Phone-Hacking: U.K. Investigates Tabloid Publisher

Trinity Mirror is the biggest competitor of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in the British tabloid market.

LONDON – London's Metropolitan Police are investigating alleged phone-hacking at Trinity Mirror, the publisher of the Sunday Mirror and the Daily Mirror, the newspaper giant said on Thursday.

The tabloid giant, Rupert Murdoch's biggest and most ferocious rival in the U.K. newspaper business, said in a statement to the stock exchange Thursday morning that the police were investigating whether it is "criminally liable" for an alleged phone-hacking conspiracy by previous employees.

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The phone-hacking scandal engulfed Murdoch's News International division last year, leading to the closure of Sunday tabloid The News Of The World and a re-brand to News U.K., amid an investigation for corporate charges.

Trinity Mirror's statement is the clearest admission by the newspaper group that it is under investigation as part of Scotland Yard's two-year inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal, Operation Weeting.

The Trinity Mirror statement reads: "Trinity Mirror plc notes that its subsidiary, MGN Limited ('MGN'), publisher of the group's national newspapers, has been notified by the Metropolitan police that they are at a very early stage in investigating whether MGN is criminally liable for the alleged unlawful conduct by previous employees in relation to phone hacking on the Sunday Mirror.

"The group does not accept wrongdoing within its business and takes these allegations seriously," it added. "It is too soon to know how these matters will progress and further updates will be made if there are any significant developments."

The notification by the Metropolitan Police is a serious development for MGN and indicates that they are investigating the company for a corporate charge as opposed to individual charges against journalists who have been arrested in related to allegations of phone hacking.

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News of the corporate investigation hit the mainstream news on Thursday with outlets including The Guardian newspaper, BBC News and Sky News all carrying items.

MGN has made the notification public because it is obliged to inform shareholders of any development that could have a material impact on its stock.

Trinity Mirror shares fell slightly after the 7 a.m. stock market announcement, dropping 1.75 percent a share at 8:30 a.m.

Earlier this month Dan Evans, a former Sunday Mirror reporter, became the first journalist from an organization other than News of the World to be charged over an alleged conspiracy to hack phones.

Evans, who worked at the Sunday Mirror from 2002 to 2004 and the News of the World from 2005, is accused of four counts of alleged criminal activity, including a conspiracy to hack the phones of "well-known people and their associates" between 2003 and 2010.

In March, the police arrested four former Sunday Mirror journalists -- including its former editor, Tina Weaver -- on suspicion of being involved in an alleged phone-hacking conspiracy between 2003 and 2004.

The other three ex-Sunday Mirror journalists arrested were the Sunday People editor, James Scott, his deputy Nick Buckley and Mark Thomas, the former People editor.

Several former News International journalists face court appearances in October of this year on phone-hacking charges. 

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