story about an anti-terror plot was discussed.
News editor James Mellor wrote: "Think John Yates could be crucial here. Have you spoken to him? Really need an excl splash line so time to call in all these bottles of champagne."
Mr Yates, who said Ms Panton was a friend, replied: "It's not my email and it's a turn of phrase ... these perceived favours were never called in."
Later he added: "I have not been plied with champagne by Lucy Panton. There may well have been the odd occasion when a bottle was shared by many people."
Giving evidence via videolink from Bahrain, Mr Yates told the judicial investigation that he attended football matches with Mr Wallis, who was arrested on suspicion of phone-hacking, and had a number of undeclared dinners with him in top restaurants, which he described as private.
In one exchange, Mr Yates was asked to explain an internal Met email to him where he discussed "a rather disparaging reference to Neil Wallis being drunk in a restaurant". Mr Yates replied: "It didn't happen. It's not my email. Give me a break."
Mr Yates was forced to resign last July over his failure to reopen the phone-hacking investigation in 2009. Ms Panton, who is married to a Met officer and has two young children, was arrested and bailed last December.