Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said Wednesday he believed his bank account was accessed by the Observer, a sister paper of the Guardian which helped expose a phone-hacking scandal.

Salmond told the Leveson inquiry, a wide-ranging probe into press ethics, he had no evidence that Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World tabloid had illegally accessed his voicemails.

But he added: "My bank account was accessed by the Observer newspaper some time ago, in 1999, and my reason for believing that is I was informed by a former Observer journalist."

He said the person knew details about purchases he made for his nieces that could only have come from the so-called "blagging" of his bank account, which happened during the run-up to elections in Scotland.

"I believe that there is a substantial case that illegality was rife across many newspaper titles," Salmond said.

The Observer is the Sunday sister paper of the left-leaning Guardian, whose investigation into hacking by the News of the World resulted in the closure of Murdoch's top-selling British paper in July 2011.

Salmond faced criticism in April after the Leveson inquiry heard that Murdoch's News Corp believed the Scottish first minister would intervene on behalf of its bid to take control of pay-TV giant BSkyB.

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry to probe the ethics of the press and its relations with politicians and the police after the hacking scandal erupted.

[Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond via AFP Photo/Andy Buchanan]