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Murdoch Empire Hacked Politicians for Commercial Gain and Hid Evidence, New Report Suggests

New evidence suggests that Murdoch’s company targeted politicians of every rank, including the Attorney General and Chancellor

Rupert Murdoch in London in June 2023
Rupert Murdoch’s company has been accused of hacking politicians for “political and commercial espionage”. The media mogul is pictured above in London in June 2023. Photo: PA/Alamy

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Rupert Murdoch’s company used criminal methods to hack MPs’ phones for “political and commercial espionage” and deleted nearly 31 million emails as civil and criminal suits threatened to expose their behaviour, a new report suggests.

The claims, which have featured in numerous court actions against the publishers of the now defunct News of the World and The Sun, have been pulled together for the first time in June’s edition of Prospect magazine.

Journalist Nick Davies, who first broke the phone-hacking allegations in 2009, sorted through thousands of pages of evidence, according to Prospect, to “piece together a narrative of how the company employed numerous private investigators to hack private individuals, and also MPs – including Cabinet ministers”. 

The allegations against Rupert Murdoch’s company feature in the June edition of Prospect magazine. Photo: Prospect magazine

Phone-hacking has cost the Murdoch organisation an estimated £1 billion to date, and the ongoing court cases have exposed a cache of new evidence – including documents, invoices, call logs and emails – which weren’t available when the story broke.

More than 1,600 cases have been settled by the company, Prospect noted.

Davies, Prospect said, has found evidence that the Murdoch company was using criminal means to target politicians of every rank – including the Attorney General, Business Secretary and Chancellor – and that “some” of the hacking appears to have been done for commercial or political “aims rather than trying to get stories”.

Further claims in the Prospect articles include:

  • Sixteen Liberal Democrat MPs, then in the Conservative Coalition Government, received more than 1,500 suspicious calls. 
  • There were also hundreds of suspect calls to MPs from other parties opposed to Murdoch business interests. Claimants argue this was “political and commercial espionage”. 
    • Gordon Brown, while Chancellor and Prime Minister, was allegedly targeted 24 times from the Wapping “hub” – a central phone number located where Murdoch’s newspapers were based.
    • There were suspicious calls to Dominic Grieve, then Attorney General, at a time when the Director of Public Prosecution was considering possible prosecutions against journalists, and when there was the threat of contempt proceedings against newspapers.  
    • Five members of the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, perceived to be hostile to Murdoch’s commercial interests, received hundreds of “inexplicable” calls. The Murdoch company claims that there may be innocent explanations, but settled a number of claims, Prospect noted.
    • John Whittingdale, then DCMS Committee chair, was contacted by the NewsCorp lobbyist Fred Michel by phone call or text no fewer than 431 times during a 22-month period while his committee investigated phone-hacking.
    • One MP who was hacked told the High Court that the pattern of behaviour was a “cynical and outrageous attempt to subvert the legitimate process of parliamentary scrutiny”.
    • After a threat of legal action by the actor Sienna Miller in autumn 2010, the Murdoch company began email deletions which saw some 30.7 million Sun and News of the World emails wiped, along with those from top executives. The claimants say that this was a deliberate attempt to destroy incriminating material. The company says there may be an innocent explanation.
    • Journalists or investigators who might have blown the whistle were rewarded with jobs, or cash payments, and required to sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements).
    • Police seized 125 items after arresting News International’s CEO, Rebekah Brooks, in July 2011. They were placed in a secure area under the supervision of two Murdoch executives, Simon Greenberg and Will Lewis, now publisher and CEO of the Washington Post. It was several weeks before detectives completed a detailed search of all the equipment, at which point they discovered that only 117 of the items were still there. Eight filing cabinets that they had seized from the offices of the Editor and the Managing Editor had been removed. They have not been recovered.
    • Police found an under-floor safe in Brooks’ private dressing room which was “filled with hard drives and computers” with thousands of emails from key executives, editors and journalists.
    • Of the 30.7 million missing emails, only 21.7 million were recovered, leaving more than a quarter of the archive – around 9 million emails – lost for ever.
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