After arrests of 51 journalists in the UK, News Corp told it will not face US corporate prosecution - Press Gazette

After arrests of 51 journalists in the UK, News Corp told it will not face US corporate prosecution

Rupert Murdoch's media companies have been told they will not face prosecution in America over allegations of phone-hacking and payments to public officials in Britain.

The United States Department of Justice had been investigating both News Corp and 21st Century Fox but, after completing its probe, said it was "declining to prosecute".

Both companies are headed by the Australian media mogul. News Corp's headquarters are in New York, while 21st Century Fox runs television channels including Fox News.

General counsel for News Corp Gerson Zweifach 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. We are grateful that this matter has been concluded and acknowledge the fairness and professionalism of the Department of Justice throughout this investigation.”

The investigation began after new revelations about the extent of phone-hacking at the News of the World in 2011. Early that year the Metropolital Police began Operation Weeting, the new investigation into phone-hacking.
Following the closure of the News of the World in July 2011 News Corp's Management and Standards Committee began to trawl through the records of the company's surviving UK newspapers looking for evidence of possible wrongdoing.
Since that time 51 journalists who have worked for News Corp in the UK have been arrested on suspicion of phone-hacking, computer-hacking and making illegal payments to public officials: 25 from The Sun, 25 from the News of the World and one from The Times. Nine have been convicted (so far).
The trial of six Sun journalists at Kiingston Crown Court in December last year heard allegations that News Corp and deliberately "shopped" journalists to the police in order to stave of the threat of a corporate prosecution and save people at the top of the company.
Nigel Rumfitt QC, defending The Sun's head of news Chris Pharo said: "News International (News Corp's former UK subsidiary) is a copper's nark, and just like a copper's nark it has given a mixture of accurate and misleading information about others to the police in order to save its own skin.
"The very informant has controlled the entire investigation.

"The police can't even get access to the documents controlled by News International.

"This prosecution was controlled and instigated by the prime suspect."

Rumfitt said News International had withheld critical evidence of the payment authorisation system, including documents showing former chief executive Rebekah Brooks' involvement while editor of The Sun. 

He said just one authorisation form signed by Brooks had been produced by the prosecution during the trial at Kingston Crown Court.

"Do you really believe that one document is the only such document in the possession of News International?", asked Rumfitt.

"Do you think Rebekah Brooks only ever signed one of those?

"The evidence of Charlotte Hull (news desk secretary) is Mrs Brooks must have signed hundreds of them – where are they?"

On News International, he suggesting the defendants in the dock had been "shopped" in a bid to stave off corporate prosecution.

He said: "The release of misleading information to the police force and the prosecuting authorities so desperate to atone for the earlier bungle, they have made it ten times worse by launching a prosecution without having all the evidence and without the power to get it."

He said: "The Management and Standards Commmitte has acted as a front for News International, plainly engaged in a wholesale cover-up for more senior people at the company at the expense of the more junior.

"News International were terrified that the company would itself be prosecuted, and if it was that would mean the US authorities might withdraw licences held by the American parent company, bringing down the whole Murdoch empire with the loss of 46,000 jobs."

Rumfitt told the court News International thought it could dodge a corporate prosecution by "ingratiating themselves with police", and launched the investigation into payments at The Sun of their own accord.



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette