November 29, 2020

Murdoch Testimony on Hacking Comes Under New Scrutiny

The pressure on Mr. Murdoch built a day after two former executives of News International — the British subsidiary of the News Corporation — publicly contradicted evidence he gave on Tuesday to a parliamentary panel seeking to untangle the story of phone hacking at the now defunct Murdoch tabloid The News of the World.

“Clearly James Murdoch has got questions to answer in Parliament, and I’m sure he will do that,” Mr. Cameron said during a visit to an auto plant in the British Midlands. “And clearly News International has got some big issues to deal with and a mess to clear up. That has to be done by the management of that company. In the end the management of the company must be an issue for the shareholders of that company, but the government wants to see this sorted out.”

The two former executives said on Thursday that they told Mr. Murdoch in 2008 of evidence suggesting that phone hacking at one of the company’s tabloid newspapers was more widespread. They said they informed Mr. Murdoch at the time that he was authorizing an unusually large secret settlement of a lawsuit brought by a hacking victim.

Mr. Murdoch, who runs the News Corporation’s European and Asian operations, including News International, told the committee on Tuesday that he agreed to pay £725,000, which was then about $1.4 million, in the case because it made financial sense. He testified that he was not aware at the time of the evidence, which probably would have become public had the case proceeded and undermined the company’s assertion that hacking was limited to “a lone rogue reporter.”

But Colin Myler, former editor of The News of the World, and Tom Crone, former News International legal manager, said Mr. Murdoch was “mistaken” in his testimony to the parliamentary panel. They said that when settling the lawsuit brought by a soccer union leader, Gordon Taylor, Mr. Murdoch knew about a crucial piece of evidence that had been turned over to the company: an e-mail marked “for Neville” containing the transcript of a hacked cellphone message, apparently a reference to the paper’s chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck.

“In fact, we did inform him of the ‘for Neville’ e-mail which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor’s lawyers,” Mr. Myler and Mr. Crone said in the statement released Thursday night. On Friday, Tom Watson, an opposition Labour lawmaker who has been prominent in the hacking inquiries and is a member of the parliamentary committee, told the BBC that he would “formally” ask the police to investigate the executives’ assertions.

“This is the most significant moment of two years of investigation into phone hacking,” Mr. Watson said.

Referring to the executives’ account, he said on BBC television: “If their version of events is accurate, it doesn’t just mean that Parliament has been misled, it means the police have another investigation on their hands.”

He added: “There is only going to be one person who is accurate. Either James Murdoch, who to be fair to him is standing by his version of events, or Colin Myler and Tom Crone.”

Separately, Chris Bryant, another Labour lawmaker, who says his own phone was hacked, said he had written to nonexecutive directors of the News Corporation urging that James Murdoch and his father, Rupert, be suspended from their roles in running the company.

He said the company had displayed a “complete failure to tackle the original criminality” while “the lackadaisical approach to such matters would suggest that there is no proper corporate governance within the company.”

The circumstances surrounding the settlement of the Taylor case are a focus of the parliamentary inquiry because they could shed light on whether there was an effort by News International to obscure the extent of the hacking. It was the first lawsuit brought by a hacking victim, and it came while the company, which owned the tabloid, was reeling from the 2007 guilty pleas of Clive Goodman, the paper’s royal reporter, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, for hacking the phones of the royal household.

Ravi Somaiya and Graham Bowley contributed reporting from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/23/world/europe/23murdoch.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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