Thursday, 28 January 2010

For sale: Personal details of millions of Ladbrokes gamblers, offered to the MoS by a mysterious Australian

By Jason Lewis, Mail on Sunday Security Editor and Sandra White In Melbourne
Last updated at 7:21 PM on 24th January 2010

Dinitha Subasinghe at his home in Melbourne

Denial: Dinitha Subasinghe at his home in Melbourne

The confidential records of millions of British gamblers who bet with top bookmaker Ladbrokes have been offered for sale to The Mail on Sunday.

The huge data theft is now at the centre of a criminal investigation after this newspaper was given the personal information of 10,000 Ladbrokes customers and offered access to its database of 4.5 million people in the UK and abroad.

Last night we alerted Ladbrokes to the damaging security breach and handed the customer files to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), Britain's data watchdog, which immediately began to investigate.

The records include customers' home addresses, details of their gambling history, customer account numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers and email addresses.

Ladbrokes last night also called in the police and began contacting customers to reassure them that their credit card details, passwords and other financial information were safe.

The database was offered for sale by a mysterious Australian. He claimed to be a computer security expert who had worked at Ladbrokes in Britain.

During protracted negotiations via email and in one phone call, the man, who gave his name only as 'Daniel', claimed to represent a company based in Melbourne, Australia.

The company, DSS Enterprises, is run by Dinitha Subasinghe, a Sri Lankan-born IT expert.

Last night, Mr Subasinghe denied any involvement in the data theft. He designs websites and also runs a wedding planning business with his British-born girlfriend Charlene King.

Australia's companies house describes Mr Subasinghe as a 'sole trader'. His recent work has involved designing websites for estate agents in Melbourne, but he also lists Ladbrokes and the UK Ministry of Defence as clients.

He said yesterday: 'I have no access to any Ladbrokes database or any other information. I provided analytical services to them for 18 months during 2007 and 2008.'

Mr Subasinghe said he had been on holiday in the UK in November and still kept in touch with a couple of Ladbrokes staff on a social basis, and added: 'Unless my name, my signature, my fingerprint is on anything, it has nothing to do with me.

'I had a call from a senior person at Ladbrokes this morning. I did not take the call. I don't know what they are ringing me about.'

The Mail on Sunday received an email from 'Daniel' yesterday saying that he was ending the negotiations and warning us against passing his details to the authorities.

David Smith, the ICO Deputy Commissioner, said last night: 'The ICO takes breaches of individuals' privacy very seriously. Any organisation which processes personal information must ensure that adequate safeguards are in place to keep that information secure.

'We are grateful to The Mail on Sunday for bringing this security breach to our attention and will be contacting Ladbrokes to establish how it occurred and to find out what steps it will be taking to ensure that such a breach cannot happen again.

'We are particularly concerned that up to 4.5 million customer records containing personal information are allegedly for sale. Stealing personal data and selling it is a criminal offence. We will investigate whether an offence has been committed.

'We are determined to stamp out the unlawful trade in personal information and have recently urged the Government to introduce a custodial sentence for people convicted of buying and selling personal details.'

The Mail on Sunday was first approached by 'Daniel' - using the email address 'theinsidescoopuk' - earlier this month. He claimed to have worked as an IT security consultant for Ladbrokes two years ago. He said he had been passed the data by a 'relatively junior' employee, who was trying to sell it on.

'Daniel' claimed that his initial intention was to tip off Ladbrokes about the security breach, but he then decided it would be better to contact the media.

Last night Ciaran O'Brien, head of PR at Ladbrokes, said: 'We have been informed that a person connected to our organisation has offered certain details from a customer database to The Mail on Sunday.

'This is a criminal act and we are working with the police, the ICO and the newspaper to identify and apprehend the culprit.

'We are in the process of contacting customers to apologise for this breach in security and to reassure them that everything is being done to protect their personal information.

'Importantly, we do not believe that customer accounts or banking data can be accessed.'

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

BBC admits 'We were wrong to let the BNP insult soccer's Ashley Cole'

By Jason Lewis, Security Editor
Last updated at 1:16 AM on 17th January 2010

The BBC has admitted breaching its editorial guidelines after The Mail on Sunday revealed how two leading BNP activists were allowed to make unchallenged ‘racist’ statements on a flagship news broadcast.

