NEW YORK (AP) – The FBI has been investigating a purported whistleblower’s allegations that the Wall Street Journal bureau in China bribed officials there to get information for news stories.
Dow Jones, which publishes the Journal, became aware of the allegations last year and has concluded they are unfounded, a spokeswoman for Dow Jones said Monday. Details about the probe were first reported by the newspaper on Sunday.
“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,” spokeswoman Paula Keve said in a statement. “Nor has anyone taken issue with our findings.”
A law enforcement official said Monday that despite the news organization’s own findings, the inquiry by the FBI’s New York office was still open. The official was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Both the Justice Department and the FBI declined comment on Monday.
The bribery allegations surfaced amid a sprawling investigation of a phone-hacking scandal that’s plagued Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. media empire, which includes Dow Jones and the newspaper, since 2011. Scotland Yard launched the probe after learning that the News of the World had hacked into the phone of a slain teenager in that newspaper’s quest for scoops.
The FBI’s New York office also has been investigating whether any Americans were involved in the scandal. According to the Journal, authorities in New York also have been probing the newspaper’s claims last year that its computer systems had been breached by China-based hackers.
The Journal reported on Sunday that the Justice Department told News Corp. last year that a whistleblower claimed one or more Journal employees had provided gifts to Chinese officials in exchange for information for articles. News Corp. has told U.S. officials that it suspects a Chinese government operative leveled the allegations in retaliation for the Journal’s reporting on power struggles within the country’s leadership.
“The allegations of gifts in China went beyond the typical meals or drinks shared by reporters and officials and included lavish entertainment and travel,” the paper reported, citing unnamed sources. Such activity would be a potential violation of U.S. laws barring American corporations trying to gain a business by plying foreign officials with gifts.
In her statement, the Journal spokeswoman said the newspaper was still committed to “vigorous” reporting in the region.
“We are extremely proud of our important and impactful coverage coming out of China and regret that some unknown source has sought to taint our work,” she said.
In Britain, the phone-hacking scandal brought the demise of the News of the World along with dozens of arrests and resignations, scores of lawsuits against Murdoch’s empire and a public inquiry into media ethics.
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