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US declines to prosecute News Corp and Fox over phone hacking allegations

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The American justice department will not prosecute Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation or 21st Century Fox over voice-mail interceptions and payments to public officials, actions done by their journalists in London.

“We are grateful that this matter has been concluded and acknowledge the fairness and professionalism of the department of justice throughout this investigation,” Gerson Zweifach, general counsel for the companies, said in a statement Monday.

Investigations in the UK and the US began in 2011 after a series of allegations that journalists at Murdoch’s British tabloid News of the World had intercepted the voice-mail messages of celebrities, politicians and other newsmakers, in an effort to get scoops.

British police and the US department of justice began inquiries. Murdoch in 2011 shuttered News of the World – at the time, one of the best-selling newspapers in the world – and was forced to appear before a panel of British lawmakers.

The company settled hundreds of civil claims and incurred hundreds of millions in legal and other costs. Some senior journalists went to jail.

As the scandal deepened to include News of the World’s sister tabloid, The Sun, along with allegations of payments to public officials and improper relationships between British politicians and Murdoch’s influential British media holdings, some suspected the contagion might cross the Atlantic and affect his US interests.

In an annual report at the end of last year, News Corp warned that civil and criminal matters still threatened to “damage its reputation, impair the company’s ability to conduct its business and adversely affect its results of operations and financial condition.” The announcement Monday seemed to mark the end of at least part of that threat.

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