Thursday, 29 November 2012

Spursgate v Watergate: What did they know & When did they start knowing it?

Forty years ago Howard Hunt (HH) put together a team of private investigators nicknamed the Plumbers to break into the Watergate hotel. An act that would turn into a massive cover up which ended the reign & career of President Richard Nixon. 

A few days after the break-in, Nixon was recorded saying,, "This fellow Hunt, he knows too damn much." 

Howard Hunt later put pressure on the White House  for cash payments to cover legal fees, family support, and expenses, for himself and his fellow burglars

In 2011 another HH (Howard Hill) is alleged to have put together a team of private investigators to obtain phone records belonging to West Ham Vice Chairman Karren Brady.

These phone records were passed to Tottenham Hotspur's lawyers in early March 2011, although Spurs continue to claim that it did not receive copies itself.

At a high court hearing in 2011 lawyers for Karren Brady and West Ham won an order requiring accountants PKF, hired by Spurs to conduct "due diligence" on the first bidding process for the Olympic Stadium, to hand over "unlawfully obtained" copies of Brady's itemised phone bills.

Spurs lawyers were gathering material for a possible judicial review, which eventually reached court in October 2011 but was then halted in its tracks when the government and the OPLC pulled the plug on their deal with West Ham and Newham council in the face of delays caused by legal challenges from Spurs.

The records are believed to show details of phone calls between Brady and OPLC board members, including the then chief executive Andrew Altman.

In his witness statement the Spurs finance director Matthew Collecott said: "I understand [Howard] Hill produced Brady's phone records to the lawyers. When asked he confirmed they had been received anonymously. The lawyers claim they made it clear to Howard Hill it was imperative that all investigations were carried out within the law."  

Matthew Collecott confirmed that PKF was engaged in February 2011 to carry out "due diligence" on the process. Spurs were concerned details of their tender for the Olympic Stadium had been leaked.

West Ham's legal counsel, said his reading of Matthew Collecott's desciption of the sequence of the events was that Howard Hill was being painted as a "rogue agent" who had "exceeded his authority". Both PKF and Howard Hill claimed not to know where the phone bills came from, saying they had been sent anonymously.

"I did not attach any significance to Howard Hill's reference to receiving telephone records," claimed Matthew Collecott.

The 2011 court case brought by West Ham heard an individual calling themselves "Thomas Brady" with a fictional West Ham email address had managed to obtain Brady's itemised Vodafone mobile phone bills from its customer services department.

PKF claimed not to know where the documents had come from and said that its partner Howard Hill had claimed the telephone records arrived "in the proverbial brown envelope".

Howard Hill admitted passing the records to the Sunday Times, which used them as part of the basis for an article. Hill later apologised to the Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, after the Sunday Times article appeared, the court was told.

The judge had described how West Ham and Brady were given the "traditional runaround" by Spurs and PKF as they attempted to establish whether the phone bills existed and who had access to them. 

Yesterday (Wednesday 28th November 2012) Howard Hill along with Richard Forrest & Lee Stewart finally appeared in court charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

They were all bailed to appear at Southwark Crown Court on 1 February 2013

It is claimed that Howard Hill, a former partner at accountancy firm PKF, employed private investigators to get the information while Tottenham Hotspur FC were bidding for the stadium.

In the seventies the New York Times asked  'What did Nixon Know & When Did He Know It?'

I would like to ask that same question to Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy and finance director Matthew Collecott.

Will this turn out to be Spursgate?  I guess we might find out in February next year.

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