A special edition of Radio 1’s Newsbeat programme introduced the two interviewees as ‘young guys who are members of the BNP’ but failed to say the pair were, in fact, key members of the far-Right party’s leadership.

The activists – identified at the time only as Joey and Mark – went unchallenged when they claimed black England footballer Ashley Cole was not ‘ethnically British’.

Ashley and Cheryl Cole

BNP members said east London-born Ashley, pictured here with wife Cheryl Cole, was 'not ethnically British'

They also spoke of him ‘coming to this country’, even though Cole was born in East London.

Now the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit has ruled that BBC Newsbeat was wrong not to reveal the two men’s standing in the BNP, and that their views should have faced ‘rigorous challenge’.

The ruling on the October 2009 broadcast was published last week.

Newsbeat was ‘reminded of the need to ensure listeners have enough information to assess the status and credentials of interviewees’.

And programme editor Rod McKenzie was instructed to discuss with his team ‘the need for rigorous challenge within interviews of this kind’.

BNP officials Joey Barber and Mark Collett

Party officials Joey Barber and Mark Collett pose as 'BNP supporters' for Radio 1 Newsbeat but they have senior roles in the organisation

The ruling added: 'The concept of British ethnicity, introduced by the interviewees in connection with the example of a black, British-born footballer, was not tested in the way its controversial character called for.’

The complaints unit confirmed The Mail on Sunday’s disclosures that ‘at the time of the interview, one of the interviewees was the BNP’s publicity director and the other ran the record label which promotes and sells BNP CDs’.

The Mail on Sunday established the men were Joseph Barber, also known as Joey Smith – who runs the BNP’s record label Great White Records – and Mark Collett, the party’s head of publicity.

A BBC News spokeswoman said: ‘We note the findings.’

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

MoD threat to ruin Royal Marine hero who threw himself on Taliban grenade

By Jason Lewis, Mail On Sunday Whitehall Editor
Last updated at 10:03 PM on 09th January 2010

Matthew Croucher with his George Cross at Buckingham Palace

Proud: Matthew Croucher with his George Cross at Buckingham Palace

The Ministry of Defence threatened to bankrupt a Royal Marine war hero by forcing him to pay back money earned from his memoirs.

Lance-Corporal Matthew Croucher - who was awarded the George Cross by the Queen after throwing himself on a Taliban grenade to save his comrades in Afghanistan - was facing months of investigation by senior military staff for telling his story.

And the part-time soldier, who volunteered to go to the war zone, was told by the MoD that he would have to pay back the money he earned from writing about his exploits - around £90,000.

Yet within hours of The Mail on Sunday first contacting the MoD, officials backtracked and said L/Cpl Croucher had been cleared and would face no further action.

The MoD originally claimed the book, Bulletproof, published in September, broke military regulations banning serving men from being paid for writing about their careers.

The ban was brought in after the publication of a series of controversial military memoirs, including books by former SAS soldier Andy McNab and General Sir Peter de la Billière, Britain's commander in the 1991 Gulf War.

The MoD launched an official investigation and forced L/Cpl Croucher, a Royal Marine Reserve who is paid by the military only when he is on active service or exercises, to give evidence to senior naval officers.

He was also warned he would face further questioning at another hearing in Whitehall and told that if the inquiry found against him, he would have to repay the money or face being dismissed from the Marines.

Sources close to the soldier said: 'Matt wrote this book on his own time. He was paid an advance and used that money to live and also set up his own business, a security company supplying ex-Royal Marines to act as consultants and bodyguards.

'He does not earn his living from the military. He is only paid by the MoD when he is called up for duty. When he was writing the book it was his job and his only source of income.

'By asking him to pay the money back, they left him fearing ruin. He is a loyal Marine. If they told him to pay back the money he would - even if they forced him into bankruptcy.'

