Monday, 3 September 2012

Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent

One name has come up again and again during Hackgate is Alex Marunchak, who worked at the News of the World between 1981 and 2006, and who has yet to be arrested or charged in relation to any of the Hackgate police operations (Tuleta, Elvedon, et al).  Marunchak rose through the ranks at the News of the World under editors including Piers Morgan, Phil Hall, Rebekah Brooks, and Andy Coulson.

Marunchak name first came up in the hacking scandal when BBC's Panorama claimed that while working as editor for the Irish edition of the News of the World in 2006 he was sent the private emails of ex-British Intelligent officer Ian Hurst , who wrote a book about the alleged spy who infiltrated the Provisional Irish Republican Army, Stakeknife, under the pseudonym Martin Ingram.  The BBC programme alleged that Alex Marunchak had hired the hacker to target Hurst, and the e-mails were allegedly obtained from Ian Hurst's computer using a Trojan virus contained in an e-mail, with copies of the emails being faxed to the News of the World's Dublin office. Marunchak told the BBC he had
never met with a private investigator whom I asked to hack into computers.
And
It is absolutely untrue any unlawfully obtained material was ever received by me at the News of the World's offices in Dublin
Beyond the claims of e-mail hacking at his direction the BBC also claimed they had evidence that he had paid Southern Investigations for access to stories based on confidential police materials while he was working in London for the News of the World.

Marunchak is alleged to have had a long relationship with Southern Investigations, and it's owner Jonathan Rees, which included using photographers and vans leased to the paper to run surveillance on behalf of Jonathan Rees and his partner, Sid Fillery, on Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook.  The Guardian investigation suggested that the surveillance included, among other things, the alleged use of Trojan viruses attached to emails in an attempt to steal information from his computer.  What triggered this was Cook's appearance on BBC Crimewatch, where he appealed for information to help solve the murder of Daniel Morgan, a crime for which both Jonathan Rees and Sid Fillery were among the suspects.  Cook was warned by Scotland Yard that they had picked up intelligence that Marunchak had been contacted by Fillery, and had promised to "sort Cook out".

The relationship between Marunchak and Southern Investigations goes way back, far enough for some of the conversations between Marunchak and Rees to be picked up by police bugs as part of Operation Nigeria in 1999, including these snippets reported in the Guardian in 2002
Alex Marunchak, of the News of the World, is identified by the transcripts as a lucrative customer of the agency. In a bugged telephone call in July 1999, Rees said Mr Marunchak owed the agency £7,555. The transcript says that the money would be paid in the name Media Investigations. Rees added that the account would be "back within the agreed limit" by the following week.

The transcripts also contain details of a call Rees made to Mr Marunchak the same month in which they discuss information about Kenneth Noye, the notorious criminal later convicted of the M25 road rage murder.

Rees asked: "You know the information I gave you about Noye?" He then explained that his contact had come up with something else and went on to talk about a minor royal couple who, he claimed, were suffering marriage and financial difficulties.

Asked to comment on the transcripts, Mr Marunchak said: "Are you recording this call?" Asked if he disputed that he bought material from Rees, he said: "You haven't heard me admit it."
It's unclear when the relationship between Marunchak and Jonathan Rees began, but in a strange co-incidence the BBC reported that they had seen a witness report that claimed that Daniel Morgan had said one week before his murder that he was taking a story to a newspaper exposing police corruption, and the witness believed his contact at the News of the World was Alex Marunchak.  Sadly for Daniel Morgan the only story that made it to the papers was the one of his brutal murder in the car park of the Golden Lion pub, shortly after meeting Jonathan Rees.

In July 2011 it came to light that Alex Marunchak had found time in between working for the News of the World and setting up businesses with his friends to work as a Ukranian translator for the Metropolitan Police
Between 1980 and 2000 Alex Marunchak was on the Metropolitan Police list of interpreters who provide interpretation and translation services for victims,witnesses and suspects of crime who do not speak English.
Since the records system became electronic in 1996 we know that he undertook work as a Ukrainian language interpreter on one occasion in 1997 and six in 1999 as well as two translation assignments, totaling around 27 hours of work. It is likely he undertook work prior to 1996 as well.  We recognise that this may cause concern and that some professions may be incompatible with the role of an interpreter.
It may have been after one of these grueling translation sessions, while relaxing in a bar near the police station, that a Metropolitan Police offices alleges he heard Marunchak boast that he had relatives of the officers from the Soham murders police investigation on his payroll, a claim repeated by Tom Watson MP in Parliament
I believe the Metropolitan Police are sitting on an intelligence report from late 2002 that claims a police contact overheard Marunchak claim he was paying the relatives of police officers in Cambridgeshire for information about the Soham murders.  These are allegations that as far as we know have not been investigated.  I don't whether these intelligence reports are accurate, but I do know Alex Marunchak was involved in writing stories about how the Manchester United shirts of those young girls were found.
This wouldn't be the only time Marunchak was brought up by Tom Watson in Parliament, who made a series of serious allegations about Alex Marunchak and others about the murder of Daniel Morgan under parliamentary privilege, to which Marunchak responded to by denying all the allegations made.

So the question remains, if all these allegations are true, if there's so much money being put into the police investigations into computer hacking through Operation Tuleta, why has Marunchak not been arrested? 

Related Articles
The Milly Dowler Hacking - Part 1: Questions Still Unanswered
Operation Tuleta - A Second Look
Some Intriguing Hackgate "Known Unknowns"
BBC News - Lord Mandelson approaches police over 'e-mail hacking'
Daily Telegraph - Investigation over ex-Met chief's missing diary
The Independent - After 25 years and five inquiries, who did murder Daniel Morgan?

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

2 comments:

  1. Bent cops abound in this story and Northern Ireland a mere tip of a grubby iceberg.

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