By John Helmer, Moscow
Rupert Murdoch has produced this week an item for the clinical casebook on the brain-challenged.
The criminal investigations now under way against him, his son James, his senior executives at News Corporation, company lawyers, and hired hands in the UK, the US and Australia are, he tweeted, nothing more than “every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back hard, which preparing.”
His fingers next punched out this characterization of his enemies as “old toffs and right wingers who still want last century’s status quo with their monoplies.” Arthritis seems to have inhibited spelling of the second tweet. But long-term memory failure and functional degeneration between left and right hemispheres, must have moved Murdoch from his left wing to the third tweet: “Let’s have it on! Choice, freedom of thought and markets, individual personal responsibility.” If applied as called for, senior and junior Murdoch may soon be facing criminal indictments, with long prison stretches, for their “individual personal responsibility”.
In the United Kingdom, metropolitan police investigations of bribery, invasion of privacy (hacking), and official corruption have been under way for several months against the two Murdochs and their associates.
Brand-new this week, accompanying a BBC documentary broadcast on Tuesday, detailed allegations and email evidence have been published, accusing Murdoch of copyright piracy and repeated, calculated fraud and extortion against market rivals. The plot alleged is that the Murdochs financed two former British policemen to operate a website which hacked into, then released programming codes for rival broadcasters, so that they either collapsed into debt or sold out to Murdoch companies. The use of television hacking and piracy to attack and destroy competitors in the market, reported on Tuesday by an Australian newspaper, then triggered a statement by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard: ‘‘If there is anyone who has in their possession material that they think raises a concern about a criminal offence, they should refer it to the police.’’
That may not happen in Australia, or in the UK, where there have been identical parliamentary calls for fresh pursuit of the Murdochs for criminal conduct. It may happen in the US, because that’s where a determined, if still secret alliance of shareholders is aiming to drive the Murdochs from the shareholding perch in News Corp, from which their 12% financial stake in their corporation turns, not crookedly but magically, into a 40% shareholding of votes.
The first objective of the Murdoch-ouster scheme is the sale of the newspapers and print media division of the corporation. The Wall Street Journal publication on March 5, reporting from Washington, DC, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating evidence of the Murdochs’ corrupt business practices in Russia, appears to have been an unwitting accomplice in the plot. That the management of the Murdoch-owned Journal regretted what the Washington bureau report has done is suggested by the lack of follow-up by the Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau with evidence of what actually happened when Murdoch controlled NOR. Time Newsmagazine, not owned by Murdoch, had already shown how much evidence there was eight months ago, in its Moscow bureau report.
But now, is there an investigation of the Russian corruption alleged against the Murdochs at the level required, on account of its sensitivity, to be authorized by the head of government? Now that it appears provable what the Murdochs paid their hirelings to do to their competition in the broadcasting segment of their business, what their methods were in disposing of competitors in the Russian outdoor advertising segment can no longer be regarded as improbable.
Item from casebook, Criminal Investigation by Bruce.L. Berg, on modus operandi: an M.O. file is an orderly method of recording and coding information designed to reveal habits, traits or practices of criminal suspects. This can then be used to aid in the eventual apprehension of the suspect(s), and can also be used to determine links between crimes.
The News Outdoor Russia (NOR) management, now independent of Murdoch, was quick to announce after the Wall Street Journal had appeared with its story, that it had not been contacted by the FBI. Targets of investigation usually come in for interview late or last; until then the guilty often show signs of nervousness. Happy though NOR indubitably was to be rid of Murdoch by the bargain – priced purchase last July of his stake by NOR managers, Dutch front companies, Alfa Capital and VTB Bank, NOR is demonstrably uneager to open its door if the FBI comes knocking.
A company statement was issued on March 6 that “no verbal nor written requests from the FBI to News Outdoor Russia have been reported. The company also has not received any requests from the Russian law enforcement agencies.” The Moscow press and Time of New York have filled in the circumstances which both crime-fighting organizations are bound to be interested in still – the assassination of Vladimir Kanevsky, chief executive of an NOR rival company in 2002; what may have been a retaliatory assassination attempt against the NOR chief executive, Maxim Tkachev a few months later; a police-supported investigation of NOR for corruption of Moscow city officials in 2008; a 2009 Moscow court case for $49 million in tax claims; the relationship of Mayor Yury Luzhkov’s son Alexander to NOR; the 2010 conviction for abuse of office of Vladimir Makarov, head of the Moscow city administration’s committee on advertising; and the operational responsibility of a Murdoch subordinate at News International Europe, Martin Pompadur. The conclusion of an investigation by Simon Schuster, published by Time on August 1, 2011, was: “He [Murdoch] has managed to come away clean after a decade in a very messy business.”
The FBI isn’t confirming that it is investigating the verb in that sentence. So the Russian General Prosecutor was asked on March 6: “Could you please tell us whether there were requests to the Prosecutor General [Moscow Prosecutor] of Russia by U.S. authorities for information or assistance in the investigation of the company News Outdoor Russia, which is accused of bribery, tax evasion and other crimes.”
The answer was received from Y[evgeny] E. Leonovich, head of the Moscow Prosecutor’s Department of Reception of Applications, Communication with Citizens, and Documentation Support, on March 26. Here is the Russian text.
And here is the translation into English: “Your message, received by the prosecutor’s office in Moscow on 06.03.2012 by facsimile, to provide information on the requests from third parties in respect of News Outdoor Russia, has been considered.
“[Let us make] clear to you that the general order of consideration of citizens’ requests [is] established by the Federal Law “On the order of consideration of the Russian Federation citizens’ requests” dated 02.05.2006 № 59-FZ.
“The order of management for considering appeals of citizens in the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office is regulated by the Instruction on the procedure for processing applications and consultation of citizens in the Russian Federation Prosecutor’s Office, entered into force by order of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation of 17.12.2007 № 200 (hereinafter – Instructions). The instruction allowed an applicant [to be] acquainted with the documents and materials relating to the consideration of the application, if it does not affect rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of others, and if in these documents and materials there is no information constituting a state secret or other protected by federal law on secrecy.
“In accordance with the Instruction on records management in the Prosecutor’s authorities and offices of the Russian Federation entered into force by order of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation of 29.12.2011 № 450, at the request of the applicants the following information can be provided: incoming registration document number, date of registration, the name of the prosecutor’s office, the structural department (if need be, a telephone number), an organizations in which this case is pending, the date of the reply, information on the extension of consideration of the application, the despatch number of the document. You are not the applicant on applications about the company News Outdoor Russia.
“In accordance with Art.10 of the Federal Law of 17.01.1992 № 2202-1 “On the Procuracy of the Russian Federation”, in the organs of the prosecutor, in accordance with their authority, statements, complaints and other applications that contain information about violation of the law are allowed.
“Your application does not contain specific allegations of violations of law, legally protected rights, freedoms and interests of individual and citizen.
“By the Order of the of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation of 31.05.2011 № 153 “On organization of work for access to information about the activities of the prosecution service of the Russian Federation” is regulated the procedure for ensuring access for citizens, organizations, public associations (hereinafter – the users of information) to information on the activities of the Prosecutor of the Russian Federation. However, an exhaustive list of the information for its users does not include the kind of information you requested.
“Therefore, you are denied provision of information about the facts of receipt to the prosecutor’s office in Moscow of calls (requests) from third parties in respect of News Outdoor Russia.”
The display of so much smoke does not confirm nor deny the presence of a fire – at this stage a spark waiting for the new president and government to decide whether to set off the alarm or disconnect.