Matthew Croucher, Bullet Proof

Frontline memoir: The book was written in L/Cpl Croucher's own time

The source added: 'Matt got permission from his commanding officer. He sent the book to the MoD's D-Notice Committee to make sure he was not revealing any secrets. Then out of the blue - on the eve of publication - the bureaucrats in Whitehall put Matt under formal investigation.

'He has been devastated. He does not want to upset the military. He is a loyal soldier.'

L/Cpl Croucher, from Birmingham, served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He is a member of 40 Commando, which is based at Taunton in Somerset, and serves in the Commando Reconnaissance Force.

He was recommended for the George Cross after his heroism two years ago when he threw himself on a booby-trapped Taliban grenade to save three comrades during a search of a suspected bomb-making compound.

Miraculously, he escaped with just a nosebleed – his rucksack and body armour took the force of the blast.

L/Cpl Croucher later said: 'All I could hear was a loud ringing and the faint sound of people shouting, "Are you OK? Are you OK?" Then I felt one of the lads giving me a top-to-toe check. Blood was streaming from my nose. It took 30 seconds before I realised I was definitely not dead.'

When The Mail on Sunday first contacted the MoD this weekend, a spokesman confirmed it was investigating L/Cpl Croucher over his book deal.

He said military regulations banned serving soldiers from being paid for writing about their exploits, adding that there were issues of copyright and questions about whether other soldiers featured in photographs in the book had given their permission.

He said: 'There is a question about whether military regulations were followed.'

But within hours the MoD said, 'Things have moved on,' and issued another statement saying L/Cpl Croucher had been cleared. It added: 'An investigation has concluded that Corporal Croucher had followed the correct procedure. No disciplinary action will be taken. Any suggestion that he must repay any money is false.'

But the MoD failed to respond to questions about when the decision had been taken.

Last night a spokesman for L/Cpl Croucher said he was still waiting to hear from the MoD and had not been told the investigation against him had concluded. The spokesman said: 'Matt is working with the MoD to resolve this matter.'

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Obama demands security overhaul into syringe bomb fiasco as it emerges Al Qaeda had warned of terror attack just six days ago

By Jason Lewis and Sharon Churcher
Last updated at 10:22 PM on 27th December 2009

  • Al Qaeda warned of fresh terror attack on December 21
  • New security measures will mean increased delays at airport
  • President Obama orders review of airline security
  • Alleged bomber was on security database but wasn't considered threat
  • Student suspect was barred from Britain
Mohammed al-Kalwi

A still from an internet video posted online on December 21, showing a man who calls himself Mohammed al-Kalwi (right), warning of a new terror attack

President Obama ordered an urgent review of airline security tonight, demanding to know how a former British student identified as a terror risk was allowed to board transatlantic plane before attempting to blow it up.

The move came as a second incident on a plane at the same airport caused a major security scare.

A man was removed from the flight after becoming verbally disruptive on landing. It later transpired he posed no security risk.

Tonight it also emerged that Al Qaeda had warned of a terror attack just days before the attempt to bring down the jet carrying 278 passengers.

In a chilling video posted on an extremist internet on December 21, a bearded man in head-dress warned: 'We are carrying a bomb to hit the enemies of God.'

The man, identified as Mohammed al-Kalwi, continued: 'O soldiers, you should learn that we do not want to fight you, nor do we have an issue with you. We only have an issue with America and its agents, and beware of standing in the ranks of America.

Tonight there were question marks over why known radical Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was allowed to evade security, as it became clear just how close he came to downing the jet.

Even his millionaire father had warned authorities that he believed his son may be a risk.

President Obama wants to know how he was allowed to board the plane and also ordered a review of security watch-lists in the US after it emerged the Nigerian was placed on a list as a terror risk.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said on American news channel NBC the President called for 'a review to ... figure out why an individual with the chemical explosive he had on him could get on a plane in Amsterdam and fly into the United States.'

Calm: Terror suspect Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Dr Umaru Abdulmutallab, the rich father of Delta plane attack suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

It has emerged that Abdulmutallab tried to emulate convicted terrorist Richard Reid by using the same PETN high explosive the shoe bomber used in his failed airliner attack in 2001.

After sitting silently for most of the eight-hour flight, he made his move on Christmas morning as the plane approached Detroit.

