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James Murdoch recalled in phone-hacking investigation

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LONDON — News Corp. executive James Murdoch will be recalled for a second grilling about his knowledge of widespread phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, a British parliamentary select committee announced Tuesday.

New revelations surface almost every day involving the phone-hacking scandal, which has rocked the upper echelons of Britain’s power elite and led to the arrest of 16 people, including a former top aide to the prime minister.

But there will be particular interest in the testimony of Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and the deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., as he faces fresh questions about discrepancies in evidence given to the committee investigating the alleged phone hacking.

“Clearly there are different accounts which we have heard,” John Whittingdale, the head of the committee, told Sky News.

In testimony given to the panel this month, Tom Crone and Colin Myler, two former executives at News International, News Corp.’s British subsidiary, suggested that James Murdoch had misled the committee when he first testified to the panel.

Crone and Myler say they informed Murdoch in 2008 about a critical e-mail that suggested phone hacking extended beyond one “rogue reporter.” They suggested this was a prime factor in Murdoch approving an out-of-court settlement of more than $1 million with a phone-hacking victim.

It’s unclear whether Murdoch will do anything other than defend his previously stated position. When Murdoch testified before the panel in July — a high-profile event in which a protester attacked his father with a pie — he said that he had never seen the “for Neville” e-mail and that the company only discovered the extensive nature of the phone hacking in late 2010.

In a statement Tuesday, News International said: “James Murdoch is happy to appear in front of the Committee again to answer any further questions members might have.”

Whittingdale said: “We spent some time questioning Tom Crone and Colin Myler last week about their version of what happened, and therefore I think it’s likely that we would obviously want to put that and to hear more from James Murdoch about how he recalls the meeting.”

He said that the panel was nearing the end of its deliberations but wanted to tie up “loose ends” by recalling a handful of witnesses, including Les Hinton, the former publisher of the Wall Street Journal; Mark Lewis, a lawyer representing many of the phone-hacking victims; and Farrers & Co., a law firm that advised News International.

Whittingdale said panel members want to question Hinton, the head of News International during the time of the alleged phone hacking, about payments made to Clive Goodman, the tabloid’s royal reporter, and Glenn Mulcaire, the tabloid’s private investigator. Both were jailed in 2007.

A spokeswoman for the committee said that Murdoch probably would be the committee’s final witness — though no date has been set — and that the members hope to report on their findings before year’s end.Henry’s case was reported to be one of first “test cases” that will be heard in front of a High Court judge — others include the actor Jude Law, Parliament member Chris Bryant, and interior designer Kelly Hoppen — that will pave the way for how other phone-hacking lawsuits against News of the World would be handled.

The news came on the day it emerged that Sheila Henry, whose son Christian Small was killed in the July 7, 2005, transit bombings in London, was taking legal action against News International over allegations of phone hacking.

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