Washington: As part of its larger probe of News Corp in the wake of the hacking scandal in the UK, the US has opened an investigation into allegations that employees at The Wall Street Journal's China news bureau bribed Chinese officials to get information.
The US Justice Department last year opened the investigation into allegations of bribery at the Wall Street Journal's China news bureau as part of a wider probe into the 2011 British phone hacking scandal at its parent company, Rupert Mudoch's News Corp.
The investigation was first reported yesterday by The Wall Street Journal itself.
A search by the Journal's parent company found no evidence to support the claim, according to government and corporate officials familiar with the case.
The US government, meanwhile, is nearing the end of a broader investigation of the Journal's owner News Corp, the Wall Street Journal quoted sources as saying.
During the course of that broader probe, 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 one or more Journal employees had provided gifts to Chinese government officials in exchange for information, sources said.
News Corp and the Journal don't know the identity of the informant, company officials say, and government officials wouldn't discuss such details.
It isn't clear whether the person worked inside the Journal and whether the informant provided names of alleged bribers.
According to US and corporate officials, News Corp has told the Justice Department that some company officials suspect the informant was an agent of the Chinese government, seeking to disrupt and possibly retaliate against the Journal for its reporting on China's leadership.
The company officials came to that view after finding no evidence of the alleged bribery and because of the timing and nature of the accusations.
A spokesman at the Chinese embassy in Washington didn't respond to messages seeking comment, the paper said.
It isn't clear if the Justice Department considers the matter resolved or still open.
"After a thorough review of our operations in China conducted by outside lawyers and auditors, we have not found any evidence of impropriety at Dow Jones," Paula Keve, a spokeswoman for News Corp's Dow Jones unit, which publishes the Journal, said in a written statement.
If the Chinese bribery allegations were true, such behaviour would be a potential violation of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.