UK's The Sun bribery - 8 arrested

2012-02-11 20:42

London - Britain's biggest selling newspaper The Sun was in crisis Saturday after police arrested five journalists at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid and three public officials over bribery allegations.

Publisher News International said Murdoch had given a "personal assurance" that The Sun would not face the same fate as its sister paper the News of the World, which he closed in July amid a scandal over phone hacking.

The arrested Sun staff were deputy editor Geoff Webster, picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker and reporter John Sturgis, News International said.

A Ministry of Defence official, a member of the armed forces and a police officer were also arrested by detectives over allegations that journalists paid officials for information, police said.

In an e-mail to staff, News International chief executive Tom Mockridge said the company was facing its "greatest challenge".

"You should know that I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper," he said.

Mockridge said he had also written to Britain's police watchdog to "seek clarification" about the independence of the police investigation.

Media reports said Murdoch was expected to visit Britain at the end of the week, but there was no confirmation from News International.

Editor shocked

The editor of The Sun, Dominic Mohan, said he was "shocked" at the arrests but added that he was "determined to lead The Sun through these difficult times".

The arrests come just weeks after another four current and former Sun journalists were arrested and bailed over similar allegations.

Scotland Yard said it had now broadened its corruption probe, which had previously focused on bribes paid to the police.

"The remit of Operation Elveden has widened to include the investigation of evidence uncovered in relation to suspected corruption involving public officials who are not police officers," it said in a statement.

It said five men aged 45, 47, 50, 52 and 68 were arrested in dawn raids at their homes in London and nearby areas on suspicion of corruption and of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office.

In the first cases of their kind, a Ministry of Defence employee aged 39 was arrested at her home in Wiltshire, southwest England, and a 36-year-old man serving in the armed forces was arrested in the same area.

Both were held on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to both offences.

Sky News said they were an army officer and his wife, but the Ministry of Defence said it would not comment on ongoing police investigations.

A police officer in the county of Surrey, which borders London, was also arrested on suspicion of corruption and misconduct in a public office.

Milly Dowler

Surrey police were responsible for investigating the 2002 murder of teenager Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked by the News of the World after she went missing.

One person was later released on bail but the other seven were still in police custody hours after their arrest.

Police said they had completed a search of the offices of News International in Wapping, East London. They were also searching the homes of the arrested people.

The arrests were made following information provided to police by the Management and Standards Committee set up by Murdoch's US-based News Corporation, Scotland Yard and the company said.

Police have now made 21 arrests in the corruption investigation, including Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, and Andy Coulson, the former spokesperson for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Police have also made 17 arrests in the separate investigation into phone hacking, known as Operation Weeting.

The Australian-born Murdoch bought The Sun in 1969 and it is the flagship of his British newspaper operation, selling around 2.5 million copies a day with its diet of sex and scandal.

The editor of The Times newspaper, which is also owned by Murdoch, apologised on Tuesday for a former reporter at the daily who allegedly hacked the e-mail of a blog-writing detective.

- SAPA
Read more on:    news international  |  rupert murdoch  |  uk  |  media  |  corruption
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