Private investigators Kroll Associates have been hired by an unknown client to look into the $13 billion Cyberport project, including alleged efforts to undermine it. Kroll's appointment was unearthed after an undercover agent posing as a journalist approached the publisher of an Internet-based newsletter which had criticised the project awarded to Richard Li Tzar-kai's Pacific Century Group. The Kroll agent approached financial commentator David Webb, publisher of the Internet-based Webb-site.com newsletter, after he had published three articles broadly critical of the Cyberport. Mr Webb received an e-mail from the man, who claimed to be a journalist for the in-house publication of the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle. He wanted to discuss the content of the articles further. But Mr Webb became suspicious after he noticed the e-mail had been sent from Kroll's offices in Hong Kong. Mr Webb arranged a lunch at which the questions focused on potential 'conspiracy theories' surrounding the Cyberport. The agent said his article for the Seattle trade body had been commissioned by its deputy director, Sam Kaplan. From Seattle, Mr Kaplan said he did not recognise the journalist's name and that no article had been commissioned. A second meeting was arranged between Mr Webb and the agent, which Business Post also attended. When confronted, the agent admitted he was working for Kroll and revealed Mr Webb formed part of its investigation. The agent said he did not know who had hired Kroll to look into Webb-site.com's comments on the Cyberport but indicated his brief was to discover whether there were any 'hidden sources' behind the articles. Kroll regional director Steven Vickers said: 'Mr Webb was not the focus of an investigation.' A spokesman for Pacific Century Group said: 'We take appropriate action to protect company property and the wellbeing of our staff and from time to time engage specialist companies for these tasks. 'We have not assigned anyone to investigate the Cyberport or criticism of it.' A group of 10 property developers has attacked the decision to award Mr Li the Cyberport contract without putting it out to tender. The project in Pokfulam involves lucrative residential property development as well as creation of a high-technology hub. 'Efficient allocation of land by means of public auction or tender has traditionally been a pillar of our free-market approach,' the developers said in a joint statement. 'The group is deeply concerned that the Cyberport project deviates from that tradition.'