Rupert Murdoch's News Corp UK unit may face charges for hacking, bribing

Rupert MurdochAny corporate action against News Corp could lead to more expense for the company, which has already spent millions of dollars on legal cases, and further damage its already-tarnished reputation. (Reuters)

London police are actively investigating Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper business for possible criminal violations over allegations of phone-hacking and illegal payments to public officials by its journalists, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. Murdoch's News Corp said it was aware of the police inquiry but gave no further details. Until now, the investigation appeared to be focused on News Corp employees rather than the corporation.

British police launched an investigation in January 2011 into claims journalists at Murdoch's now defunct News of the World tabloid had been illegally accessing mobile phone voice-mail messages to find stories. The investigation led to Murdoch closing the paper and spawned further inquiries into claims reporters had also made illegal payments to police officers and other public officials for information.

The Independent newspaper of London reported on its website on Friday that the Metropolitan Police Service, also known as Scotland Yard, was investigating News International, as Murdoch's London publishing operation was previously known, as a "corporate suspect" over possible "hacking and bribery offenses."

Any corporate action against News Corp could lead to more expense for the company, which has already spent millions of dollars on legal cases, and further damage its already-tarnished reputation.

Police inquiries into the hacking and bribery allegations had been based mainly on information provided to detectives under a "memorandum of understanding" between authorities and News Corp's Management and Standards Committee (MSC), set up to conduct an internal investigation and liaise with officials.

More than 125 people have been arrested and more than 40 charged with offences under English law, including senior figures and journalists from Murdoch's British papers.

However, the source familiar with the matter told Reuters detectives and prosecutors also were actively considering taking action against News Corp as a corporation. More than a year ago, Sue Akers, the officer who was then leading the police inquiry, sent a letter to MSC Chairman Lord Grabiner to advise him of this, the source said.

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