LONDON - British police on Saturday arrested five employees of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid The Sun, a police officer, a member of the armed forces and a defence ministry employee in a bribery probe.
The arrests represented a dramatic widening of police investigations into Murdoch’s British newspaper empire, following the phone hacking scandal which led to the closure of the News of the World in July. “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,” a Scotland Yard statement said. Operation Elveden was set up last year in tandem with Operation Weeting, which is investigating the illegal hacking of mobile phone voicemails.
Police 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 arrested on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to both offences. A police officer in the county of Surrey was also arrested on suspicion of corruption and misconduct in a public office. The hacking scandal erupted after it emerged that the News of the World had intercepted the voicemails of a murdered teenager from Surrey, Milly Dowler. Police said they were searching their home addresses and the offices of News International, the parent company of The Sun, in Wapping, East London. 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 said.
News Corp. confirmed that the five men arrested were employees of The Sun and that it had provided the information. “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 Ministry of Defence said it would not comment on ongoing police.