LONDON (AP) - Rupert Murdoch’s top-selling U.K. tabloid, The Sun, had a culture of making illegal payments to corrupt public officials in return for stories, a senior British police officer said Monday.
Sue Akers, the Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, told Britain’s media ethics inquiry that the newspaper openly referred to paying its sources and that such payments were authorized at a senior level.
Akers made her accusations a day after Murdoch launched The Sun on Sunday, a replacement for his News of the World tabloid, which he shut down in July when it became too tainted in Britain’s phone hacking scandal.
Her comments also came on the same day that Murdoch’s company paid former teen singing sensation Charlotte Church 600,000 pounds ($951,000) in a phone-hacking settlement for violating her and her family’s privacy.
Akers said journalists paid not only police officers but also military, health and other government officials. One official received a total of 80,000 pounds ($126,912) over several years, Akers said, adding that police also are investigating whether officials were placed on retainers by newspapers.
She said “a network of corrupted officials” had provided The Sun with stories that were mostly “salacious gossip.”
“There appears to have been a culture at The Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money,” said Akers, who is in charge of a police investigation into phone hacking and police bribery.
She said one journalist had “over several years received over 150,000 pounds ($238,000) in cash to pay his sources, a number of whom were public officials.” She said payments to public officials went far beyond acceptable practices such as buying them a meal or a drink.
“As I’ve made very clear, we have vowed to do everything we can to get to the bottom of prior wrongdoings in order to set us on the right path for the future,” he said in an emailed statement. “That process is well under way. The practices Sue Akers described at the Leveson inquiry are ones of the past, and no longer exist at The Sun. We have already emerged a stronger company.”
Police are currently holding three parallel investigations spawned by the tabloid phone hacking scandal, which grew out of revelations that journalists at Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid _ The Sun’s sister paper _ routinely intercepted voice mails of those in the public eye in a relentless search for scoops.
Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old tabloid amid a wave of public revulsion, and the scandal has triggered a judge-led public inquiry into media ethics.
An earlier police investigation failed to find evidence that hacking went beyond one reporter and a private investigator, who were both jailed in 2007 for eavesdropping on the phones of royal staff.
Senior executives of Murdoch’s British newspaper division, including former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, have always insisted they were unaware of widespread phone hacking at the tabloid even though private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was jailed briefly in 2007 for eavesdropping on the phones of royal aides on behalf of the tabloid.View Entire Story
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