News Corp could be about to face a corruption investigation in the US over allegations of illegal payments to police and public officials by its journalists in the UK.
The Independent reports:
Sources close to Mr Lewis’s legal team have already scheduled key meetings in New York to take place within the next few weeks.
Although US investigators have so far found little evidence to support allegations that News Corp journalists illegally accessed the voicemails of 9/11 victims or their families in the US, the FBI have remained focused on allegations of bribery and illegal payments made by News Corp employees.
It added that News Corp’s board, including Rupert Murdoch and his son James, are “potentially liable under US corrupt practices law if they knew about or authorised bribes and failed to stop it”.
The news comes after the arrest of five senior journalists over the weekend.
The Independent also reported that Sun editor Dominic Mohan ‘has confided to close colleagues he fears that he could soon joins the ranks of those arrested by the Met’s specialist unit investigating corruption, Operation Elveden”.
The Guardian today also said that News Corp ‘faces the increased prospect of a full-blown inquiry by US authorities”.
The threat of prosecution under the US foreign corrupt practices act, which criminalises the payment of bribes to public officials by American companies overseas, exposes the company to tens of millions of dollars in fines and the risk of imprisonment of its executive officers – and brings the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal to the US.
The scale of any penalties that flow from the FCPA investigation would be based on a calculation of how much benefit the company derived from any corruption. Against that, mitigating factors would be taken into account such as the extent of co-operation given to the investigating authorities by the company.
That helps explain why News Corp has bent over backwards in recent months to assist the police by handing over evidence of possible wrongdoing, to the dismay of some of its own journalists. British law also states that the police cannot serve warrants on News Corp for evidence if the company is co-operating with inquiries.
News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch is due to fly into London later this week on a scheduled visit.
The NUJ has accused News Corp of creating a “witch-hunt” against its journalists, while both the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph have criticised the nature of the Met’s investigation.
During an appearance on BBC Radio Four’s World at One Lewis was questioned about reports he was due to take on News Corp in the US. He replied:
In terms of my own plans, I represent my clients as best I can do. I’m not prepared to discuss individual cases but if cases are in existence which have an American aspect to them then they will be pursued, if appropriate to pursue them, in Amercia.
He added: ‘I’m certainly to prepared not deny that I’m off to America to meet with American lawyers in respect of a case.”
Asked if the discussions could go further, he replied: “I anticipate it will do.”