Saturday, 11 February 2012

Senior Sun journalists arrested in police payments probe


Five Sun newspaper journalists have been arrested as part of Operation Elveden, the police inquiry into alleged inappropriate payments to public servants. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian The Sun has been plunged into crisis following the arrest of five of its most senior journalists, including the deputy editor, over allegations of inappropriate payments to police and public officials. The five Sun journalists are understood to be: deputy editor Geoff Webster, picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker and reporter John Sturgis. The Sun's editor, Dominic Mohan, said: "I'm as shocked as anyone by today's arrests but am determined to lead the Sun through these difficult times. I have a brilliant staff and we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that. Our focus is on putting out Monday's newspaper." A News International source said Mohan was "not resigning" but added that it was "obviously a dramatic day for him". Sky News reported that Rupert Murdoch is flying into the UK to reassure Sun staff that he will not close the paper in the wake of the latest arrests. The worsening crisis at the tabloid could have wider ramifications for the Murdoch media empire, according to some media experts. Clive Hollick, former chief executive of United Business Media, said the latest arrests could intensify the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation into News Corp in the US. In a post on his Twitter account he added that the arrests "may lead to fines, director oustings and asset sales". He also suggested that the developments could lead to the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom review Murdoch's control of Sky television in the UK. Hollick tweeted: "Will Ofcom conclude that Sun arrests on top of hacking render NI not fit and proper to hold #Sky license and make them sell shareholding?" A Surrey police officer, 39, a Ministry of Defence employee, 39, and a member of the armed forces, 36, were also arrested at their homes on Saturday on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to both. The new arrests at Britain's bestselling newspaper will further rock News International, which is still reeling from the closure of the Sun's sister title, the News of the World last year, after it emerged that journalists had hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The journalists, aged between 45 and 68, were arrested at addresses in London, Kent and Essex on suspicion of corruption, aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office, and conspiracy in relation to both these offences. They are being questioned at police stations in London and Kent. News Corporation, the parent company of News International which owns the Sun and the Times, confirmed that five Sun staff were among those arrested today. It said its Management and Standards Committee (MSC) had provided information to the Elveden investigation which led to the arrests and had also provided the option of "immediate legal representation" to those arrested. "News Corporation remains committed to ensuring that unacceptable news-gathering practices by individuals in the past will not be repeated and last summer authorised the MSC to co-operate with the relevant authorities," it said. "The MSC will continue to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, private or personal information and legal privilege. "News Corporation maintains its total support to the ongoing work of the MSC and is committed to making certain that legitimate journalism is vigorously pursued in both the public interest and in full compliance with the law." The arrests come two weeks after four former and current Sun journalists and a serving Metropolitan police officer were arrested over alleged illegal police payments. Senior Sun employees Chris Pharo, 42, and Mike Sullivan, along with former executives Fergus Shanahan, 57, and Graham Dudman, were named by sources as suspects facing corruption allegations. All five were released on bail. Surrey police confirmed a serving officer was arrested at the officer's home address on Saturday as part of Operation Elveden. A spokesman said: "Surrey police has been working closely with Operation Elveden since it was established in 2011, with a number of its officers seconded to the [Metropolitan Police Service] to assist with the investigations. "On learning about the involvement of one of its officers, the force immediately referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)." Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby said: "The force takes matters of this nature extremely seriously and we will not hesitate to respond robustly to allegations where there is evidence to support them." Deborah Glass, deputy chair of the IPCC, said: "Today's arrests are further evidence of the strenuous efforts being undertaken to identify police officers who may have taken corrupt payments." The MoD refused to comment. Officers from Operation Elveden made the arrests between 6am and 8am as part of the investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police and public officials. Operation Elveden, which runs alongside the Met's Operation Weeting team, was launched as the phone-hacking scandal erupted last July with allegations about the now-defunct News of the World targeting Milly Dowler's mobile phone. Its remit has widened to include the investigation of evidence uncovered in relation to suspected corruption involving public officials who are not police officers. All home addresses of all eight detained men are being searched and officers are also carrying out searches at the offices of News International in Wapping, east London, the Metropolitan police said. " larger | smaller Media The Sun · News Corporation · News International · Rupert Murdoch · Dominic Mohan · Ofcom · Newspapers & magazines · National newspapers · Newspapers · Media business · US press and publishing · US television industry UK news Ministry of Defence World news United States Television & radio US television More news More on this story Operation Elveden and Operation Weeting: the full list of arrests 30 people have been arrested so far in police investigations into phone hacking and payments to officers Leveson inquiry: James Harding, Dominic Mohan, Baroness Buscombe Leveson inquiry: Sun editor recalled for questioning on Page 3 Sun journalists think Murdoch doesn't care for them any longer Rupert Murdoch cuts off Wapping? Sun arrests show that News Corp is now at war with itself Printable version Send to a friend Share Clip Contact us