Watchdog queries INM chairman on ‘data breach’

Leslie Buckley asked to explain who gave UK company access to publisher’s IT system

Independent News & Media chairman Leslie Buckley: The case before the High Court is between the ODCE and Mr Buckley and does not involve INM. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Independent News & Media chairman Leslie Buckley: The case before the High Court is between the ODCE and Mr Buckley and does not involve INM. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The State’s corporate enforcer has asked Independent News & Media’s chairman, Leslie Buckley, to explain who gave a British-based security company access to the newspaper publisher’s internal IT system, and who paid for it.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), which is conducting an inquiry into a suspected data breach at INM, put questions to Mr Buckley in August about the involvement of Trusted Data Solutions UK. However, details emerged only this week in court papers.

Mr Buckley, who is INM board representative of its major shareholder Denis O’Brien, was asked what benefit INM received, who paid the bill, and the names of others able to help the ODCE’s inquiries.

Mr Buckley has told the ODCE that access to the IT system was granted to TDS, which has its European headquarters in Cardiff, as part of a “cost reduction exercise” at the State’s largest media group.

Separately, INM announced on Friday that director David Harrison has resigned. Mr Harrison, who was shareholder Dermot Desmond’s nominee, informed INM on Friday of his resignation, “effective today”.

Mr Harrison is the chief executive of Mr Desmond’s e-learning company, Intuition Publishing. His resignation follows the departure earlier this year of Jerome Kennedy, the former KPMG managing partner who was INM’s senior independent director.

Court documents seen by The Irish Times show Mr Buckley told the ODCE that an order it served on him in October required him to extract and review a large number of documents dating back two years.

Privilege

Following this process, 275 documents were provided to the ODCE, but privilege was claimed over 11 of them, which were handed over to the ODCE in a sealed envelope, but have not yet been viewed by it pending a High Court ruling.

The case before the High Court is between the ODCE and Mr Buckley and does not involve INM. Mr Buckley is being represented in this matter by his own personal lawyers, and not by INM’s lawyers.

INM declined to comment. On November 24th, INM said it was “not a party” to the court application, “has co-operated fully” and “has no further comment to make at this point in time”. Mr Buckley made no response.

According to its website, TDS specialises in the “identification, restoration and conversion” of electronically-stored information on servers. Attempts to contact the group yesterday were unsuccessful.

In an affidavit, Mr Buckley said the cost reduction exercise with which he said the documents were connected, necessitated the engagement of “external technical expertise”, firstly by IT expert Derek Mizak.

Mr Mizak in turn recommended hiring a specialist IT company. Mr Buckley said IT security specialist John Henry, of Specialist Security Services, introduced him to Mr Mizak.

Both Mr Mizak and Mr Henry have links with the Reconnaissance Group, which is based in Ballsbridge in Dublin and which provides security services to clients doing business in emerging markets.

Risk management

Reconnaissance has an association with Mr O’Brien’s Caribbean telecoms group, Digicel, to which it has provided risk management and security services, most notably in Haiti. It shares an address with Digicel in its capital, Port-au-Prince.

The ODCE’s inquiry into matters to do with INM followed a row last year between Mr Buckley and Robert Pitt, the company’s former chief executive, who made a whistleblower complaint.

The complaint by Mr Pitt, who has now left the company, was over an aborted bid by INM for Mr O’Brien’s radio business Newstalk, following a disagreement with Mr Buckley over how much Newstalk was worth.

A listed company, INM is the State’s largest newspaper publisher, employing nearly 200 journalists. It publishes the Sunday Independent, Irish Independent, Sunday World and Evening Herald, among others.