LONDON – Rupert Murdoch and his son James will testify before Britain’s media ethics inquiry next week, officials said, as police announced the arrest of a man identified as the royal editor of Murdoch’s scandal-tarred The Sun newspaper.
The Murdochs have been at the hub of the scandal over wrongdoing at their News Corp. media empire and the pair can expect fresh questions about what they knew and when they knew it.
Father and son previously gave a dramatic testimony before Parliament last year, but much more information has since spilled out into the public domain, including evidence that senior executives at News International, the company’s U.K. newspaper arm, spearheaded an ambitious cover up involving the deletion of incriminating emails.
The inquiry led by Lord Justice Brian Leveson said Thursday that Rupert Murdoch will appear on Wednesday and possibly the day after. His son, James is expected to appear Tuesday.
Rupert Murdoch shut down his 168-year-old News of the World tabloid in July amid public anger over revelations that the paper’s journalists routinely hacked into voicemails, including the messages of a murdered schoolgirl.
Since then, News Corp. — whose holdings including the Fox News channel and The Wall Street Journal — has been battered by further evidence of illegal behaviour. Police investigations into police bribery, voicemail and hacking have seen the taint of scandal spread beyond the News of the World to Murdoch’s top-selling Sun tabloid, the award-winning Sky News channel and the venerable Times of London.
Other arms of News Corp. have seen renewed scrutiny: A former employee came forward last year to allege that the Wall Street Journal’s European edition was artificially inflating its circulation figures; the FBI is investigating whether News Corp.’s former Russian advertising firm broke anti-corruption laws; and reports in the British and Australian media have alleged involvement in hacking at its former satellite encryption company, NDS.
News Corp. denies wrongdoing in all three cases.
While Rupert Murdoch has remained largely insulated from the crisis, several of his lieutenants have resigned and the scandal has tarnished his son’s credibility over what went on while he was in charge at News International.
The younger Murdoch has had to backtrack on his testimony before Parliament, acknowledging that he wasn’t telling the truth when he told lawmakers he’d never been notified about damning evidence that suggested the scandal went much further than his company was acknowledging at the time. He was notified, he later admitted, although he insisted that the meaning or relevance of the evidence was never made clear to him.
Not only has the scandal taken a toll on James Murdoch’s reputation, it has also cost him a clutch of titles. Since it boiled over he has resigned from News International and stepped down as chairman of satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting, moves that many observers saw as an effort to distance himself from the crisis.
Meanwhile at least 25 past and present employees of News International have been arrested in the police investigations of phone hacking, bribery and computer hacking.
On Thursday, another journalist from The Sun tabloid was one of three people arrested as part of an investigation into corrupt links between the British police and the press, officials said.
Police said the arrests early Thursday were the result of information passed on from a management and standards committee at Murdoch’s News Corp., which has vowed to get to the bottom of criminality News International. All three have since been bailed.
News International confirmed that one suspect arrested in the dawn raids Thursday worked at the Sun newspaper but would not name the journalist. Police
did not name the suspects, but a person briefed on the investigation identified one of them as Duncan Larcombe, The Sun’s 36-year-old royal editor. He spoke anonymously because he wasn’t authorized to give details of an ongoing police inquiry.
Contact information for Larcombe couldn’t be immediately located, but he had previously testified at Leveson’s inquiry that he never paid a police officer for a story or hacked computers while at The Sun.
Police said that the two others arrested Thursday were a 42-year-old ex-serviceman and a 38-year-old woman.
Britain’s chief prosecutor said Wednesday that criminal charges are being considered against 11 people in four cases related to their various investigations.
Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at: http://twitter.com/CassVinograd
Raphael Satter can be reached at: http://twitter.com/razhael