July 8, 2009 / 7:44 PM / 10 years ago

Murdoch's UK publisher paid 1 mln stg over phone taps -report

LONDON, July 8 (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch’s News International has paid 1 million pounds ($1.61 million) to settle court cases involving allegations its reporters worked with private investigators to tap people’s phones, the Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for News International, the British newspaper subsidiary of global media company News Corp (NWSA.O), had no immediate comment.

The report on the Guardian website said that the publisher of the Sun, News of the World and Times newspapers made payments to settle three cases out of court.

Reporters were alleged to have worked with private investigators to access the phones of public figures to try to find material for stories, the Guardian said. Citing a senior London police source, the Guardian said police had found evidence of News Group staff using private investigators who hacked into “thousands” of phones.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman had no comment.

The News of the World’s royal affairs editor Clive Goodman was jailed for four months in 2007 for hacking into the phones of members of the royal family’s household several hundred times to obtain exclusive stories.

A British lawmaker whose parliamentary committee investigated the Goodman case said he was “concerned” by the latest allegations in the Guardian.

“The committee will want to discuss it very urgently, I think we will do so tomorrow morning,” John Whittingdale, chairman of the lower house’s committee on culture, media and sport, told Channel 4 News. “We will want to ask News International about all of these payments and about anybody who was employed who might have known more.”

Andy Coulson, who was editor of the News of the World at the time of the Goodman case, is now director of communications at Britain’s main opposition Conservative Party, which leads in the opinion polls before a parliamentary election due within a year.

A Conservative spokesman said Coulson did not work for the party at the time of the allegations, but declined to comment further. (Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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