Buckingham Palace and Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers reached a secret agreement over historical phone hacking claims, court documents filed on behalf of Prince Harry allege.
The documents, which claim that NGN privately reached an undisclosed settlement with Prince William, are part of the Duke of Sussex’s lawsuit against the media group for alleged unlawful information gathering.
The lawsuit includes claims that NGN illegally intercepted voicemail messages, obtained private information by deception and used private investigators to illegally gain information.
It’s unclear how Prince Harry is aware of his brother’s settlement, but in his court response he writes that his information is based on a redacted document through which he is inferring that Prince William signed onto the agreement.
Officials at Kensington Palace, which represents Prince William, told CNN it does not comment on legal proceedings. Buckingham Palace reiterated that same position.
Prince Harry states that his late grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, was aware of settlement talks.
In the documents, Prince Harry’s legal team asserts that William was paid a “very large sum” by the owner of The Sun and the now closed News of the World to settle claims that they hacked into the royal’s phone.
There was no other information regarding the alleged deal. NGN said it has no comment regarding the suggestion that it made a confidential settlement with Prince William. The company also claims that Prince Harry ought to have brought his lawsuit sooner.
On a separate allegation by Prince Harry that there was a “secret agreement” with Buckingham Palace, by which NGN would forego its right to bring a limitation defense in response to any claims by the Royal Family, the media group said “there was no such secret agreement.”
In 2007, the editor of News of the World and a private investigator were convicted of conspiracy to hack the voicemails of British royals. The scandal burst back into the spotlight in 2010 and 2011 amid allegations that phone hacking was a common practice at the Sunday tabloid and that UK police had been complicit.
In the long-running controversy, a number of British journalists have been accused of illegally hacking the voicemails of thousands of people, ranging from top politicians and celebrities to murder victims and the families of troops killed in action.
The phone hacking scandal has cost the Murdoch media empire more than £1 billion ($1.24 billion), according to a 2021 investigation by Press Gazette, an industry publication.