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UK Serious Fraud Office mulls News Corp probe

'We are in touch with US feds, will assist as required'

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The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is considering investigating various allegations against Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

A spokeswoman said the SFO was mulling over a letter sent to the agency by MP Tom Watson, a member of the Commons media select committee which grilled Murdoch, his son James, and ex-News International boss Rebekah Brooks yesterday.

"The SFO can confirm that it has today received a letter from Tom Watson MP calling upon the SFO to investigate certain allegations relating to News Corp," the UK's premier biz-investigations agency said in a statement.

"SFO Director Richard Alderman will give full consideration to Mr Watson's letter. The SFO is aware that the Metropolitan Police Service is conducting an investigation into alleged improper payments to police officers."

The BBC's business editor, Robert Peston, separately reported that the SFO had been in "informal" talks with the US Department of Justice, which is said to be considering an investigation into police bribery allegations against News International, sister firm of News Corp.

The SFO told The Register that it "is routinely in contact with the US authorities and will provide assistance as required".

Neither the DoJ nor the SFO have officially launched a probe into the allegations yet.

Meanwhile, a Met spokesman confirmed to The Register this morning that police inquiries were continuing with regard to events detailed in a Guardian story published on 18 July.

The Guardian reported that cops were examining a bag containing a laptop, mobile phone and paperwork found in a bin near the home of former News International chief Rebekah Brooks.

Her husband, Charlie Brooks, denied that the items belonged to his wife. Rebekah Brooks had been arrested and later released last Sunday on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and of corruption allegations relating to illegal police payments.

Ms Brooks told MPs yesterday that she had "never paid a police officer or knowingly sanctioned payment to a police officer" during her tenure as News of the World editor between 2000 and 2003. That's a period of time when it is alleged that crime victims, celebrities and politicians routinely had their communications intercepted by people working for the now-defunct tabloid. ®

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