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The Murdoch mafia unwinds

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Fallout from Murdoch's "moslem" comments may pale into insignificance as his media empire faces serious criminal investigations on two continents, writes Rodney E. Lever.

Carl Bernstein, one of the two reporters on the Washington Post who caused Richard Nixon to resign as US President after having being caught in criminal activity, has written of Rupert Murdoch:

'The British hacking scandal is the ultimate expression of Murdoch-culture run amok: corruption in the Fourth Estate as dangerous to democracy as the worst excesses of heads of state.'

Andrew Edis QC, prosecutor in cases involving eight victims of phone News Corporation phone hacking, observed that now defunct News of the World was so "utterly corrupted" that it

"... became, at the highest level, a thoroughly criminal enterprise."

The Murdoch management might be subject to even more serious fall out after investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice into possible offences under laws that prohibit the payment of bribes to foreign officials. Murdoch could be forced to sell his TV network holdings in America.

Volumes of evidence, tens of thousands of pages of internal memos, have been collected to strengthen prosecutions connected with phone hacking and interference in murder investigations and the bribery of police and others.

The investigations by the British police force were badly damaged by some of their most senior officers, who accepted gifts and free holidays from Murdoch executives. They then tried to cover up some of the criminal activities of the Murdoch papers.

For at least another year, the company will be subject to a continuing series of  revelations as the new investigation team, Operation Weeting, sorts through thousands of pages of evidence of the company's corrupt practices.

The Murdoch saga has begun a whole new chapter in its history. But panic in the family has reached a point where a professional counsellor has been hired to keep order at family meetings.

The family meetings are chaotic, with everyone blaming everyone else. James Murdoch is a particular target, unable to offer rational explanations on matters that were his personal responsibility during the time he was in total charge of the British operations.

All the family members became wealthy as a result of their holdings in the company's principal shares and their own personal investments in other enterprises. They cannot agree on what to do and they have their own personal business lives to consider. 

Central to everything else at the moment is the BSkyB television network in Britain, the prize that James Murdoch wants to own. He has been a director of the company, of which News Corporation is the main shareholder.

Their dearest wish at the moment is to be allowed to take over the entire network, which would make it the most profitable enterprise in the whole of the Murdoch empire. It is the key to the future existence of Murdoch's British operations.

BSkyB was the reason Rupert Murdoch switched in 2010 from the Tony Blair-Gordon Brown Labour Party to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of David Cameron, with an understanding that Cameron would smooth the way for a full Murdoch takeover.

Murdoch made the change because a large element of the Labour Party had been against his BSkyB takeover, despite the alleged promises of then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The whole scheme came unstuck when the first phone hacking cases were exposed, connecting Murdoch's News of the World, and the emerging scandal blew his BSkyB hopes to pieces.

With Labour now leading most polls in advance of this year's British election, the loss of the BSkyB option and a decision that the criminal activities behind his newspapers made him unfit to own such a major TV service would be the greatest disaster of Murdoch's career and see his entire empire collapse.

The interesting thing about Nick Davies’ Hack Attack account of how Rupert Murdoch's business empire became embroiled in crime and corruption is that he has effectively declared it a criminal enterprise, and no Murdoch has ever challenged him or his accusations.

The Murdoch company even ensnared senior officers of Scotland Yard. Certain police officers were discharged and a new squad of carefully selected detectives began a new investigation under Operation Weeting.

From there, it went to a parliamentary inquiry; and then to Lord Justice Brian Leveson for a televised inquisition shown around the world; and then to law courts for a series of largely unsatisfactory trials — unsatisfactory because it seemed to observers that the real criminals were not in the dock.

We can only hope that justice will one day be done.

The Leveson Inquiry has a website covering all aspects of the Murdoch activities. You can follow Rodney on Twitter @RodneyELever.

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