London: A war of words has broken out between News International chairman James Murdoch and two of his top former employees over the veracity of claims made by Murdoch before a parliamentary committee on Thursday.
   
The row is over whether Murdoch - dubbed a "mafia boss" by senior Labour MP Tom Watson - was aware that large scale unethical and illegal practices were being routinely adopted at the now closed News of the World, or not.
   
He has maintained that he was not aware, or was not made aware, of them by his colleagues.

But former News of the World editor Colin Myler and the company's former legal chief, Tom Crone, insisted that they had made Mudoch aware of the controversial practices while finalising an out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor, footballers union chief, in 2008.
   
Murdoch, in his deposition before the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee of the House of Commons on Thursday, repeated his earlier claim that Myler and Crone had not made him aware of the practices.
   
In fact, he said both Myler and Crone had misled the committee.
   
His line of defence has been that phone-hacking and other dark arts used to secure information for sensation news stories were a matter of regret, and that had he known about them earlier, he would have ensured they were not adopted.
   
After Murdoch's deposition yesterday, Myler and Crone hit out, maintaining that they had informed him about the practices while the Taylor payment was being finalised with him.

Myler and Crone said a particular email, which had details of phone-hacking and the company's legal opinion that there was a "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", had been shown to Murdoch.
   
Crone issued a statement on Thursday night, describing Murdoch's evidence as "disingenuous", while Myler said he stood by his own account of events.
   
In a strong statement, Crone said: "I can perfectly understand why James Murdoch felt the need to discredit Colin Myler and myself. The simple truth is he was told by us in 2008 about the damning email, and what it meant in terms of wider NoW involvement."

Crone said it seems he now accepts he was told of the email, of the fact that it contained transcripts of voicemail interceptions and that those interceptions were authorised by the News of the World.
   
"Perhaps Mr Murdoch could explain who he thought was doing the authorising at the NoW? At best, his evidence on this matter was disingenuous," he said.
   
Myler also hit back at his former boss. "My evidence to the select committee has been entirely accurate and consistent. I stand by my account of the meeting with James Murdoch on 10 June 2008," Myler insisted.
     
"I have been clear throughout about the significance of the 'for Neville' email, as evidenced in my opening statement to the committee when I appeared before them in 2009," he said. During the deposition on Thursday, Murdoch said the information "I received about the Taylor case was incomplete."
   
"The full extent of knowledge within the business...was not made clear to me. I believe this committee was given evidence by individuals either without full possession of the facts....or it was economical," he said.
   
Asked if he believed Crone and Myler had misled the committee, Murdoch replied: "It follows that I do."

"I believe it was inconsistent and not right, and I dispute it vigorously. I believe their testimony was misleading and I dispute it."
   
John Whttingdale, chairman of the committee, said both accounts (Murdoch’s and Myler-Crone's) could not be true, and the task before the committee before submitting its report to the House of Commons next month would be to decide on whose account was true.

Agencies