Journalists paid police up to £2,000 for stories in payments that may have been sanctioned by their newdesks last decade ago, a former top Met police officer has claimed.
Appearing at the Leveson inquiry into press ethics, Bob Quick said "it became apparent that some officers were being bribed for stories [in 2000]".
"We believe they were claiming the money back from their employers," he said, adding that journalists were "falsely claiming" or newspapers were "complicit" in the payments to police.
But Quick said the stories were mostly about "famous people" but at the time decided it would be "too risky" to probe further.
The former assistant commissioner, who resigned from the Met in 2009 after inadvertently displaying confidential documents about a counter-terrorist operation to photographers outside Downing Street, told the inquiry in London that he had received intelligence saying officers were paid between £500-£2,000 for stories.
"It became apparent that some officers were being bribed to provide stories. I took the view that was a threat to the organisation and compiled a short report proposing that we might deal with that by way of an investigation looking at financial transactions.
"In particular we believed journalists paying the bribes were not paying them from their own funds. Intelligence revealed payments of £500 to £2,000, therefore we believed they were claiming that money back from their employers."
Quick also revealed he requested the phone records of Met Assistant commissioner John Yates after then Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell raised concerns over police leaks during the cash for honours inquiry. He said Yates had refused a quest to access his phone records, telling him "I am too well connected."
But Quick said he did not place "too much significance" on the remarks:
"I thought it was a bit of theatre. He was clearly sensitive to an intrusive process like that."