The 23-year-old son of a wealthy Nigerian banker was charged in hospital last night with attempting to destroy the aircraft during its final approach to Detroit airport on Christmas Day, the US Justice Department said.

Four weeks ago Abdulmutallab's father told the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, that he was concerned about his son's religious beliefs. This information was passed on to U.S. intelligence officials.

Enlarge A page from the FBI affidavit against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

A page from the FBI affidavit against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

The alleged bomber was also on a separate U.S. terror database, but was not considered an immediate threat. His name was absent from 'no-fly' lists.

Abdulmutallab, who had previously been living in a luxury mansion block while studying at University College London, was also charged with with placing a destructive device on the Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Abdulmutallab had a device attached to his body when he boarded the aircraft in Amsterdam on Christmas Eve.

As the flight was approaching Detroit Airport, he was said to have set off the device, which resulted in a fire and what appears to have been an explosion.

A preliminary FBI analysis found that it contained a high explosive known as PETN or pentaerythritol.
FBI agents were also said recovered what appeared to be the remnants of the syringe found near Abdulmutallab's seat, which is believed to have been part of the device.

The use of small amounts of liquids and powder suggests he managed to circumvent the ban on taking all but limited quantities of liquids on to flights.

As a result, beefed-up security measures have been introduced on flights bound for the US.

They include extra body and hand luggage searches at the departure gate and a requirement that passengers remain seated for the final hour of flight.

Enlarge Drama: The moment the bomber was taken into custody, as captured on a mobile phone

Drama: The moment the bomber was taken into custody, as captured on a mobile phone

Air Canada has also said that during the last hour passengers will not be allowed access to carry-on baggage or to have any items on their laps. Passengers have been told to expect delays.

Meanwhile, the suspect's former teacher revealed his fellow pupils nicknamed him 'The Pope' because he was so well-liked.

But Michael Rimmer, a Briton who taught history at the British International School in Lome, Togo, says that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab also defended the Taliban during a lesson and complaining when Rimmer took classmates to a London pub.

Rimmer also revealed how Abdulmutallab had many Christian friends at the school.

In a telephone interview today, he described the school as a multicultural place where Christians students participated in Islamic feasts and Muslims often sang Christmas carols.

US attorney general Eric Holder said: 'Had this alleged plot to destroy an airplane been successful, scores of innocent people would have been killed or injured.

'We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously, and we will use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice.'

According to the affidavit, interviews with the passengers and crew of Flight 253 revealed that before the incident Abdulmutallab went to the aircraft's bathroom for approximately 20 minutes.

When he returned to his seat, he said that he had an upset stomach and pulled a blanket over himself.

Passengers then heard what were described as popping noises similar to firecrackers and some reported seeing Abdulmutallab's trouser leg and the inner wall of the aircraft on fire.

Film producer Jasper Schuringa from Amsterdam was sitting in seat 20G when the device ignited. He leapt over the back of the seat and scrambled over four other passengers to pummel Abdulmutallab.

Jasper Schuringa who tackled Abdulmutallab on Flight 253

Hero: Jasper Schuringa who tackled Abdulmutallab on Flight 253

Mr Schuringa then saw a ‘burning object’ – which he said resembled a small, white shampoo bottle – between the student’s legs. Mr Schuringa said: ‘It was smoking and there were flames coming from beneath his legs. I pulled the object from him and tried to extinguish the fire with my hands then threw it away.’

He screamed: ‘Water! Water!’ as he pulled Abdulmutallab out of his seat and dragged him to the front of the plane.

Fellow passengers poured bottles of water on the blaze, while flight attendants tackled the flames with fire extinguishers. Mr Schuringa said Abdulmutallab seemed dazed. ‘He was staring into nothing,’ he said.

The producer said he then stripped off Abdulmutallab’s clothes to make sure he did not have other explosives on his body. A crew member helped handcuff him.

He said other passengers applauded as he walked back to his seat.

‘I don’t feel like a hero,’ he said: ‘It was something that came completely naturally. I had to do something or it would be too late. My hands are pretty burned, but I am fine.

'I am shaken up. I am happy to be here.’

