RUPERT Murdoch has given the biggest hint to date that the phone-hacking crisis could spread to his US interests.
In his witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry, he discloses that “evidence of alleged or suspected illegality” by News International staff is being passed to investigators from the US Department of Justice.
Earlier this month, Mark Lewis, the lawyer representing dozens of hacking victims, travelled to America where he said he was representing at least three people who believe their phones were hacked on US soil.
Any criminal action against News Corporation in the US would be hugely costly both in terms of financial outlay and reputational damage.
It would also bring the criminal investigations closer to Mr Murdoch’s door, as he is based in the US.
Last year the FBI launched an investigation into whether any News Corporation companies accessed voicemails of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the Department of Justice is looking into possible breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
In his witness statement, Mr Murdoch gives details of the working of News International’s Management and Standards Committee, which was set up partly to provide police with any relevant evidence of phone-hacking.
He says: “Since July 2011, the MSC, working with a legal team, has actively cooperated with the Metropolitan Police as well as with the United States Department of Justice, turning over evidence of alleged or suspected illegality, and responding to all requests for information.
“This has led to the arrests of a number of NI employees. Our cooperation is continuing to date.”
Mr Murdoch repeats his comment, made to the Parliamentary culture, media and sport select committee last year, that he had been “humbled by the events of the past year” and “with the wisdom of hindsight, I have learned that even experienced and long serving members of staff can fail to meet their responsibilities”.
He adds: “All of us regret that some of our colleagues fell far short of what is expected of them. I feel great personal regret that we did not respond more quickly or effectively.
“This company has been my life’s work, and I feel a strong sense of responsibility for everything we do and fail to do.”