British MP seeks police probe on James Murdoch comments

22nd July 2011, Comments 0 comments

A British lawmaker said Friday he would refer James Murdoch to police after two former News International executives accused the media empire heir of misleading parliament over the phone-hacking scandal.

During a parliamentary committee hearing on Tuesday, the 38-year-old son of Rupert Murdoch denied knowing about an email suggesting hacking was widespread at the now-defunct News of the World before authorising a payout to a victim.

But Colin Myler, the former News of the World editor, and Tom Crone, ex-legal manager of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper arm News International, issued a statement late Thursday saying James Murdoch's testimony was "mistaken".

Tom Watson, an opposition Labour lawmaker who has campaigned for a fuller probe into the scandal, said it was the "most significant moment of two years of investigation."

"This morning I am going to refer the matter to Sue Akers, the head of Operation Weeting at the Metropolitan Police," he told the BBC.

Operation Weeting is the London police force's investigation into phone-hacking, which reopened in January amid growing evidence an initial inquiry that blamed the practice on a single rogue reporter was flawed.

Watson said James Murdoch's testimony "shows that he not only failed to report a crime to the police, but because there was a confidentiality clause involved in the settlement, it means that he bought the silence of Gordon Taylor and that could mean that he is facing investigation for perverting the course of justice."

On Tuesday, James Murdoch said he was "not aware" of an email suggesting wider hacking at the tabloid before approving a payout to Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, in 2008.

James Murdoch, the chairman of News International, said in a statement late Thursday: "I stand by my testimony to the select committee."

The Metropolitan Police refused to comment when asked if Watson had referred the matter to them yet. A spokesman said: "We are not giving a running commentary on proceedings."

Prime Minister David Cameron and John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, said Friday that James Murdoch now had questions to answer.

© 2011 AFP

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