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Murdoch U.K. Unit Treated as a ‘Suspect’ by Scotland Yard: Report

News Corp's News UK could face prosecution

LONDON — Scotland Yard has made the U.K. newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. a “suspect” in its investigation into alleged phone-hacking and bribery, according to U.K. press reports.

The Metropolitan Police, which is responsible for policing in London, is investigating whether News UK — formerly known as News International — should be prosecuted as a corporate entity, according to the Independent newspaper and Reuters.

Numerous serving and former News UK staff — both execs and journalists working for The Sun and the now shuttered News of the World newspapers — have been arrested for phone-hacking and illegal payments to public officials, but this police probe shifts the focus onto the corporation and its directors.

News Corp.’s Management and Standards Committee, which was set up to assist police with their investigation, is reported to have scaled back its co-operation when it was confirmed that the police were viewing News UK as a “suspect” in the formal sense.

In a secretly recorded meeting with staff at The Sun in March, which was broadcast by Channel 4 in July, Murdoch strongly criticized the police and said he regretted the level of cooperation given to them.

Asked to comment on the latest story, a News Corp spokesman said: “We have cooperated with all relevant authorities throughout the process and our history of assistance is a matter of record.”

According to the Guardian newspaper, one option for police would be to prosecute company directors “for neglect of their duties.” As well as adding to mounting legal cost at News Corp., such a prosecution could affect the broadcast license of pay TV operator BSkyB, of which News Corp. is a major shareholder. Under the terms of that license, BSkyB directors must be deemed “fit and proper” people.

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