An FBI probe into a company formerly controlled by News Corp suggests U.S. investigators are looking at a wider swath of the conglomerate’s activity than had been thought. News Outdoor Russia, a billboard company that News Corp divested itself of last July, has come under scrutiny from FBI agents as investigators seek to ascertain whether it paid bribes to local officials, The Wall Street Journal reports. News Corp has been under fire in Britain over a phone-hacking scandal at its now-shuttered News Of The World tabloid and is also facing allegations of bribes paid to public officials in the UK by journalists at The Sun newspaper. Thus far, the conglomerate has not had charges leveled at it in America, but the FBI probe into its Russian dealings follows on from the opening of an investigation last July to explore an unsubstantiated claim that 9/11 victims had their voicemail hacked on behalf of the News Of The World.
Over the course of the UK investigations, questions have arisen as to whether News Corp could be vulnerable in the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, The Financial Times notes. In January the FBI confirmed it was looking into the possibilty of a US offense by News Of The World involving Jude Law and a 2003 article that News Corp subsidiary News International has acknowledged was the result of phone hacking. The article contained references to phone calls Law’s assistant made to the actor when he arrived at an airport believed to be New York’s JFK. In February, the UK lawyer who represented the family of murdered British schoolgirl Milly Dowler and other hacking victims was said to be in “advanced stages” of preparations to sue News Corp in the States. It was later reported he had retained two New York attorneys to establish whether there were any American phone hacking victims. Such a court case in the States could help the Justice Department in its investigation into whether News Corp violated US laws.
Regarding News Outdoor Russia, The Journal today reports the FBI is trying to establish whether any overseas units of News Corp were involved in corruption or bribery and whether those acts were part of a pattern that spans different countries and business units. A spokesperson for the Russian company said it was “not possible” that staff engaged in bribery or other acts of corruption while it was a News Corp subsidiary. The spokesperson added that News Corp did not participate in the operations of News Outdoor Russia.