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British phone hacking panel set to recall James Murdoch

More questions to be resolved about scandal

A spokeswoman for Rupert Murdoch’s son James said he would comply with the panel’s request. A spokeswoman for Rupert Murdoch’s son James said he would comply with the panel’s request. (Warren Allott/AFP/Getty Images)
By Alan Cowell and John F. Burns
New York Times / September 14, 2011

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LONDON - A parliamentary panel investigating the phone hacking scandal in the British outpost of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire said yesterday that it would recall his son James Murdoch to answer more questions about the case.

Committee officials said they expected to schedule the hearing for November, and a spokeswoman for Murdoch said he would comply.

“James Murdoch is happy to appear in front of the committee again to answer any further questions members might have,’’ she said.

The committee’s decision seemed likely to bring further drama to an unfolding story that has reached deep into British society, raising questions about the behavior and power of the press and the once intimate cross-ties between the media, the political elite, and the police.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons select committee investigating the scandal, told Sky News that Murdoch, 38, would be recalled after the committee has heard testimony from Les Hinton, a former top executive at the Murdoch family’s News Corp., and Mark Lewis, a lawyer representing individuals who were targets of the phone hacking.

Hinton, who became the chairman of Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal after the paper was acquired by News Corp., was the most senior Murdoch executive to quit as the hacking scandal unfolded.

Whittingdale said he expected James Murdoch to appear at the inquiry for a second hearing as part of the committee’s efforts to tie up “one or two loose ends’’ left after earlier testimony.

The scandal over unlawful intercepts of voice mail has been rumbling for several years, but it built to crisis pitch this summer with reports that News of the World ordered the hacking of the phone of Milly Dowler, an abducted teenager who was found murdered in an outer London suburb in 2002. As the scandal exploded this summer, News International closed the newspaper after 168 years of publication.

The Murdoch family was drawn personally into the inquiry in mid-July when the House of Commons committee on culture, media, and sport questioned both Rupert and James Murdoch, with both men expressing regret over the phone hacking but denying any knowledge that it had been a widespread pattern before the rush of revelations this year. The hearings resumed last week when two former senior employees of News International challenged James Murdoch’s version of events.

Their testimony centered on a 15-minute meeting in London in 2008 when, they said, James Murdoch, chief of News Corp.’s European and Asian operations, was told that the hacking of voice mail was more widespread than the company had acknowledged. It was on this basis, they said, that Murdoch approved an out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor, a leading soccer executive whose voice mail had been hacked, that eventually ran to $1.4 million, including legal costs. But that account has been disputed by Murdoch.

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