News Corporation has admitted paying the legal fees of disgraced private investigator Glenn Mulcaire after his conviction for phone-hacking in 2007.
It is a question that the company has consistently refused to answer since Mulcaire's conviction alongside former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman.
Giving evidence to the House of Commons culture committee today, News Corp Europe and Asia chief executive James Murdoch admitted the company contributed to the legal fees of both men, insisting it was customary for companies to pay the legal fees of former employees and the payments were made on the advice of legal counsel.
Tory MP Philip Davies asked the pair: 'Why would News International even dream about paying the legal fees of someone engaged in criminal activity?"
James Murdoch said he had asked the same question and that 'in asking that question I have been surprised that it's customary here to sometimes make contributions to legal costs of co-defendants or other defendants in related matters".
Rupert Murdoch said it would have been signed off by someone 'higher up'than the newspaper's managing editor. Quizzed on whether former NI chief executive Les Hinton – who resigned from News Corp on the weekend – could have signed off the repayments, he replied: 'It could have been".
Murdoch added that this would have been on the advice of the chief legal officer.
Labour MP Paul Farrelly asked the pair specifically about Mulcaire's legal fees in the series of the civil cases that followed his criminal conviction.
James Murdoch admitted that 'certain legal fees'were paid to the private investigator, and asked if NI were still paying his fees, he replied: 'I don't know the precise status of that".
Asked whether the company should say 'enough is enough'and stop paying Mulcaire's fees, Rupert Murdoch said he would 'like to do that'– provided it was not 'in breach of a legal contract".