Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

SFO to consider News Corp probe

The Serious Fraud Office is to consider calls to probe Rupert Murdoch's News Corp

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is to give "full consideration" to calls for it to launch an investigation into Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, a spokeswoman has said.

Labour MP Tom Watson wrote to the SFO asking it to carry out an inquiry into out-of-court settlements made with victims of News of the World phone hacking.

The agency, which investigates and prosecutes the most serious cases of fraud and corruption, confirmed it had received the letter and was considering the request.

Mr Watson wrote to SFO director Richard Alderman asking him to investigate possible breaches of company law by News Corp's UK newspapers division, News International, over the payments to victims made after the original phone hacking scandal broke in 2006, Channel 4 News reported.

The MP sits on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which will hear evidence on Tuesday from Mr Murdoch, his son James and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

The SFO would not confirm a BBC report that the US Department of Justice has informally asked it about how to investigate allegations that the News of the World paid police officers for information.

An SFO spokeswoman said: "The SFO can confirm it has today received a letter from Tom Watson MP calling on the SFO to investigate certain allegations relating to News Corp. The SFO director, Richard Alderman, will give full consideration to Mr Watson's letter.

"The SFO is aware that the Metropolitan Police Service is conducting an investigation into alleged improper payments to police officers. The SFO is routinely in contact with the US authorities and is ready to assist them if they open an investigation in their jurisdiction into News Corp-related matters."

In a separate development, Press Association reporter Laura Elston, who was arrested last month by police investigating allegations of phone hacking by journalists, will face no further action, her lawyer said.

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