Publishers deny wrongdoing | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, July 11, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, July 11, 2009

Publishers deny wrongdoing

The publishers of Britain's biggest-selling newspapers insisted Friday that their journalists had not paid private detectives to hack into the mobile phones of thousands of celebrities.
Following an internal investigation, media baron Ruper Murdoch's News International publishers said they were confident there were no fresh cases of their reporters illegally accessing the voicemails of high-profile figures.
It was News International's first detailed statement on the affair which flared up on Thursday.
The Guardian newspaper alleged that reporters at the News of the World tabloid, Britain's biggest-selling weekly paper, hired private investigators to hack into the phones and private data of government ministers, actors, singers, football stars, models and novelists.
The Guardian said the Sunday newspaper's publishers had paid more than one million pounds (1.6 million dollars, 1.16 million euros) out of court to suppress three legal cases involving phone tapping, which would have revealed evidence about the scale of the practice at the paper.
Once case involved Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association union, who it said received 400,000 pounds in compensation.
Clive Goodman, News of the World's royal editor, was jailed in 2007 along with a private investigator after the phone messages of aides to Prince William, second in line to the throne, were illegally accessed.
News International said the only other evidence connecting News of the World to accessing voicemails emerged during a case brought by Taylor. It did not elaborate on what emerged during the litigation.
It said: "From our own investigation, but more importantly that of the police, we can state with confidence that, apart from the matters referred to above, there is not and never has been evidence to support allegations that:
"-- News of the World journalists have accessed the voicemails of any individual.
"-- News of the World or its journalists have instructed private investigators or other third parties to access the voicemails of any individuals.
"-- There was systemic corporate illegality by News International to suppress evidence."
The allegations against News of the World deepened after The Guardian said Friday that Manchester United Football Club manager Alex Ferguson and former England football captain Alan Shearer had their phones tapped by investigators for the tabloid.
The Guardian said Thursday that actress Gwyneth Paltrow, singer George Michael, ex-England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and former deputy prime minister John Prescott were among other celebrities targeted.
London's Metropolitan Police said they had begun contacting people whose phones had, or may have been, hacked by Goodman and his private investigator, to ensure they had been informed.
News International insisted it was "untrue that News of the World executives knowingly sanctioned payments for illegal phone intercepts" or that its reporters "hacked into the telephone voicemail services of various footballers, politicians and celebrities named in reports".
The police has refused to re-open its original investigation, saying no new evidence had come to light, but the director of public prosecutions has ordered a review of evidence the police gave the Crown Prosecution Service.
A media lawyer said at least two public figures had contacted him seeking advice about taking action against News of the World, which sells 2.9 million copies each Sunday.
Mark Stephens, of London law firm Finers Stephens Innocent, said other lawyers had also been approached.
"At the moment it's fair to say that people are looking at their options, they want to see what is going on," he said.

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