News Corp. Obstruction Evidence Mounts – Bloomberg
Before Rebekah Brooks was arrested last year over her role in the News Corp. NWSA phone-hacking scandal, she staved off a police threat of obstruction charges related to the company unit she headed, according to two people familiar with the matter.Based on a perceived lack of cooperation last April, Scotland Yard officials warned they would arrest Ian Burton, the lawyer Brooks retained to handle all police interactions with her unit, News International. Brooks, then the unit’s chief executive, defused the threat by sending two emissaries to Sue Akers, the director in charge of the police probe. They assured Akers the company would cooperate fully, the people said.Enlarge image James Murdoch, currently deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., gave up his title as executive chairman of News International last week. Photographer: Peter Foley/BloombergEnlarge image Pedestrians walk past the News Corp. offices in New York, U.S. Photographer: Paul Taggart/BloombergCourt records and interviews with people briefed on the hacking investigation indicate the showdown between Brooks and Scotland Yard is just one episode in a persistent, five-year effort to contain the scandal in a manner the police and a U.K. judge have called obstructive.“They are to be treated as deliberate destroyers of evidence,” said High Court Judge Geoffrey Vos at a Jan. 19 hearing in London at which the company announced it had settled 36 cases involving hacking victims.Three months after the April police threat, Brooks was arrested on suspicion of corruption and conspiring to intercept communications. At that point, the company mounted an aggressive campaign to help the police identify any examples of illegal behavior.Latest DisclosureThe latest disclosure in a series, made last week, involved a 2006 e-mail that detailed hacking at News of the World, the Sunday tabloid the company shut in response to the scandal. It showed Brooks, while editor of another News Corp. tabloid, The Sun, had been told by police that hacking victims were more widespread than the New York-based media company had admitted — and included Brooks herself.The e-mail, sent between two News of the World managers, suggests that from the beginning of the phone-hacking scandal, there was a conspiracy among senior executives to deceive the police and a separate, parliamentary probe into phone hacking.The most significant of the revelations involves James Murdoch, the former News International executive chairman who, until last August, was widely considered to be the heir apparent to his father, Rupert Murdoch, as chief executive of News Corp.E-Mail DeletedIn January of last year, eight days after police asked a News International tabloid to turn over any new evidence related to alleged voice-mail hacking, the company deleted a potentially incriminating e-mail from James Murdoch’s mailbox.The younger Murdoch, currently deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., gave up his title as executive chairman of News International last week.According to Linklaters LLP, the London law firm coordinating the company’s inquiry into alleged criminal behavior at News International, the deletion of James Murdoch’s e-mail files was part of a “stablisation and modernisation programme” put in motion by the company’s information technology department in January of last year.The Murdoch e-mail was deleted 11 days before London police opened a new investigation into phone hacking at News International, a coincidence reported by The New York Times.News International had asked HCL Technologies, a database management firm, about the possibility of “truncating a database” during the same month. HCL said in a letter to Parliament that it wasn’t able to fulfill the request.