James Murdoch, son of Rupert, Lord of Casterly Rock, Warden of the West and overseer of News Corp's properties in Europe and Asia, could face criminal charges over his role in the phone hacking scandal at News Corp tabloid News of the World. In the U.S. and the U.K.!

This really is like Christmas in July. As you recall, News of the World was recently shuttered unceremoniously after new allegations that private detectives on its payroll, with the assent of some of its editors, had hacked into the voicemail of murder and abduction victims into their families. Everyone is very mad about the hacking! And Hugh Grant managed to play a key role, somehow, so it's like a very serious Richard Curtis movie over there.

And now James Murdoch, The Guardian writes, could face prosecution in the U.S. under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as News of the World's parent company News International is a subsidiary of the U.S.-based News Corp:

Butler University law professor Mike Koehler, an FCPA expert, said: "I would be very surprised if the US authorities don't become involved in this [NI] conduct."

He said the scandal appeared to qualify as an FCPA case on two counts. First, News Corp is a US-listed company, giving the US authorities jurisdiction to investigate allegations. "Second, perhaps more importantly, the act requires that payments to government officials need to be in the furtherance of 'obtaining or retaining' business. If money is being paid to officials, in this case the police, in order to get information to write sensational stories to sell newspapers, that would qualify," he said.

Fun! (Murdoch would face charges in Britain over "Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which outlaws the interception of communications," given that police believed that the phone hacking in question occurred either with his consent or as a result of his negligence.)

James, according to The New York Times, was the major force behind the decision to shut down News of the World (in the works for four months!), and criminal charges would, if they were to happen, derail James' goal of taking over his father's empire.

Meanwhile, News International chief and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks says that more, and worse, revelations are likely to come! Did News of the World kidnap Maddie McCann?? We can't wait to find out!

[Guardian; NYT; image via AP]