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Documents cast doubt on denial by Murdochs

‘Inaccuracies’ cited in son’s testimony

- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 16, 2011

LONDON — Lawyers and former executives have cast fresh doubt on the denials made by Rupert and James Murdoch about Britain's phone hacking scandal, raising the prospect that the media tycoon's son could be recalled for a new grilling by Parliament.

In written testimony released by lawmakers Tuesday, former Murdoch lieutenants poked holes in the dramatic testimony delivered by their ex-bosses before Parliament last month, accusing them of misrepresentations, exaggerations and more.

Claims made by the Murdochs carried "serious inaccuracies," former News International lawyer Jonathan Chapman said in a letter to the House of Commons' media committee. He rejected the notion that the two had been kept in the dark by subordinates.

"Nobody kept Mr. James Murdoch or any other News International/News Corporation executives from being in full possession of the facts," he said.

Other former executives contradicted James Murdoch's assertion that he was unaware of a critical piece of evidence implying that illegal eavesdropping had been far more widespread than News International previously had claimed.

The evidence, contained in an email apparently addressed to a senior News of the World reporter, appeared to rip apart the company's fiercely held claim that the illegal espionage campaign was limited to a former editor, Clive Goodman, who already had been jailed over the practice.

James Murdoch told lawmakers that he was not aware of the email at the time, but his former legal adviser, Tom Crone, said that he had specifically brought it to Mr. Murdoch's attention during a brief meeting in June 2008.

"I have no doubt that I informed Mr. Murdoch of its existence, of what it was and where it came from," Mr. Crone said in a letter.

Some of the most scathing attacks on Rupert Murdoch came from his former law firm, Harbottle & Lewis, which accused his company of misusing its legal advice.

The London-based firm said it was asked to perform a narrow review of emails at the News of the World, following an employment claim made by Goodman, who had lost his job after pleading guilty to phone hacking in 2007.

In Parliament, both Murdochs presented this as evidence that Harbottle & Lewis had thoroughly vetted the paper, a claim the law firm rejected.

"There was absolutely no question of the firm being asked to provide News International with a clean bill of health," the law firm said in a statement.

The attacks on the Murdochs' testimony are the latest effort to pile the pressure on News Corp., which already has had to close the News of the World tabloid and scupper its multibillion-dollar bid for satellite broadcaster BSkyB, as the scandal rumbled on through the summer.

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