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James Murdoch grilled

News International chief James Murdoch said on Thursday he had no knowledge of widespread phone-hacking at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid as he made a second appearance before angry British lawmakers.

world Updated: Nov 11, 2011 01:45 IST

In a fresh showdown with angry British lawmakers, News International chief James Murdoch today 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".

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 sceptical 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.

Webb said he "was working for them extensively on many jobs throughout that time." "I never knew when I was going to be required. They phoned me up by the day or by the night...It could be anywhere in the country...I got calls from numerous journalists on the news desk," he said.

The BBC said it had seen the detailed logs of his movements and observations while on surveillance jobs.

"Basically I would write down what they were wearing at the time, what car they were in, who they met, the location they met, the times - the times were very important - and I would keep that. And then I would transfer part of it into my diary, but not the actual log itself. Just the names of the people," Webb said.

The private investigator said he never asked his contacts at the newspaper why they had selected the targets for surveillance.

He also defended his work for the newspaper pointing out that what he had done was legal.

First Published: Nov 10, 2011 19:20 IST