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the Detroit bound Delta Airlines plane on Christmas day

A fellow passenger, Stephanie van Herk, 22, who was sitting one row in front of Abdulmutallab, said she heard a loud bang, then saw a flame leap from the student’s lap as smoke filled the air. ‘The flame was higher than the seat,’ she said.

‘Then everyone started screaming. It was panic. Flight attendants shouted, “What are you doing? What are you doing?’’

‘They called for water and the man began pulling down his burning trousers.’

Another passenger, Melinda Dennis, said: ‘Abdulmutallab’s entire leg was burned. But he didn’t show any reaction to the pain.’

Abdulmutallab was to have been 'calm and lucid' throughout the incident.

When one flight attendant asked him what he had had in his pocket, and he replied: 'explosive device.'

On landing, Abdulmutallab was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Centre for treatment to his injuries. He will make his initial court appearance today.

US District Judge Paul Borman read out the charges to Abdulmutallab in a conference room at the medical centre where he is continuing to receive treatment for burns.

Agents brought him into the room in a wheelchair, a blanket over his lap and wearing a green hospital robe.

Abdulmutallab - who was said to have been travelling on a valid US visa - initially boarded a KLM flight in Lagos, Nigeria, before transferring to the Northwest Airlines flight at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

Following his arrest he was said to have told US investigators that he had been acting on instructions from al Qaeda which instructed him to blow up an airliner over American soil.

Gordon Brown said the Government would take 'whatever action was necessary' to protect airline passengers.

Security sources said that both the police and MI5 were diverting extra staff and resources to the investigation as a matter of priority in order to establish the significance of the 'London link'.

They acknowledged that it was possible that Abdulmutallab may have cropped up in the peripheries of other counter-terrorism investigations.

Earlier in London, police search teams were seen entering the imposing mansion block in Mansfield Road, close to Oxford Street, where Abdulmutallab had been living.

Records showed that flats in the block sold this year for between £1.65 million and £3.15 million.

Both police and college sources confirmed that Abdulmutallab had been enrolled as a student at University College London on a course in mechanical engineering between 2005 and 2008.

Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, a former minister and chairman of First Bank in Nigeria, also confirmed his son Umar had studied in London before going travelling.

He said he was not sure of his son's whereabouts but that he had not lived in London 'for some time'.
Nigeria's This Day newspaper reported family members as saying that Abdulmutallab's father was uncomfortable with his son's extreme Islamic views.

Mr Mutallab was said to have reported his activities to the US embassy in Abuja as well as Nigerian security agencies.

According to reports, the family claim Abdulmutallab was radicalised while attending the British International School in Lome, the capital of Togo.

Briton Michael Rimmer, who claimed to have taught the suspect, told BBC News 24: 'I remember him talking about Afghanistan - when the Taliban were in control, he thought they were OK. It did surprise me.'


The exclusive block of flats in central London where the suspect lived until 2008


Police search a propertie in central London after a man was charged with trying to blow up a US airliner

However, a cousin of Abdulmutallab, Mohammed Mutallab, told the Sunday Telegraph that the family believed the alleged bomber had been radicalised in Britain.

A US law enforcement source said Abdulmutallab's name surfaced on at least one US intelligence database but not to the extent that he was placed on a watch list or a no-fly list.

Intelligence and anti-terrorism officials in Yemen were also investigating claims by the suspect that he picked up the explosive device and instructions on how to use it in that country.

Delays were caused at UK airports today as security was stepped up for passengers flying to the US. Questions were raised over how the suspect was able to board the plane in Holland and almost cause catastrophe on Christmas Day.

Mr Brown said he had been contact with Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, because of the 'serious potential threat'.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said police were working with their American counterparts to establish the full background to the incident.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said delays were caused to transatlantic flights as a result of heightened security.

Although general airport security remained the same with no change to luggage and liquid restrictions, passengers travelling to the US were told they could only take one item of hand luggage.

The alleged Christmas Day terrorist had been in one of the U.S. government's many terror databases since November after his father brought him to the attention of embassy officials in Nigeria.

However, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came to the attention of intelligence officials months before that, according to a U.S. government official involved in the investigation.

