Murdoch UK publisher asked about email deletion: IT firm

1st August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Rupert Murdoch's British paper publisher, which is at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal, asked the Indian company managing its IT systems about deleting emails nine times in 15 months, the group said Monday.

But HCL Technologies insisted such requests were not "unusual or untoward" and stressed it never stored any of News International's emails, in a written response to questions from a panel of British lawmakers.

News International's internal emails have become a focus in the phone-hacking scandal amid suspicions about messages that were sent by staff at the publisher's News of the World tabloid, which was axed last month amid new hacking claims.

The closure of the paper was the start of a crisis in Murdoch's News Corp. media empire, which has prompted the resignation of several of his close aides and a string of arrests.

In Monday's letter, HCL's law firm, Stuart Benson, said News International had asked for information on nine occasions between April 2010 and July this year.

The requests were about such things as deleting "delivery failure" messages, "pruning" old email archives and deleting data from a database.

But the letter to parliament's home affairs select committee said: "This is done by every IT administration department in the world and is indeed necessary to keep systems stable and performing to user needs."

"Issues and discussions relating to deletions would not be at all unusual or untoward," it added.

The focus on emails stems from a review of hundreds of messages from six News of the World accounts carried out by law firm Harbottle and Lewis for News International in 2007.

The firm concluded that nothing had come to light to contradict the theory that hacking was restricted to a single reporter with the help of a private detective.

The reporter and the investigator were jailed in 2007 for phone hacking.

But Ken Macdonald, the ex-head of Britain's state prosecution service who is now advising News International, said last month that it was "blindingly obvious" that the material should have been referred to the police.

He said a police probe into alleged illegal payments to officers could have been launched in 2007. Police are probing alleged bribery of officers as well as phone hacking.

© 2011 AFP

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