Murdoch’s News Corp won't face phone-hacking, bribery charges in US

News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch (Reuters/Lionel Bonaventure)
​Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation will not face prosecution over allegations that several of its subsidiaries had been intercepting personal voicemails and bribing public officials.

The US Department of Justice said in a statement that it would not prosecute News Corp and 21st Century Fox, part of Murdoch’s global media empire, over a major phone hacking and bribery scandal that erupted in the United Kingdom four years ago.

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News Corp faced a possible investigation under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which makes it illegal for US companies to bribe officials in foreign countries.

In a statement, Gerson Zweifach, representing both companies, said, “21st Century Fox and News Corp have been notified by the United States Department of Justice that it has completed its investigation of voicemail interception and payments to public officials in London, and is declining to prosecute either company.”

With the news, it appears that Murdoch will avoid paying a fine that experts say could have been in excess of $800 million.

Analysts said News Corp escaped a full-blown US investigation over the lack of apparent evidence that the media company hacked phones of individuals who were inside the United States.

One past episode that could have sparked a DOJ probe involved actor Jude Law, who said the now-defunct paper News of the World hacked his mobile phone in 2011 at New York’s JFK airport.

Another involved 20 families of September 11 victims who believe their private communications may have been compromised. The Mirror reported in July 2011 that a New York police officer said he was contacted by News of the World journalists who said wanted “the victim’s phone numbers and details of the calls they had made and received in the days leading up to the atrocity.”

Norman Siegel, the US attorney who is representing the group, said they were disappointed by Monday’s DoJ announcement.

“The attorney general promised my clients that before the department published any statement, they would meet with us, and explain what their inquiry had found and what their conclusions were,” Siegel said, as quoted by the Guardian. “So this is very disappointing that they did not fulfill their promise. I will be calling the attorney general to request that meeting.”

In 2011, the darker side of British media was thrust into the public spotlight when it was discovered that reporters working at two Murdoch-owned popular tabloids, the Sun and the News of the World, were accused of intercepting mobile phone communications of private citizens and making payments to public officials.

Public outcry reached fever pitch in July 2011 when it was revealed that reporters from News of the World had gained access to the voicemail account of missing schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, 13, following her disappearance in March 2002.

Milly Dowler’s body was discovered six months after she went missing.

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The sensational scandal forced Murdoch to shutter the News of the World, which had been in publication for 168 years prior to the phone hacking scandal, while both he and his son James were called to testify before parliament.

The UK probe reached all the way into the highest levels of government when it was discovered that Andy Coulson, the paper’s former editor who went on to become media advisor for Prime Minister David Cameron, was found guilty in July 2014 of conspiracy to intercept voicemails.

Coulson was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but was released after serving five months. Five other News of the World journalists were also found guilty to the hacking charges.

Rebekah Brooks, who edited the Sun and the News of the World before being promoted to CEO of News International chief executive, was cleared of charges relating to phone hacking, and bribing public officials.

Meanwhile, four former or current reporters for the Sun have been found not guilty on charges relating to making bribes to officials.