Still, none of the information the government had on Abdulmutallab rose to the level of putting him on the official terror watch list or no-fly list.

Abdulmutallab claimed to have received training and instructions from al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen, law enforcement officials said. He is also believed to have had Internet contact with militant Islamic radicals.

While intelligence officials said Saturday that they are taking seriously Abdulmutallab's claims that the plot originated with al-Qaeda's network inside Yemen, several added that they had to yet to see independent confirmation.

Four weeks ago, Abdulmutallab's father told the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, that he was concerned about his son's religious beliefs. This information was passed on to U.S. intelligence officials.

Abdulmutallab received a valid U.S. visa in June 2008 that is good through 2010.

His is one of about 550,000 names in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database, known as TIDE, which is maintained by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Centre and was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Intelligence officials said they lacked enough information to place him in the 400,000-person terror watch list or on the no-fly list of fewer than 4,000 people who should be blocked from air travel.

Government's key adviser on Academies makes millions... from setting up Academies
Leaked documents show ex-physics teacher behind Labour's flagship schools charges £800 a day to set up Academies
By: Jason Lewis

A KEY Government adviser on Labour's flagship City Academy scheme is now earning millions of pounds in fees from the taxpayer by setting up the controversial schools.

The scheme was at the centre of the socalled 'cash for peerages' scandal when police were called in to investigate claims that Labour was offering honours to businessmen who invested in the schools. Now a series of leaked documents, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, reveal how the Government's vision of local business helping to rescue failing schools has been replaced by fat-cat consultancy firms earning huge fees to set them up.

They charge hundreds of pounds to carry out straightforward tasks including opening bank accounts and registering with exam boards.

And they have even set up offshoot firms to become the sole supplier of compulsory school uniform to pupils - which parents complain falls apart in the wash.

One of the main beneficiaries has been Graham McAvoy, a former physics teacher who began working on the Department of Education's Academy programme in January 2001.

He became the Government's 'lead adviser' on the City Academy scheme - and drew up the key 'to do list' for establishing the Academies.

Civil servants and Ministers are banned from moving directly from drawing up Government policy to working for a private company applying for contracts from the same department.

However, the rules do not apply to advisers such as Mr McAvoy and his firm Alligan, which became one of just ten companies on the Schools Department's approved list overseeing the opening of 200 new schools across the UK with a further 100 in the pipeline.

The Academies typically replace a 'failing' school and are funded by central Government and private sponsors.

The total cost of establishing each Academy is between £20 million and £25 million.

Firms such as Alligan oversee the building and setting up of the new school, hire new staff, including the head teacher, and fit it out ready to be handed over to its new independent trustees.

Mr McAvoy set up Alligan in 1995 and the firm began 'implementation' of its first Academy project in Peckham, South London, at the end of 2002. The new school, run by multimillionaire carpet business boss Lord Harris's charitable foundation, opened in September 2003. Mr McAvoy employs a team of more than 30 staff specialising in education project management.

Now documents relating to Alligan show it has claimed fees of more than £1 million from each of the 30 new Academies it has helped set up. Alligan has opened several Academies with Lord Harris and Steve Chalke, who runs the educational charity Oasis Trust.

The confidential papers expose how the consultancy firms cash in on the system, which has been heavily criticised for handing schools to private-sector entrepreneurs, many of whom have no experience in education.

Mr McAvoy wrote the socalled 'Product Breakdown Structure' for the Government which details everything that needs to be done in the run-up to opening a new Academy.

This key document is now used by his and other firms to decide how much they charge the taxpayer in fees for every aspect of their work - however minor.

A detailed breakdown of all the firm's charges, which are understood to be mirrored by the other companies competing for the Academy contracts, shows the taxpayer is being charged hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pounds for simple tasks which are usually carried out by secretarial staff in school offices across the country.

Examples include £585 to open a bank account for the school, £585 to register with exam boards and £1,755 to register with Ofsted, the schools inspectorate.

It also charges £585 to register a change of the school's name and £1,755 to arrange the appointment of school governors. Another large fee is the £11,310 that Mr McAvoy's firm charges to draw up the new school's timetable - usually part of a head teacher's normal duties.

