Scotland Yard detectives are interested in a surreptitious recording of Rupert Murdoch, according to the Guardian newspaper of London.
In the recording, News Corp.'s chairman seemed to suggest that bribing public officials was part of "the culture of Fleet Street." On Saturday, the Guardian said a detective with Scotland Yard had requested the tape, which was secretly recorded in March when the 82-year-old News Corp. chairman visited staff members of The Sun in London.
During the meeting, Murdoch disparaged police officers and their handling of the two-plus-year phone hacking probe.
"The cops are totally incompetent," Murdoch said.
The recording gained attention this week after Exaro News, a British investigative website, published a transcript of the recording, which was apparently made by someone who attended the meeting. A snippet of the recording was broadcast by Channel 4 News in Britain.
Interest by Scotland Yard puts greater emphasis on the recording and raises questions about whether Murdoch somehow acknowledged that he was aware of illicit payments to British public officials by members of his company's U.K. tabloids.
News Corp. has forcefully shot down suggestions that Murdoch knew of the payments by journalists.“Mr. Murdoch never knew of payments made by Sun staff to police before News Corporation disclosed that to UK Authorities. Furthermore, he never said he knew of payments. It’s absolutely false to suggest otherwise," News Corp. said in a statement.
The recording caught exchanges between Murdoch and Sun executives and journalists, some of whom have become targets of the police investigation of nefarious reporting practices. Murdoch pledged the company's support to members of the group who now are in legal trouble.
"Rupert Murdoch has shown understandable empathy with the staff and families affected and will assume they are innocent until and unless proven guilty," News Corp. said in its statement.
Critics of Murdoch, including a prominent member of Parliament, are trying to leverage the contents of the tape to demand that Murdoch be hauled back before British authorities. They want to ascertain whether Murdoch was candid during his 2011 appearance before members of Parliament.
A spokeswoman for Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee told reporters that it was "unlikely" that Murdoch would be called back for further questioning.
Separately, the U.S. Department of Justice has been reviewing whether the phone hacking and illicit payments constitute violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids executives who work for U.S.-based companies from bribing foreign officials.