Three British Ukrainians caught up in center of Murdoch media scandal

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July 22, 2011, 12:13 a.m. |

A demonstrator from Avaaz, a global campaigning group, wearing a Rupert Murdoch head, holds a puppet of Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, in front of Parliament in London, Wednesday, July 13, 2011.
© AP

Close- knit group reportedly concealed activities by speaking Ukrainian. Kyiv Post Staff – Three British journalists with Ukrainian roots are caught up in one of Britain’s largest scandals in recent years, which hit the spotlight this month with the closing of the nation’s top tabloid newspaper by its embattled publisher, influential media magnate Rupert Murdoch.

Two former employees of the News of the World, shut down amid allegations that phone-hacking was used to find out information for stories, are Alex Marunchak and Greg Miskiw.

Miskiw’s ex-girlfriend, Terenia Taras, is also reported to be involved in possible illegal activity that took place at News of the World.

Several separate sources close to the individuals have confirmed that they are members of Ukraine’s diaspora community in the United Kingdom. Both Marunchak and Miskiw are said to be about 60 -years-old.

Marunchak and Miskiw are alleged, according to British media reports, to have been involved in illegal tapping of phones and acquisition of information for use in the newspaper’s sensational reporting that has often exposed politicians and celebrities.

The allegations and ongoing investigations have triggered uproar in British media and society.

Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of international media conglomerate News Corp., which owns the News of the World and three other British newspapers, denied knowledge of the alleged phone hacking in front of a committee of British lawmakers on July 19.

The Ukrainian group worked at News of the World at the time the paper was headed by Rebekah Brooks, one of the closest people to Murdoch, and Andy Coulson, former press secretary of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Brooks was detained for questioning by British police on July 17, days after she resigned as head of News International, a branch of Murdoch's News Corp. Coulson resigned as Cameron’s press secretary this year when the media scandal started to gain momentum.

Cameron was grilled by lawmakers in Parliament on July 20 and said he would not have hired Coulson if he had known about his alleged close connection to the phone hacking.

Both Brooks and Coulson maintain that they did not know of the alleged illegal activities involved in news gathering at the paper, but both admitted years ago that News of the World paid police officers for information.

If illegal or unsavory activity took place, Marunchak and Miskiw could be in a position to give testimony contradicting the accounts of Brooks, Coulson and Murdoch – all of whom claim not to have known about possible illegal activities.

According to a BBC report, Marunchak paid detective services for information and allegedly obtained hacked email correspondence of a British intelligence officer while head of News of the World’s Dublin office in 2006.

Contacted by the Kyiv Post, Marunchak denied wrongdoing but was tight-lipped on details and declined to discuss specific allegations. A report by the Daily Telegraph suggested he worked as a police translator while also working for the newspaper.

His colleague, former assistant editor Miskiw, is, according to British news reports, tied up in a separate alleged illegal transaction aimed at obtaining information for the paper.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Miskiw is alleged to have signed a contract in 2005 with a private detective who tapped into the telephone conversations of Princes William and Harry. Miskiw has also denied wrongdoing.

The Ukrainian group, according to reports, specialized in obtaining sensational information and worked as a team. When Marunchak and Miskiw did not want their discussion to be understood by bystanders, they spoke Ukrainian, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The newspaper reported that both also had a joint business importing vodka from Ukraine to Britain.
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