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Lawyers acting for outsourcer HCL have claimed a number of emails and folders were deleted up until June this year at the request of News International, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Australian publisher embroiled in a phone hacking scandal.

Stuart Benson & Company, a law firm acting for the outsourcer, has sent a letter to the Home Affairs Committee detailing the deletions. The letter does not say whether the deletion requests related to possible phone hacking.

News International and HCL had not provided comment at the time of writing.

According to the letter, on 9 December 2009 News International's service desk "requested deletion of emails from the inbox of a user who had not accessed his email account for eight years".

"The action was completed," the letter states. However, it does not confirm if HCL carried out the deletions. The outsourcer has not made clear in the past whether it fulfilled requests.

On 24 February 2010, the company's service desk reportedly requested the deletion of personal folders under the name "Gabriel/uploaded", an action also described as "completed".

Another request was allegedly made on 28 September 2010 to remove a personal folder, and on 29 June the next year to delete "certain bad or corrupted files". These requests were fulfilled, the letter states.

News International opens up fresh email probe

Legal experts speaking to CIO sister title Computerworld UK have previously said that email deletion is perfectly legal, but that it could raise troubling questions during a time of legal investigations.

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said the requests were "concerning". He added: "The Committee will continue to investigate the issue of phone hacking and the removal of any information that could possibly point to the prevalence of phone hacking by those working in the organisation."