- (Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Winning)
Rupert Murdoch, already facing intense scrutiny in Britain over allegations of phone hacking and police payoffs, can now also expect more heat from the U.S. Justice Department. It was revealed Thursday that department officials are ready to begin a probe of their own into the scandal.
Officials at the Justice Department are preparing subpoenas for a preliminary investigation of News Corp. over allegations that company employees bribed British law enforcement officials and hacked voicemail accounts belonging to 9/11 victims, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported late Thursday. The paper, owned by News Corp., cites a government official as its source.
According to the government source, Justice Department leadership has yet to sign off the issuance of any such subpoenas. If subpoenas are issued, it is speculated that the Justice Department would likely question News Corp.'s violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which is typically used against companies that bribe foreign officials in exchange for business contracts, according to the WSJ.
News Corp. is based in New York City, but owns properties overseas, including News International, which oversees operations at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.
The WSJ notes that those familiar with News Corp.'s handling of the case believe the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) may get involved as well. However, the SEC has not publicly stated if the agency plans to investigate the company.
News of the Justice Department's involvement in the case comes a week after the FBI revealed it is conducting a probe of the troubled News Corp. empire also due to alleged voicemail hacking involving 9/11 victims.
"We have not seen any evidence to suggest there was any hacking of 9/11 victim's phones, nor has anybody corroborated what are clearly very serious allegations,” an unidentified spokesperson for News Corp. told the WSJ.
The FBI probe of News Corp. was at the behest of lawmakers, some of whom are seriously considering ordering Murdoch to Capitol Hill to discuss the hacking allegations, according to MSNBC.
The trouble for Murdoch started weeks ago when staff at News of the World were accused of hacking voicemail accounts belonging to victims of the 2005 terrorist attacks in London. The tabloid ended publication on July 10 due to intense criticism over the allegations.
British officials have been investigating those allegations and have questioned Murdoch and other company executives about their possible involvement in the scandal.