FBI Probing News Corp.’s Former Billboard Unit in Russia
A Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into News Corp . has turned to a former Russian subsidiary, seeking to determine whether a billboard company called News Outdoor Russia paid bribes to local officials to approve sign placements in that country, according to people familiar with the case.
The investigation opens another legal front for the New York-based media conglomerate. News Corp. is trying to contain the damage from scandals over newsgathering tactics at its British newspapers unit, including admitted hacking into voice mails of people in the news and allegations of bribes paid to police and other officials.
As is often the case in foreign-corruption probes by the FBI, investigators are trying to establish whether any overseas units of News Corp. engaged in corrupt acts or bribery, and, if so, whether those acts were part of a pattern of corruption that reached across countries and business units, people familiar with the investigation said.
Asked if News Outdoor Russia employees engaged in bribery or other acts of corruption while it was a subsidiary of News Corp., a spokesman for the Russian company said: “This is not possible.”
The spokesman’s statement went on to say that “News Outdoor Russia was an investment project for News Corp. and [News Corp.] didn’t participate in the operations of the company.”
A News Corp. spokeswoman declined to comment on the FBI probe in Russia, or say if the company had provided any information to U.S. investigators about that business, which was sold last July. News Corp. has said it is cooperating with the U.K. investigations.
News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal.
U.S. authorities are closely monitoring the U.K. investigation into News Corp.-owned newspapers in Britain and have made their own inquiries into allegations of bribery there, according to people familiar with the U.S. probe. Federal prosecutors and the FBI have yet to reach any conclusions about either the Russian probe or the broader inquiry into News Corp., according to the people familiar with the U.S. investigation.