The BBC has suspended a Panorama employee and shelved an episode of the programme after a producer was accused of trying to bribe a security consultant for information.
The episode of the flagship programme was due to air on Monday and was described by The Radio Times as "an investigation into financial scandals that could wipe out people's life savings, including a £250 million Caribbean rental-home development scheme".
- April 1, 2020
- March 31, 2020
- March 31, 2020
The programme looked into the activities of Harlequin, a developer of Caribbean luxury homes, but BBC executives decided to pull it last Thursday after the firm complained, The Times reported.
The BBC said in a statement: "In light of information received late in the production process of this film, the BBC decided to postpone broadcast.
"We are currently reviewing the facts.
"As a result a member of the team has been suspended and a disciplinary procedure is under way."
The corporation's statement came as a prison officer and former police constable were jailed for selling information about a notorious killer and celebrities to The Sun newspaper.
The Times reported that Matthew Chapman emailed Sean Ghent, a Harlequin security consultant, describing himself as an award-winning Panorama producer, and saying: "I was wondering if I could be a bit cheeky here.
"It's unlikely that Ames (Harlequin's chairman David Ames) and maybe Harlequin will be around for much longer, nor will he have money to pay people for much longer.
"There are a long list of creditors already I understand.
"Panorama and the BBC is always using security and protection officers and although I cannot guarantee anything we may be able to put things your way.
"Or we could work together on stories.
"It's always good to keep one eye on the future!
"How would you feel helping me out in a totally confidential way."
Ghent told The Times he was shocked by the producer's approach to him via the LinkedIn website on March 13.
"He was suggesting my job might disappear. It seemed to me he was trying to offer me an enticement," he said.
The Times reported that in a letter to the BBC's litigation department, Harlequin said: "On any sensible interpretation, the message to Mr Ghent is simply staggering.
"It appears to constitute a flagrant and in our view highly improper attempt by (the journalist) to induce Mr Ghent into disclosing information about Harlequin in return for the potential reward of future work from the BBC.
"In short, it appears to be tantamount to an attempted bribe."
The corporation's anti-bribery policy states: "The BBC takes a zero-tolerance approach to bribery and corruption and is committed to acting professionally, fairly and with integrity in all its business dealings and relationships wherever it operates.
"The BBC is committed to implementing and enforcing effective systems to counter bribery."
The Bribery Act 2010 outlaws financial offers to a person in the knowledge that acceptance would constitute "improper performance" of their duties.