Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Murdochs Called To Testify On Political Connections, Threats To Politicians

Lots of news on the News Corporation criminal front today.

First up, the Murdochs have to testify before Parliament in the hacking scandal again:

News Corp. (NWSA) (NWSA)’s influence over British politics since Rupert Murdoch entered the U.K. media market in the 1960s will be dissected at an ethics inquiry reviewing the ties between journalists and politicians.

The News Corp. chairman and his son, Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch, will testify at the inquiry prompted by the phone-hacking and bribery scandals at their U.K. tabloids. James Murdoch is scheduled to testify April 24, while is father will appear the following two days, according to the inquiry’s website. The Murdochs will appear in person instead of using a video link and are the only witnesses scheduled for those days.

The review began last year after evidence emerged that voice-mail interception at News Corp.’s News of the World title was rampant and not limited to a “rogue” reporter as the company claimed. Some victims and lawmakers have said Murdoch’s connections to politicians helped protect New York-based News Corp. during police probes in 2006 and 2009 that failed to uncover the extent of the scandal.

“The public are going to be gobsmacked by the closeness” between News Corp. executives and Britain’s politicians, said Duncan Lamont, a lawyer at Charles Russell LLP who represents some News Corp. competitors in the inquiry. The Murdochs, in what could be their last public appearance in the matter, “are determined to go out with a bang -- not a whimper.”

Indeed, MP Tom Watson published a book today with details of just how much punishment Murdoch and his papers looked to dish out to those who crossed them, saying that News Corporation essentially operated as a "shadow state" in Britain:

News Corporation is a "toxic institution" that operated like a "shadow state" in British society, according to a Labour MP who is the co-author of a new book about the phone-hacking scandal.

Tom Watson, joint writer of Dial M for Murdoch, said that the book also featured allegations that Murdoch's News of the World set out to search for "secret lovers" or "extramarital affairs" of MPs on the culture, media and sport select committee in 2009.

At a packed press conference, Watson, a member of the Commons culture select committee, said that the surveillance revelation – passed onto him by former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck – demonstrated how the Murdoch organisation tried to intimidate parliament.

Thurlbeck gave Watson an on-the-record interview, with a witness present, in which he said the then News of the World editor, Colin Myler, told journalists on the Sunday tabloid to "find out everything you can about every single member".

At the time the select committee was conducting its second inquiry into phone hacking, in the wake of revelations in the Guardian that the practice went beyond a single "rogue reporter" at the tabloid.

The aim was to discover "who was gay, who had affairs, anything we can use," according to Thurlbeck, as quoted in the book. "Each reporter was given two members [MPs] and there were six reporters that went on for around 10 days."

Thurlbeck told Watson that the investigations eventually "fell by the wayside" and that "even Ian Edmondson", the then news editor, "realised that there was something quite horrible about doing this".

Watson, and his co-author Martin Hickman, an Independent journalist, said that they believed that pressure on MPs at the time influenced the decision not to compel Rebekah Brooks, who was then News International's chief executive, to give evidence before the committee.

So give Rupert and his News Corporation criminals what they want or they'll dig up dirt on you and go public.

How's that for acting in the "public interest"?

One of the News Corporation employees involved in this dirt-digging and intimidation was Colin Myler, a former News Corp. editor who now is editor-in-chief at the Murdoch rival New York Daily News.

Myler should be under arrest, along with many of his News Corp. colleagues, but so far has eluded handcuff. Not so some more journalists who work for Murdoch, however:

(Reuters) - British police arrested three people, including the royal editor of Rupert Murdoch's Sun tabloid, a source familiar with the situation said, in an escalation of a long-running phone hacking scandal which reaches into Britain's political establishment.

Thursday's arrests and the fact they stemmed from information given to the police by Murdoch's company itself is likely to reignite tensions within the media group, just days before parliament gives its verdict on how the culture of illegality came about.

Next week Rupert Murdoch and son James will also appear before a judicial inquiry to answer questions over the conduct of the press, which will focus on the close ties between Murdoch, his executives and the political establishment.

James Murdoch will appear in court room 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday while lawyers at the inquiry have cleared a day and a half to grill the 81-year-old Rupert on Wednesday and Thursday.

"This was always going to be an important six weeks in this affair, with the Murdochs and politicians going before the Leveson judicial inquiry, but it will be exacerbated by the arrests and the imminent committee report," said Steven Barnett, communications professor at the University of Westminster.

Police made the arrests one day after prosecutors confirmed they had started to examine the police case against four journalists and seven others to establish whether they should be charged with a range of offences including perverting the course of justice.

Press reports have speculated that one of those named in the files is Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of the News of the World and Sun tabloids and a close friend of both Murdochs and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Brooks has been arrested twice, once for corruption and intercepting communications, and more recently for perverting the course of justice, along with her husband, Charlie Brooks.

The three arrested on Thursday were detained at dawn and questioned over inappropriate payments made to police and public officials.

That's Joel Klein's hand behind News Corp turning over evidence on employees to the police that are resulting in arrests of Murdoch employees.

The last time Klein engineered this, Rupert Murdoch himself had to fly into London to quell a News International near-riot against the company.

But this time, there will be no trying to quell employees - Murdoch and Klein are deliberately trying to hang the scandal around the neck of those arrested, including former News International chief (and Murdoch favorite) Rebekah Brooks.

So much breaking in this scandal that it's hard to keep track.

One thing is for sure, it's not been such a good week for the Murdochs or News Corporation and next week could be even worse.

The Telegraph reports that with today's arrests, James Murdoch faces a dire future:

Mr Murdoch, News Corp's deputy chief operating officer and former chairman of News International, is facing renewed pressure in the US following the arrest of The Sun's royal editor, Duncan Larcombe, over alleged payments to public officials.

According to US lawyers, Mr Murdoch stands to have his personal assets seized and could be jailed if Mr Larcombe or any other member of News International's staff is found guilty of bribing police of government officials outside the US.

Such payments are prohibited by America's Foreign & Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the piece of legislation which is at the heart of parallel investigations into News Corp by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Investigations typically last around five years, but have severe personal consequence for the directors of any companies charged, regardless of whether they were directly involved in the wrongdoing. The directors can be jailed for up to five years for each FCPA charge.

Thomas Fox, an FCPA expert who has spoken on the subject at events organised by News Corp's Dow Jones newswire, said that companies charged under FCPA "have to clear their house out at the highest levels in order to move forward and for that reason I wouldn't be surprised if James Murdoch had to step down from his leadership role".

Joel Klein is working really, really hard to tie the scandal around the necks of other people, so we'll just have to see how this plays out.

Maybe Klein, "The Fixer" in the case, can save Rupert Murdoch from the wolves.

But Klein certainly has his work cut out for him now, and each day that work gets harder and harder.

No comments:

Post a Comment