US authorities have investigated the Wall Street Journal over allegations that its bureau in China had bribed government officials with lavish gifts in return for information it could use in articles, the paper reported on Sunday.
An article carried on the newspaper’s website said the accusations were presented to the Journal by the Justice Department as part of a wider inquiry into its parent company, News Corporation, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). That inquiry stemmed from the allegations of phone hacking and other illegal activities at the British newspapers owned by News Corp.
The paper reported that US authorities have almost completed their investigations under the FCPA, and were preparing to open talks over a settlement with News Corp over any charges that may result.
Meanwhile, the owners of the Wall Street Journal appear to believe that the allegations of bribery in China were the result of trouble-making by Beijing in retaliation for unfavourable reporting. In a statement to the Guardian, a representative of Dow Jones – which publishes the Journal – expressed regret that an “unknown source” had sought to “taint” the newspaper’s journalism.
Sunday’s report by the Wall Street Journal is based largely on the testimony of unnamed News Corp and US government officials. But given that it was published by the website of the newspaper at the centre of the alleged scandal, it carried particular weight.
The article suggests that senior figures at News Corp believe the apparent informant who tipped off authorities to allegations of bribery was in fact an agent of the Chinese government. An internal investigation was launched, which the company said found no evidence of wrong-doing.
The Justice Department informed the Wall Street Journal of the claim in early 2012. It is not known if US officials are satisfied with the Journal’s explanation regarding the bribery claim. Sunday’s article suggests that the newspaper’s management is confident about its position.