Leaked copies of the firm's full audited accounts, which are not available from Companies House, show it had an £8.5million total turnover during 2006 and 2007 and made profits of £950,000 over the period.

Later figures are not available as Alligan only files abbreviated accounts with Companies House. Mr McAvoy, a former teacher who lives in a flat in fashionable Primrose Hill, North London, where his celebrity neighbours include Daniel Craig and Sadie Frost, was reluctant to discuss how his firm came up with such large fees.

Asked how he justified charging nearly £600 to open a bank account and similar fees for registering with exam boards, he said: 'This is a matter for the Department for Schools.

'We have contracts with the Department and you must ask them about this.' He said that his firm's large fees for drafting timetables for the new Academies were needed because the process was 'very complicated'.

Mr McAvoy charges the taxpayer £800 for every day he spends working on Academy projects. He claimed his work for the Department for Education was unrelated to the fees his company now charges for advising on Academy projects. He said: 'I was an adviser to the Academies Division of the Department for Education between 2001 and 2003 and helped draw up the structure document which sets out everything which is required to be done to open an Academy.

'But at the time there was no suggestion this document would be used by the Department to cost the Academy programme. It was the Department's decision to use it to cost the projects. There was no relationship with the work I did and the present fees structure.

'When I helped draw up the structure document there was no suggestion it would be used to decide fees. That was the Department's decision.' Recently his firm appears to have struggled to win new contracts.

It is currently overseeing the opening of only one new Academy - in Oldham - and has been forced to lay off staff.

It has also suffered losses from a recent plan to diversify into supplying uniforms for some of its Academies.

It had hoped that the scheme - controlled through another firm owned by Mr McAvoy - would be the sole supplier of uniforms to at least six City Academies and bring in large profits. But the plan was hit by delays in production.

Internal documents show the firm was besieged by parents calling to complain about its failure to supply the uniforms by the start of term.

The report says: 'Due to supply problems and product issues, there was a constant flow of telephone calls to the company office...This led to a sea of angry parents who either could not get through at all or had to leave a message that would not be responded to for some time.

Calls were averaging at 100 an hour and messages at 30 an hour. This led to a very poor view of the company.' Installing an answer machine to deal with the irate parents was suggested but, the report says, this raised 'the issue of confidentiality and the need to prevent parents learning of problems at other Academies'.

Once the uniforms arrived the firm faced more problems when items fell apart or did not fit.

The internal management report, obtained by the Mail on Sunday, reveals the scale of the crisis.

A section headed 'The Poor Quality Of The Product' says: 'The manufacturer specialised in fashion garments. Fashion garments are not very durable and, as a result, the product easily succumbed to wear and tear. The material is also of an unconventional mix that has to be washed at 30C and falls apart after a few machine washes.'

The report continued: 'Choosing the cheapest ties which were cheap because they were smaller and thus did not prove a good fit or look when distributed to Academy pupils.

'Re-dying cloth that had been dyed the wrong colour, resulting in its falling to pieces when the students began to wear it.' It also reported the sleeves on some items were 'the same length irrespective of what size the overall garment was'.

Another problem was 'discrepancies in quality of garment (some thick, some thin) - even though the price remained the same'.

The company's reaction was to shut down the subsidiary selling the uniforms and announce it was 'under new management'.

The Schools Department said it could not discuss individual companies, the contracts it had with firms, or the detailed charges for the establishment of Academies. A spokesman said: 'The process for selecting project management companies is robust.' It also failed to answer questions about Mr McAvoy's involvement with drawing up the Academy Policy and whether this should have barred him from bidding for contracts.
Biggest risk to MoD staff on danger money? Tripping up
By: Jason Lewis

CIVIL servants paid 'danger money' for working at the Ministry of Defence are more likely to be injured typing or tripping on a paving stone than in the line of fire, new figures reveal.

The department, which has been criticised for failing to provide frontline troops with adequate equipment, is also spending £1,000 a day for 'secure cars' for its top Whitehall mandarins.

The revelations come weeks after the Government defended paying MoD civil servants a total of £47million in performancerelated bonuses, citing the 'dangerous' nature of their jobs.

