Despite London acquittals, U.S. probe of News Corp continues

WASHINGTON Thu Jun 26, 2014 5:52pm EDT

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks places her hand on her heart as she makes a statement to the media alongside her husband Charlie in London June 26, 2014.  REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks places her hand on her heart as she makes a statement to the media alongside her husband Charlie in London June 26, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than a year after asking for and receiving emails from News Corp's (NWSA.O) U.S. operation related to allegations of phone hacking and bribery, the FBI is still investigating whether British-based representatives of the media company may have broken U.S. law, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The FBI probe into Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has not ended even though some former senior Murdoch aides were acquitted of charges by a British criminal court jury, the sources said.

A law enforcement source and a second source familiar with the matter said the FBI is probing whether News Corp businesses or representatives may have violated U.S. laws, most notably the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids U.S.-based companies from paying bribes to foreign government officials.

News Corp is headquartered in New York City.

The company confirmed on Thursday that its lawyers turned over more than 80,000 emails extracted from U.S.-based servers to U.S. Justice Department investigators more than a year ago.

Sources said the emails were turned over via Williams and Connolly, a prominent Washington D.C. law firm which the company had hired to help it deal with fallout, including possible U.S. investigations, from British investigations into alleged phone hacking and payments to U.K. government officials by representatives of News Corp's London-based newspapers.

Asked about the turnover of emails, a News Corp executive told Reuters: "We voluntarily produced material to the Department of Justice more than a year ago and we understand that material was fully available to the authorities in the UK well before the (recently ended) trial."

The executive declined to be named.

In the criminal court trial which recently ended in London, a jury declined to convict defendants on charges related to alleged payments to public officials.

At the trial, Andy Coulson, a former editor of News Corp's now-shuttered News of the World Sunday tabloid and former chief spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron, was convicted of a conspiracy related to phone-hacking.

But Rebekah Brooks, another former editor of News Corp tabloids who subsequently became chief executive of his London publishing empire, was acquitted of all charges, as were her husband, other associates, and a former News of the World managing editor.

Two sources familiar with the matter said U.K. authorities are planning to prosecute nine more criminal cases involving current or former News Corp journalists which are understood to include allegations of possible corrupt payments to British government employees.

Reuters reported in February 2012 that an internal watchdog unit set up by News Corp had handed over to U.K. investigators emails and financial records allegedly charting the payment of more than 100,000 pounds to police contacts, mostly in sums of under 1,000 pounds.

A company source said at the time that the records showed many or most of the payments' intended recipients were listed in company records under false names.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Tom Brown)

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