Piers Morgan authorized the illegal phishing of the Duke’s private banking details when he was editor of the Daily Mirror.
Prince Michael of Kent’s personal financial details were published by the Mirror in 1999, allegedly revealing that Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin was in debt of millions of pounds and had an unauthorized overdraft with Coutts Bank of £220,000.
When the Duke’s lawyers complained to Morgan that the story was untrue and that the records must have been obtained illegally, Morgan dismissed their “thinly disguised threat” and insisted the information came from an “immaculate source”.
In fact, the Mirror obtained the information after hiring private detectives who posed as the prince’s accountant, called the bank and illegally “discovered” his account details, the court heard.
Before the article was published, two fake calls were made to Coutts to confirm the Duke’s bank account number. The publisher of The Mirror later settled the legal claim against Prince Michael and apologized to him.
David Sherborne, representing the claimants in the phone hacking lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers, said the incident was indicative of a culture of widespread illegality and cover-up at the company’s top level. The lawyer said it was “inconceivable that the legal department and Mr. Morgan were unaware of the source of this story.”
The Supreme Court also heard allegations that:
Morgan “lies at the center” of allegations of unlawful information gathering, including phone hacking, at parent company Mirror and was “directly” involved in illegal conduct.
The journalist who helped obtain Prince Michael of Kent’s financial records was Gary Jones, now editor of the Daily Express.
The Mirror regularly used the services of Southern Investigations, a private investigation agency heavily implicated in police corruption and the murder of its former employee Daniel Morgan.
Phone hacking was so common in the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People that even the editors of those newspapers illegally accessed voicemail.
The claims were filed on the second day of the Mirror group’s phone hacking trial, in which more than 100 alleged phone hacking victims are filing lawsuits against the publisher. Four people, including Prince Harry, have been selected as test cases and will testify in court next month.
Sherborne, the plaintiff’s attorney, told the court that there was widespread illegal conduct at every level of the organization. “Mr. Morgan is at the heart of this in many ways. He was a very hands-on editor, also very close to the board… We have Mr. Morgan’s direct involvement in many of these incidents and his knowledge of voicemail interception,” he said.