Caught on tape: News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch reveals what he really thinks about bribing public officials

Media tycoon calls police inquiry a ‘disgrace’ in secret recording

Rupert Murdoch privately downplayed the significance of the alleged payment of bribes by his journalists to public officials, according to a secret recording.

The 82-year-old mogul was caught on tape during a frank discussion with reporters from The Sun  who had been arrested in connection with Operation Elveden – Scotland Yard’s continuing investigation into corrupt payments by journalists.

In the exchange at the London headquarters of News International – renamed News UK this week as part of the billionaire’s strategy to finally draw a line under years of scandal by splitting his media  empire in two – Mr Murdoch also  described the Metropolitan Police as “incompetent”.

The remarks, captured on a recording obtained by Channel 4 News and the investigative website Exaro, will be held up as evidence of a disparity between Mr Murdoch’s repeated public contrition over the existence of phone hacking and illegal news gathering within his British newspapers and a less apologetic stance behind closed doors.

In March the tycoon held a 45-minute meeting at Wapping with more than 20 executives and reporters from The Sun who had been arrested in connection with Operation Elveden over claims they had paid public officials, including police officers, for information. Two prison officers were detained by detectives in Kent last month, bringing the number of arrests to 69. Two police officers have so far been sentenced to prison terms for passing information to News International titles.

Mr Murdoch was recorded telling his employees: “The idea that the cops then started coming after you, kick you out of bed, and your families, at six in the morning, is unbelievable. But why are the police behaving in this way? It’s the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing… I mean, it’s a disgrace. Here we are, two years later, and the cops are totally incompetent.”

The recording shows Mr Murdoch attempting to calm the anger and concern of his employees: “I will do everything in my power to give you total support, even if you’re convicted and get six months or whatever.

“You’re all innocent until proven guilty. What you’re asking is: what happens if some of you are proven guilty? What afterwards?

“I’m not allowed to promise you – I will promise you continued health support – but your jobs. I’ve got to be careful what comes out – but frankly, I won’t say it, but just trust me.” Asked what would happen if he was not around to support them he said the decision would lie with his son, Lachlan, or Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp and former editor of The Times. “And you don’t have any worries about either of them,” Mr Murdoch added.

News UK strongly denied that Mr Murdoch knew payments had been made from his own titles to police until News Corp’s own internal investigation uncovered evidence which was subsequently handed over by the company’s Management and Standards Committee (MSC).

In a statement, News Corp said: “No other company has done as much to identify what went wrong, compensate the victims and ensure the same mistakes do not happen again. The unprecedented co-operation granted by News Corp was agreed unanimously by senior management and the board, and the MSC continues to co-operate under the supervision of the courts.

“Rupert Murdoch has shown understandable empathy with the staff and families affected and will assume they are innocent until and unless proven guilty.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk