Duchess of York among new phone hack settlements
Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of Prince Andrew; British singer-songwriter James Blunt; and Israeli television psychic Uri Geller are among the latest to strike a deal with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. over phone hacking.
The three were among 17 hacking victims who settled Friday with News Corp. subsidiary News Group Newspapers over its campaign of illegal espionage, which set off a massive scandal when it was revealed in July 2011.
Others on the list include actor Hugh Grant - whose settlement was first announced in December - as well as "Doctor Who" actor Christopher Ecclestone, former government minister Geoffrey Robinson, TV presenter Jeff Brazier and singer Kerry Katona.
Murdoch's News of the World tabloid was at the center of the scandal. Prosecutors say the paper's senior management conspired to hack hundreds of victims' phones, including senior government ministers, sports stars, Hollywood royalty, and even crime victims in a bid to win scoops and boost sales.
The scandal first broke in 2006, when two reporters were arrested for hacking into voicemails belonging to members of the royal family. But the paper engaged in an ambitious coverup effort, arranging secret payoffs and repeatedly lying to the press, the public, and parliament in a bid to bury the scandal.
The implicated executives - including Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, former confidants of Prime Minister David Cameron - deny any wrongdoing.
A lawyer for Ferguson, whose split from Andrew in 1992 often made her a tabloid target, said the duchess did not believe the settlement resolved all her concerns regarding snooping into her personal affairs.
Paul Tweed said in a statement that his client "remains extremely concerned that questions beyond the scope of these legal proceedings still need to be answered in relation to other instances of inappropriate and extreme intrusion into her private life."
The size of the various settlements was not immediately disclosed, although previous deals have typically ranged from tens of thousands up to hundreds of thousands of pounds (dollars). On Thursday News Corp. revealed that costs associated with the settlements, official inquiries, and myriad police investigations spawned by the scandal had taken another $56 million bite out of the New York-based company's bottom line.
Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.