Wall Street Journal blames China for bribery probe

A US government inquiry into News Corporation widened last year following the justice department investigations into claims that The Wall Street Journal employees in China bribed local officials with gifts in exchange for information.

The news was published in WSJ in its Sunday edition, and according to Paula Keve, a spokeswoman for the newspaper, the company was conducting its own investigation and had not come across any evidence of impropriety.

The report says in the course of the broader investigation, the justice department approached News Corp's outside counsel in early 2012 and said it had received information from a person it described as a whistleblower who claimed Chinese government employees had been approached by one or more WSJ employees and had provided gifts in exchange for information.

According to company officials, News Corp and the WSJ did not know the identity of the informant, and government officials would not discuss such details. Also it was not clear whether the person worked inside the WSJ and whether the informant provided names of alleged bribers.

The paper reported that investigations by the US authorities had almost been completed under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and preparations had been going on to open talks over a settlement with News Corp over any charges that may result.

The owners of The Wall Street Journal  say that the allegations of bribery in China formed part of Beijing's retaliatory measures against unfavourable reporting.

A representative of Dow Jones, which publishes the WSJ, expressed regret that an "unknown source" had sought to "taint" the newspaper's journalism.