It’s been a while since we checked in with Rupert-Gate, the phone hacking scandal that many of us hoped might permanently scar the media empire, News Corp, owned by Rupert Murdoch. But there are still some developments taking place.
Firstly, Rebekah Brooks, former head of News Corp was arrested for a second time on suspicion of “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.” This is not her first round in the pokey. Last September, she was hauled in by the Metropolitan Police and grilled for several hours before posting bail.
It seems with this new arrest, which also included her husband, Charlie Brooks, authorities are now concentrating on the cover-up of the scandal, rather than the phone hacking specifically:
Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch’s long-time confidante and a personal friend of David Cameron, was arrested at dawn on Tuesday alongside her husband, the racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, as Scotland Yard’s investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World struck out in a new direction.
Rebekah Brooks, who was chief executive of News International until July last year, was one of six people seized between 5am and 7am on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. It was the largest single batch of arrests in Operation Weeting so far. Previously only three of the 22 people arrested in the News of the World phone-hacking investigations had been held on a similar basis.
Instead the couple spent at least 12 hours being questioned by detectives in different police stations, in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, regarding an offence that carries a theoretical maximum term of life. In practice, however, nobody found guilty has received a jail term of greater than 10 years for it in the last century. The two were released on bail until a date in April. Four others were also released on bail.
While Brooks was busy making bail, Rupert’s disgraced son, James, who stepped down as Executive Chairman of News Corp last month, wrote a too-little-too-late mea culpa to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in Parliament, which is currently mulling over the question of whether it was misled by James Murdoch in his testimony before Parliament a few months ago. In the letter, he expresses regret, but maintains he knew nothing about the hacking:
“Clearly, with the benefit of hindsight, I acknowledge that wrongdoing should have been uncovered earlier. I could have asked more questions, requested more documents and taken a more challenging and sceptical view of what I was told, and I will do so in the future.”
The same day Murdoch’s letter was received, the former chief reporter for the News of the World, Neville Thurlbeck, was arrested on suspicion of intimidating a witness.
Meanwhile, accusations are bubbling to the surface about an internal grading system supposedly used by the Metropolitan Police, in which they would grade reporters’ coverage of the police, based on favorable vs. non-favorable:
Crime Editor Mike Sullivan told a judge-led inquiry into Britain’s media ethics that he had been told “that there is a system whereby reporters are graded in terms of whether they are favorable to the Met Police or not.”
On this side of the pond, the FBI’s investigation of News Corp under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, is looking into whether a billboard company in Russia, once owned by News Corp, paid off local officials to get their sign placements approved:
Two people familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press that the FBI will examine operations at former News Corp. subsidiary News Outdoor Russia. The two people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.
Investigators are trying to establish whether there is a pattern of bribery and corruption at News Corp. outlets abroad, they said.
Well, I would think the pattern is as plain as the nose on one’s face, but I guess some are more obtuse than others.