London: In a fresh showdown with angry British lawmakers, News International Chief James Murdoch on Thursday insisted that he had been kept in the dark about the culture of criminality in the now-defunct News of the World, prompting a leading MP to label him a "mafia boss". (Agencies)
As the embattled 38-year-old media baron stuck to his guns by accusing his former subordinates of keeping him in the dark and misleading Parliament over the extent of phone-hacking, his testimony prompted offensive comments from the lawmakers investigating the scandal.
Labour MP Tom Watson, who has been in the forefront of highlighting phone-hacking at titles owned by News International, called him a "mafia boss" who was unaware of alleged "criminal" activities in his midst.
Unlike his first appearance, Murdoch Jr faced skeptical and often hostile lawmakers.
"Any suspicion of widespread wrong doing, none of that was mentioned to me," James Murdoch said in his deposition, taking almost the same stance that he did before in parliament in July, despite increasing evidence linking him to the raging controversy.
This prompted Watson to subject him to sustained grilling at the hearing of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons and telling him: "You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn't think he was running a criminal enterprise".
A stony-faced Murdoch called the comments inappropriate as he laid the blames squarely on the News of the World former editor Colin Myler and the News International former legal adviser Tom Crone.
Murdoch’s deposition before the committee for the second time within six months was telecast live. Watson went into great detail about when Murdoch was made aware of phone-hacking and other illegal activities at the News of the World.
As MPs questioned his judgement on various issues, he maintained his earlier line that phone-hacking was a matter of regret and that if he knew then what he knows now, remedial action would have been taken.
The line of defence, however, found few takers in the committee, with Watson leading the way to probe him further on the minute of the meetings in which he, according to two senior former ex-employees (Colin Myler and Tom Crone), he was made aware of widespread illegal activities at the News of the World.
Murdoch was stunned when Watson asked him if he was aware of the word "mafia".
Watson: Would you agree with me that it's an accurate description of News International in the UK?
Murdoch: Absolutely not, I think that's offensive.
Watson: You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise.
Murdoch: Mr Watson, that's inappropriate.
Murdoch insisted that he was not made aware of the extent of phone-hacking at the News of the World in 2008.
He had previously told MPs that he was not aware of the "for Neville" email when he signed off an out of court settlement for footballers union leader Gordon Taylor.
He said he was given "sufficient information to authorize the increase of the settlement offer" but "I was given no more than that".
He said the document was never referred to as the "for Neville" email, and was not informed that it suggested evidence of widespread wrongdoing.
"The nature of the so-called 'For Neville' email...any wider spread or evidence or suspicion of wider spread of wrongdoing - none of these things were mentioned to me," he said.
Former editor Myler and former legal manager Crone had earlier issued a statement claiming they "did inform him" of the email in 2008 when he agreed to settle the Gordon Taylor case.
Murdoch was also asked about information supplied to the committee in October by solicitors Farrer and Co.
In the document, lawyer Michael Silverleaf says there is "a powerful case that there is (or was) a culture of illegal information access used at NGN [News Group Newspapers] in order to produce stories for publication" and advises that a public trial would be "extremely damaging" to the company's reputation.
Murdoch said, "It was not shown to me at the time, nor was it described to me in those terms in any way."
London: In a fresh showdown with angry British lawmakers, News International Chief James Murdoch on Thursday insisted that he had been kept in the dark about the culture of criminality in the now-defunct News of the World, prompting a leading MP to label him a "mafia boss".