An agency worker with the special protection unit of the Metropolitan Police sparked a tabloid bidding war over secret police expenses claims, a court has heard.
Jairo Dos Santos received £32,000 from The Mail on Sunday after hiring a high-profile publicist to help him sell details of expenses incurred by police officers guarding members of the Royal Family and former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major, Southwark Crown Court was told yesterday.
The 29-year-old from south-east London is alleged to have sent the confidential information to The Mail on Sunday during his last few days of employment as an agency worker at the Met’s Protection Command unit.
The court heard that he sent three emails to reporter Jason Lewis, outlining around 2,700 expense claims made by officers protecting high-profile individuals.
The information formed the basis of exclusive stories on two successive weekends in July 2010.
The court heard that Dos Santos hired Max Clifford Associates to try to increase the price of the information by offering the story to the News of the World as well as The Mail on Sunday.
Prosecutor Gareth Patterson told the court: “He deliberately tried to increase the price he could get. He encouraged a bidding war by playing off the News of the World and The Mail on Sunday. He employed Max Clifford Associates to help him get a higher price for the sale. As a result of his efforts, he got £32,000 for himself.”
The court was told Dos Santos had dealt with the press before when he had tried to sell unrelated stories to other newspapers, including The Sun, the Sunday Mirror and The Independent, in 2009 and 2010. Jurors heard how he was “a savvy client” who had managed to increase the price paid for his information from an initial bid of £20,000.
“That shows what was behind his actions and what he was seeking to obtain,” he told jurors. “They show this was not some naïve client who was out of his depth or at the mercy of others. This was a savvy client who was driving negotiations with a view to squeeze as much money as possible out of the media.”
The Mail On Sunday ultimately paid £40,000 for the information, with Dos Santos pocketing £32,000.
The court was read a text message from Dos Santos to an agent at Max Clifford Associates, outlining his concern that he had not received payment in the days after the stories were published.
It read: “I know how the media mess around in paying for stories. I have dealt with it in the past.”
Patterson continued: “It was clear he was someone who had expertise of how to approach the press in such matters.
“The overriding motivation was financial and the motivation was driven not by Max Clifford Associates but by the defendant himself.
“He did not seek the consent of the officers whose names and personal details he sold to the press.
“By his actions, the defendant caused the release into the public domain of how the police manage protection operations; information that the police, for obvious reasons, try to keep confidential.
“This defendant sold this information at a time when his employment was coming to the end. His actions showed a disregard for the effectiveness of police operations. They were borne out of opportunism and financial greed.
“It was a serious breach of the trust placed in him by the police.”
The court also heard how Dos Santos was £1,000 overdrawn when he sold the information. After being paid, bank statements show he went on a spending spree, splashing out around £20,000 in the weeks after the stories appeared.
“What motivated this defendant was not the public interest as he now claims,” Patterson continued. “The truth is he was motivated not by the public interest but by self interest.
“This is not some public-interested whistleblower but a person whose employment was coming to an end, who was in debt, who had had previous dealings with the press and had made money from the press and who saw an opportunity to make money and exploited that opportunity to the full.”
Dos Santos denies one charge of knowingly or recklessly disclosing personal data contrary to the Official Secrets Act.
The case continues.