Murdoch Tape: U.K. Politician Calls for U.S. to Press Charges Against Mogul's Company

3:19 AM PST 07/05/2013 by Stuart Kemp
Rupert Murdoch

Labour Party member Chris Bryant makes the case in a chat with The Guardian as Murdoch opponents look to capitalize on secretly taped comments from the media boss.

LONDON – A British Labour party politician has said U.S. authorities should press corporate corruption charges against Rupert Murdoch's media empire after a secret recording of the media mogul emerged.

In the tape Murdoch indicates that bribing of public officials was widespread in Britain's newspaper industry and also seems to signal that he was aware of bribery at his own company, specifically tabloid The Sun, describing it as "the culture of Fleet Street."

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Member of parliament Chris Bryant, who has himself been compensated for phone hacking by the defunct News of the World, said the latest revelations were "another reason" for the FBI to take action, according to a report in The Guardian.

The action would be taken under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it an offense for American companies to pay public officials on foreign soil.

The Labour minister told the newspaper that he had spoken to the Metropolitan police, and claimed the force had been in touch with the FBI.

But, according to The Guardian, Bryant said he believed the U.K. authorities were reluctant to consider bringing any corporate corruption charges in the U.K. because the force was "waiting for Operation Elveden [the investigation into unlawful payments made to public officials] to finish."

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News Corp denied that Murdoch was aware of any bribery at the time. "Mr. Murdoch never knew of payments made by Sun staff to police before News Corporation disclosed that to U.K. authorities," it said. "Furthermore, he never said he knew of payments. It’s absolutely false to suggest otherwise."

The secret tape also showed Murdoch criticizing U.K. authorities and signaling regret about the extent of his company's cooperation with the police on various probes. A transcript of the recording was obtained by investigative website ExaroNews and picked up by Britain's Channel 4.

Bryant's call for action follows hot on the heels of such demands from another Labour parliament member, Tom Watson.

Watson posted a letter to U.S. Senators John Rockefeller and Patrick Leahy on his website, saying he had attached a transcript of the Murdoch tape to it.

Rockefeller is chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation. Leahy is chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which oversees matters relating to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The latest scandal over alleged payments to police erupted after Sun journalists secretly taped a 45-minute meeting in March between Murdoch and at least 24 staff who had been arrested in relation to Scotland Yard's Elveden investigation.

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