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Danish police widen probe against gossip mag that snooped on royalty, celebrities

This is an undated photo of Danish reporter Ken B. Rasmussen . Two former reporters and the publisher of a local gossip magazine face preliminary charges of violating privacy laws by illegally accessing personal information _ including credit card transactions that enabled them to track the movements of the Danish royals and celebrities for several years, police said Wednesday May 14, 2014. Investigator Bent Isager-Nielsen says police searched the homes of Ken B. Rasmussen and Kasper Kopping and the headquarters of Aller media group behind Se og Hoer and the publishing house of Rasmussen, who described in a recent book explained how they followed Danish glitterati by using information from a former IBM employee with access to a card-payment company's computers. (AP/Photo Jens Dresling/POLFOTO) DENMARK OUT

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This is an undated photo of Danish reporter Ken B. Rasmussen . Two former reporters and the publisher of a local gossip magazine face preliminary charges of violating privacy laws by illegally accessing personal information _ including credit card transactions that enabled them to track the movements of the Danish royals and celebrities for several years, police said Wednesday May 14, 2014. Investigator Bent Isager-Nielsen says police searched the homes of Ken B. Rasmussen and Kasper Kopping and the headquarters of Aller media group behind Se og Hoer and the publishing house of Rasmussen, who described in a recent book explained how they followed Danish glitterati by using information from a former IBM employee with access to a card-payment company's computers. (AP/Photo Jens Dresling/POLFOTO) DENMARK OUT

COPENHAGEN - Danish police said Wednesday they are widening a probe into two former reporters and the publisher of a local gossip magazine, suspected of violating privacy laws by illegally accessing information — including credit card transactions — that enabled them to track Danish royals and celebrities for several years.

Police investigator Bent Isager-Nielsen said officers searched the homes of Ken B. Rasmussen and Kasper Kopping, who used to work for Se og Hoer magazine, to find more evidence. They also raided the offices of a media group and a book publisher.

Rasmussen, who was laid off in 2012 as part of sweeping staff cuts, relates in a recently published book how reporters used information from a secret source at IBM with access to a card-payment company's computers.

The informant, a 45-year-old Dane who was not named, was detained briefly May 6 after being indicted with violating privacy, and illegally accessing and spreading personal information from 2007 to 2012.

Rasmussen told the AP the magazine had paid the informant 10,000 kroner ($1,840) a month for the leaks, but declined to give more information about him.

He said their techniques were far superior to those used by reporters at the now-defunct British tabloid News of the World which was engulfed in a phone hacking scandal, describing those as "pure boy scout methods" in comparison. He detailed how they were able to closely tail Prince Joachim, Queen Margrethe's second son, and his second wife, French-born Marie Cavallier, on their honeymoon, by using information about where and when the newlyweds used their credit cards.

Since the case came to light, several Danish companies have begun internal investigations into possible leaks, resulting in staff dismissals and temporary suspensions.

The suspects face a maximum prison sentence of six years if found guilty, but have only been provisionally charged by the police — a step short of formal charges.

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