30 Jun 2014

Corporate probe into hacking revealed

9:45 pm on 30 June 2014

British police began pursuing the possibility of laying corporate charges against the directors of Rupert Murdoch's media empire over hacking by his journalists in Britain.

The revelation is contained in a two-year-old letter obtained by the ABC's Four Corners programme.

Rupert Murdoch.

Rupert Murdoch. Photo: AFP

The programme has obtained a letter from Sue Akers, a high ranking police commissioner, to one of Mr Murdoch's top London lawyers in 2012.

The letter said there is an active investigation into the corporate liability of News International in relation to phone hacking and illegal payments to public officials.

It said the letter was sent to Mr Murdoch's lawyers six weeks before the News Corp board announced that it would split the global media company.

The split separated the lucrative US entertainment business and its television licences from the troubled newspaper division.

Two British MPs told Four Corners that there is consideration by prosecuting authorities as to whether they should go ahead with corporate charges against board members of the US and UK company.

The splitting of News Corp, long demanded by shareholders, had been resisted by Mr Murdoch until 2012, the ABC reports. It went ahead last year and has proved enormously successful for the Murdoch family and 21st Century Fox.

Last week, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of plotting to hack phones and his predecessor Rebekah Brooks cleared of all charges.

The jury at the Old Bailey in London delivered their verdicts on 24 June after eight days of deliberations and nearly six months of evidence sparked by the scandal that led to Mr Murdoch shutting down the tabloid in July 2011.

The case centred on News of the World's efforts to hack the phones of Britain's royal family, politicians, celebrities and victims of crime, and families of people killed in the 7 July 2005 London bombings.

The paper was closed after it emerged that it had instructed a private investigator to intercept voicemails left on the mobile phone of murdered Surrey teenager Milly Dowler in 2002.