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Murdoch jets in to handle hacking crisis - as his son could face prosecution

All of this while police investigate claims that a senior executive deleted ‘millions’ of incriminating emails…

80-year-old Rupert Murdoch has kept a low profile since details of the News of the World's phone-hacking emerged.
80-year-old Rupert Murdoch has kept a low profile since details of the News of the World's phone-hacking emerged.
Image: Julie Jacobson/AP

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of News Corporation, billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, is this morning flying into London to take personal command of the phone-hacking crisis that threatens to engulf his entire media empire.

The 80-year-old will today meet senior staff from News International, the local holding company which operates its four British newspapers, as the fallout continues from the scandal which has already forced the News of the World to close.

Reuters said that News Corporation would not comment on the formal agenda for Murdoch’s visit – though it is almost certain that the visit will centre not only around the News of the World, but also News Corp’s outstanding bid to take 100 per cent ownership of British Sky Broadcasting.

News Corp already owns 39 per cent of the broadcaster and is looking to take it under full control, but requires British government approval to do – approval which could now hang in the balance given the PR disaster unfolding in its newspaper business.

Last night a Labour MP, former home secretary Alan Johnson, told the Daily Telegraph that Murdoch’s son James – who is the chairman of News Corp – could face prosecution under privacy laws.

Those charges could be brought, Johnson surmised, because Murdoch admitted earlier this week that he had approved out-of-court settlements to some of the News of the World’s phone-hacking victims.

Email deletion

The Guardian has meanwhile reported that police are investigating allegations that a News International executive may have deleted ‘millions’ of emails of an internal archive, in a bid to obstruct any criminal investigation into the scandal.

The emails are said to have dated back to early 2005 and would have outlined the routine contact made between NotW editors, staff and outside private investigators.

The report added that the deletion of the emails would be of interest to Britain’s telecoms regulator Ofcom, which has the final say on whether News Corp can complete the BSkyB deal, and which requires any buyer to be deemed ‘fit and proper’.

Yesterday, News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks – herself a former editor at the paper – explained to staff that the paper had to be shut down because it had become a ‘toxic’ brand, but warned that further examples of ‘worse’ phone-hacking revelations had yet to be revealed.

“In a year, you’ll understand why we did this,” Brooks told furious staff, while also promising to do her best to find alternative employment for the paper’s 200 workers.

Brooks’ successor as editor, Andy Coulson – who later served as a communications aide to David Cameron – and its royal correspondent Clive Goodman were both released on police bail last night, having earlier been arrested as part of the police investigations.

Tomorrow’s edition of the News of the World will be its last, following the decision of the Murdoch family to shut the paper earlier this week.

More: UK police search second tabloid in phone hacking investigation

Poll: Should the News of the World have been closed?

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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