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UK probes ex-brass who boasted of political access

LONDON -- Britain's defense ministry announced Sunday that it is investigating whether retired senior officers broke any rules after they were recorded by undercover journalists as appearing to offer to lobby the government on behalf of defense companies.

The Sunday Times said officers, including former head of the army Gen. Richard Dannatt and former defense procurement chief Lt. Gen. Richard Applegate, had boasted about their access to ministers and senior officials. The paper posted some of its recordings online.

In one, Adm. Trevor Soar, is heard to say he had to "be slightly careful of lobbying ministers," but that he could "basically ignore" restrictions on meeting with officials.

The officers deny wrongdoing, and the newspaper did not suggest they had broken any laws. Retired personnel are allowed to work for the private sector two years after leaving the military.

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said the revelations were "deeply damaging to the individuals," but he denied retired officers had any influence on decisions about military purchases.

He told the BBC that if retired officers were using their access to politicians "for commercial purposes then we will have to tighten it up or maybe even shut it down. That is something we will now look at."