Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is facing new hacking battles in the United States. The British lawyer who helped expose the criminal culture inside the News of the World has revealed plans to file at least three separate lawsuits on behalf of clients who claim their phones were hacked while they were on US soil.
Lawyers in California and New York are being lined up by Mark Lewis – who represented the parents of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler – in three individual cases expected to be filed against News Corp in the next few weeks.
In an interview with an American news website, Mr Lewis also revealed that his US legal targets includes the Murdoch empire's corporate arm, with a further suit centred on what he claimed were "the dirty tricks that might have been used in order to further the commercial aims for News Corporation".
Although no specifics have been given for what is claimed will be three high-profile cases, there is already speculation that Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell, the former England football captain David Beckham, and an associate of the leading actor Jude Law, may be have been potential victims hacked in the US.
Mr Lewis would only say that the cases which will be brought "imminently" are connected to the royal household and Princess Diana, with another alleged victim connected to England's national football team, and the third a "Hollywood case in which the alleged victim was in contact with a top celebrity".
At least one of the cases, according to Mr Lewis, involves allegations that the phone of a US citizen was illegally accessed.
In his lengthy legal fights with News International in the UK, Mr Lewis has proved an awkward and difficult opponent. He was instrumental in exposing the lie behind News International's repeated claim that phone hacking at the NOTW was confined to "one rogue reporter"
The Guardian also reports that News Corporation employees reportedly hacked a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil while talking to a friend on foreign soil.
So far, News Corporation has denied any hacking or criminal activity outside of Britain.
But now you have allegations that a U.S. citizen was hacked on U.S. soil.
This dramatically escalates the stakes for Murdoch and News Corporation.
News Corporation's Joel Klein, the official company "fixer" in the phone hacking/bribery/TV piracy scandal, will have his work cut out for him now.
As The Guardian reports about Mark Lewis taking the hacking battle to the United States:
His arrival constitutes a major escalation in the legal ramifications of the hacking scandal for Murdoch, who has tried desperately to keep it away from the American core of his multi-billion-dollar media holdings.
The direct involvement of the US judicial system in allegations of illegal activity by News Corp employees would bring the scandal dramatically closer to Murdoch's adopted home.
So far, the US component of the hacking scandal has been confined to an FBI and department of justice investigation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that forbids corporations headquartered in the US, as News Corporation is, from indulging in acts of bribery or corruption abroad. Any lawsuit that flows from Lewis's US activities would take the scandal to another level by becoming the first legal action to arise domestically within the US.
Up until now Murdoch has had a firewall here in the United States that has kept this scandal from these shores.
Now that firewall has been breached.
Once these suits go forward, Murdoch and his corporate fixers are going to have a difficult time quashing the exposure of their company's criminal activities.
Ultimately this may lead to News Corporation's board purging itself of anybody named "Murdoch".