Now, the MoD's own statistics show 330 civil servants were hurt while on duty last year, but none in 'hostile environments'. A separate report reveals the department's insurers have paid out more than £60million in three years to cover staff compensation claims.

Eighty civil servants hurt themselves 'lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling items' including keyboards, ten were hurt in 'physical movement' such as exercise or drills and another ten 'struck against ... something stationary' such as a door.

The biggest risk to MoD staff was tripping, with 90 such injuries recorded, but no one was hurt by ammunition or explosives or in a 'hostile environment'.

Meanwhile, the MoD has revealed that from April to June this year, it spent £87,289 on secure cars for senior officials.

MoD Permanent Secretary Sir Bill Jeffrey's car use cost the taxpayer £14,615 and his deputy Ursula Brennan's car cost £9,045.

A spokesman said they needed official cars because they often carried top-secret documents.

He said: 'Our most senior staff use an official car where this makes good business sense and is justified by the nature of their appointment or command duties.' The spokesman said the MoD was reviewing the 'performance awards' received by 50,000 civilian staff, adding that 'if they are found to be inappropriate, they will be changed' under a new pay deal set for 2011.

Chinese hackers linked to 'Warmergate' climate change leaked emails controversy

By Jason Lewis and Simon Parry
Last updated at 6:42 PM on 27th December 2009

The investigation into the so-called Warmergate emails - the leaked data from the University of East Anglia’s climate change department - took a new twist last night when The Mail on Sunday tracked the stolen messages to a suspect computer which provides internet access to China.

The address used to post the emails is also on an international ‘black list’ which highlights suspicious behaviour on the internet.

The revelation comes after the Russian security service, the FSB – the former KGB – authorised the release of confidential information that allowed us to retrace the route taken by the email traffic.


Revealed: How we broke the story that a computer company in Siberia was used to post the controversial emails

A computer company in Siberia was ultimately used to post the controversial messages - which cast doubt on the reliability of scientists’ global warming claims - on the internet.

The revelation led to claims that the Russians were behind the release of the information.

But, anxious to distance themselves from the leak, the FSB revealed how the data had been sent to Siberia from a computer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The evidence passed to The Mail on Sunday now raises questions about whether Chinese hackers, backed by the communist regime, are the source of the emails.

Supported by their government and its security and intelligence services, Chinese hackers have been at the centre of huge number of ‘cyber attacks’ in recent years, including attempted computer ‘break-ins’ at the House of Commons and Whitehall departments, including the Foreign Office.

Earlier this year, MI5 chief Jonathan Evans warned 300 British businesses that they were under Chinese cyber-attack. The People’s Liberation Army is reputed to hold an annual competition to recruit the country’s best hackers.

Copenhagen iceberg

Agenda: An Iceberg projection highlighting the Copenhagen UN summit shows the high level of political interest in climate change - and why scientists may be desperate to prove it is a man-made problem we can solve

Last week, The Mail on Sunday traced the stolen climate change emails to a so-called Open Access server run by Malaysian telecoms giant Telekom Malaysia Berhad.

The Malay government owns more than a third of the company and it supplies internet access to nearby China.

Last night, the company confirmed the leaked emails passed through Kuala Lumpur using its open relay mail server that can be accessed and used to forward mail by internet users without the need for a password.

Company spokesman Saiful Azmi Matmor said: ‘We cannot divulge any confidential information about our customer accounts. However, we are aware of the international stories about the leaked emails and our technicians are looking into this matter now that you have drawn it to our attention.’

A source within the company said: ‘Because this is an open relay mail server, the emails could have been sent through it from anywhere in the world. It is just as likely to
be someone outside Malaysia as someone within the country.’

The internet address used to post the messages is linked to several others used by the Chinese -- one is a Chinese environmental institute, the Research Institute of Forest Ecology and Environment Protection, based near Beijing.

Several professors from this institute are regulars at climate change conferences where they have shared a platform with the University of East Anglia experts.
After our enquiries in Malaysia began, the suspect computer links to China were suddenly cut.

Scotland Yard and Norfolk Police are leading the investigation into the email theft at the University of East Anglia.