A SERIES of leaks of private emails, documents & sound recordings between individuals involved in Rangers football club and the saga which ultimately led to the club’s demise into insolvency has prompted the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to order Police Scotland to investigate the source of the damaging leaks - a Twitter account known as Charlotte Fakeovers (@charlotteFakes).
While Police Scotland are giving little away to media enquiries regarding the investigation, legal insiders have revealed the Crown Office became involved after lobbying from persons involved in the saga who have links to high profile political figures including First Minister Alex Salmond himself.
A legal insider called the content of the leaks “explosive”, and went on to describe the contents of one particular document which contained claims that knowledge of dirty secrets of newspaper editors could be used to block publication of stories relating to Rangers.
Other documents purport to relate to discussions about how to ‘go after’ and undermine journalists, bloggers, football fan forums and virtually anyone who may not see eye to eye with figures involved with Rangers football club and those around it.
While the Police Investigation into the leaks and their content has had little reporting in Scotland’s mass media, it has been revealed in the English media that a law firm acting for one of the parties identified in leaked documents now in the possession of Crown Office has forced the removal of some of the damning documents from the Scribd website.
The law firm involved is none other than Levy & McRae, who have among their clients, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, and his own personally appointed Ministerial complaints adviser & former Lord Advocate now Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC (nee McPhilomy).
The Guardian :
An extraordinary story has broken in Scotland that has galvanised the country's media elite. Though it is the subject of much chatter among journalists, none of the mainstream outlets has reported it.
For months, a Twitter account known as Charlotte Fakeovers (@charlotteFakes) has been running a series of snippets from private emails between people involved in Rangers football club during the crisis that eventually led to its insolvency.
According to a well-placed Glaswegian media insider, the tweeter should be regarded as "the Julian Assange of Scotland". He said: "These revelations are explosive but I understand, in this post-Leveson atmosphere, why the papers are not publishing them.
"Though there is no proof either way, there is a feeling that the communications might have been obtained illegally."
In fact, according to a source familiar with the situation, there is no way the emails could have been obtained legally and the publication of them is a possible breach of the data protection act.
Scottish police are now investigating the Twitter account, a fact reported yesterday by one online news outlet that has dared to highlight the CharlotteFakeovers story, The Drum.
A police spokesman told The Drum's writer: "We can confirm that we did receive a complaint in connection with a Twitter account and police enquiries are ongoing to establish if there is any criminality involved."
Among people named in the correspondence are the club's former owner Craig Whyte, the man who masterminded its recreation, Charles Green, the club's PR, then and now, Jack Irvine, and even the political editor of the Sunday Times, Isabel Oakeshott.
The revelations have been acutely embarrassing for Irvine, who declined to comment. But a former colleague told me he believes the emails need to be seen in the context of Rangers problems and the consequent frenetic atmosphere at the time.
Irvine, who edited the Scottish Sun for three years from 1987, launched a PR company, Media House, some 20 years ago.
A legal firm acting for Irvine, Levy & McRae, did successfully request the removal of some documents from the website being used to host them, Scribd.
Thomson was one of the very few reporters outside Scotland to cover the Rangers crisis in any depth. Indeed, mainstream newspapers in Scotland were slow to cover it too.
The Drum :
Police are investigating a fake Twitter account which has been releasing a wave of private correspondences between some of the major players in the long-running crisis surrounding Rangers Football Club, including PR guru and Media House founder Jack Irvine.
For several months, the @CharlotteFakes account has been revealing private email and audio conversations between some of the key figures in the drama engulfing the club, including Irvine, former club owner Craig Whyte – who led the club’s descent into liquidation – and Charles Green, the chief executive of the entity created from the assets of the liquidated club. The account has acquired more than 13,000 followers.
A police spokesman confirmed to The Drum that a probe had been launched: “We can confirm that we did receive a complaint in connection with a Twitter account and police enquiries are ongoing to establish if there is any criminality involved. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
It’s unclear how the information has been obtained but Scottish and national media outlets have steered clear of reporting it, while Scottish football fans have bombarded journalists with requests for coverage, claiming the information is in the public interest.
Media House executive chairman Irvine features heavily in the correspondence but declined to comment on the revelations when approached by The Drum.
Irvine founded Media House more than 20 years ago after a career spanning periods at Murray Media, the Scottish Sun, the Daily Record and the Glasgow Herald and the company has since expanded into London and New York. The PR man once described himself as “combative and aggressive”.
The PR firm was hired by Rangers in 2006 under Sir David Murray and kept on by Craig Whyte following his takeover of the club in 2011. Whyte bought the club for the sum of £1 and an agreement to pay off the club's banking debt.
It emerged some time later that Whyte had used future season ticket monies at the club to secure a loan from lender Ticketus and claims of Whyte’s billion pound wealth were without foundation. Months of crisis and a PR battle followed before the extent of the financial trouble at the club was revealed when it was placed in administration in February 2012, and liquidation four months later.
Although legal firm Levy & McRae successfully requested the removal of some documents from the website being used to host them, Scribd, the anonymous ‘Charlotte’ has continued to reveal streams of information despite the police investigation.
A spokesman for BBC Scotland said the broadcast of any information relating to Rangers must comply with guidelines: “Having aired two documentaries already you can probably imagine that we continue to receive a lot of information from various different sources on the Rangers story as we do with much of our newsgathering activity.
“The editorial criteria which is laid out in our editorial guidelines on verification of sources etc. would apply to any future news stories or docs that we proceed with.”
Channel 4 News chief correspondent Alex Thomson, who covered the Rangers tax story in some depth, indicated on Twitter that the reluctance to report was related to Leveson, leading to speculation the information may have been illegally obtained in the wake of the recent hacking scandal at the News of the World.
The Rangers story has taken a new twist with the emergence of ‘Charlotte’ and the recent revelations, although the account isn’t the first anonymous one to cover developments at Ibrox.
The Rangers Tax Case blog was a thorn in the side of the club during the first-tier tax tribunal over Rangers EBT tax avoidance scheme for paying staff. HMRC claims to be owed tens of millions from the club and the case is ongoing and under appeal after the tribunal ruled in favour of Rangers in a number of the disputed cases. The row led to an investigation by Scottish footballing authorities, which found the club guilty of breaching registration rules earlier this year. The Rangers Tax Case blog was awarded an Orwell Prize in 2011.