A row between Britain's Prison Service and the agency fighting organized crime broke out Wednesday night over allegations that prisoners were using interactive Internet games to run global crime empires.

The allegation was made, without warning to prison chiefs, at the launch of the annual report of the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA).

Bill Hughes, the director-general of SOCA, said that organized-crime bosses were operating their multimillion-dollar empires from behind bars by using Internet games to pass on their orders.

Some were using code words in chat-room facilities on interactive games to operate from within jails, it was alleged by SOCA.

They are also said to be using games consoles such as PlayStations to charge cell phones smuggled into prisons. Prison guards are unwittingly passing on coded information in what appear to be innocent messages from criminals to their relatives.

"People are using PlayStations to charge their mobile phones and are playing games interactively with others, so are able to communicate with them," said Hughes.

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