Police investigating computer hacking by private investigators commissioned by British newspapers have uncovered evidence that emails sent and received by Gordon Brown while Chancellor of the Exchequer were illegally accessed.
Scotland Yard's Operation Tuleta team is looking at evidence from about 20 computers which hold data revealing that hundreds of individuals may have had their private emails hacked.
The links discovered from the seized computers suggest that the email investigation could involve as many victims as those involved in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
The eight-strong Tuleta team is looking at the possibility that several newspapers commissioned specialist private detectives to access computers. News International said yesterday that the company had "no alleged link" to Brown and former Labour adviser and lobbyist Derek Draper.
A source with knowledge of the contents of some of the computers seized from private investigators said analysis of a portion of the hundreds of thousands of messages found on the machines showed that Brown and Draper were targeted while the former Prime Minister was Chancellor of the Exchequer.
One of Brown's former Cabinet colleagues, Peter Hain, has confirmed that he held discussions with police officers investigating the potential hacking of his computers during the period when he was Northern Ireland Secretary.
The period discussed with Hain, from 2005 to 2007, overlaps with the period Operation Tuleta is looking at in connection with the Brown-Draper emails.
News International's chief executive, Tom Mockridge, said his company had been advised that Hain's computer equipment "was not and has not been the subject of an investigation by Operation Tuleta" and that there was "no belief or suspicion that this equipment was hacked".
Hain, however, said he had met the head of Operation Tuleta and discussed the hacking of three of his computers: two issued by the Northern Ireland Office and a personal machine.