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PORTSIDE  February 2012, Week 3

PORTSIDE February 2012, Week 3

Subject:

New Arrests in Murdoch Bribery Scandal Raise Question of U.S. Charges

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Date:

Thu, 16 Feb 2012 20:40:11 -0500

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New Arrests in Murdoch Bribery Scandal Raise Question of
U.S. Charges

by Lois Beckett

ProPublica
Feb. 13, 2012, 2:46 p.m.

http://www.propublica.org/article/new-arrests-in-murdoch-bribery-scandal-raise-question-of-u.s.-charges

British police arrested five senior members of the staff at
News Corp.'s flagship newspaper, The Sun, on Feb. 11, 2012,
the company said, as part of investigations into alleged
payments to police by journalists for information. (Olivia
Harris/Reuters)

This weekend, five more journalists from a Rupert Murdoch-
owned British tabloid were arrested as part of an ongoing
bribery investigation.

The arrested journalists, all from The Sun, were later
released, and have yet to be charged with any crimes. (As
The Wall Street Journal explained last summer, arrests in
the U.K. are often made early in a criminal investigation,
and may not be followed by any charges.)

But the arrests have once again raised questions about
whether Murdoch's News Corp. might face prosecution for
bribery in the U.S. under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Reuters reported last week that U.S. authorities are
"stepping up investigations" of the possible bribery by
Murdoch employees. An FBI spokeswoman told ProPublica,
"We're aware of the allegations, and we're looking into it."

As we noted during the unfolding of the phone hacking
scandal last summer, the U.S. has stepped up prosecutions of
companies for bribery of foreign officials in recent years,
and the fines for these violations can be steep. Companies
can face prosecution by the Justice Department if they
record bribery payments, or be pursued by the Securities and
Exchange Commission for fake record-keeping if they falsify
documents to conceal the bribes.

The statute of limitations on civil Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act charges is five years. The New York Times
reported Saturday that it was not clear when the allegations
that led to the Sun arrests had taken place, "though some of
those arrested have told friends that they were questioned
on events from almost a decade ago."

Those arrested at The Sun included the paper's chief
reporter, chief foreign correspondent and deputy editor.
Last month, four other current and former Sun journalists
were arrested, including the paper's crime editor and former
managing editor. A police officer, a member of the armed
services and an employee of the Ministry of Defense were
also arrested this weekend "on suspicion of corruption,"
broadening the scope of the investigation from its original
focus, bribery of police officers by journalists, to bribery
of other officials as well.

The arrests were based on information provided by News
Corp.'s Management and Standards Committee, an internal unit
created in response to the phone hacking scandal last
summer. The committee reports to Joel Klein, a former U.S.
assistant attorney general and New York City schools
chancellor who is now a News Corp. executive.

Our request for comment from News Corp. this morning was not
immediately answered. In a January news release following
the earlier arrests, the company reiterated its pledge "that
unacceptable news gathering practices by individuals in the
past would not be repeated."

The latest arrests, which were accompanied by police
searches of the journalists' homes, have prompted anger and
frustration from some British journalists, directed at the
police and politicians driving the investigation, and at
News Corp. executives.

"Once again, Rupert Murdoch is trying to pin the blame on
individual journalists, hoping that a few scalps will
salvage his corporate reputation," the general secretary of
the National Union of Journalists told The Guardian.

The Sun's associate editor, Trevor Kavanagh, called the
investigation "a witch-hunt" that threatens press freedom,
and said there was "nothing disreputable" about paying for
stories.

"Sometimes money changes hands," Kavanagh wrote in The Sun.
"This has been standard procedure as long as newspapers have
existed, here and abroad."

Last summer, the phone-hacking scandal resulted in the
closure of another Murdoch-owned publication, the 168- year-
old British tabloid News of the World, but News
International executive Tom Mockridge reassured staff this
weekend that Murdoch had pledged his "total commitment" to
continuing to own and publish The Sun.

Murdoch will reportedly fly to London this week.

The publisher of the shuttered News of the World has paid
hundreds of thousands of pounds in phone-hacking settlements
to celebrities, celebrity employees and politicians,
including at least $200,000 to actor Jude Law and at least
$63,000 to Guy Pelly, a friend of Prince Harry's, according
to the Guardian.

==========

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