12 Feb 2012

More Sun staff arrested in corruption probe

12:52 pm on 12 February 2012

Eight people have been arrested in Britain as part of an investigation into corrupt payments made to police and public officials.

The arrests are part of an inquiry into illegal news-gathering practices, including bribes offered to police in return for story tip-offs.

The investigation arose from last year's phone hacking scandal which saw the closure of the News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, after accusations its reporters hacked the mobile phone messages of celebrities and victims of crime caused a public outcry.

Those detained on Saturday include five members of staff at Britain's best-selling newspaper The Sun, also owned by Murdoch.

The journalists arrested are some of the most senior on the tabloid. The BBC reports they are: deputy editor Geoff Webster, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, picture editor John Edwards and reporter John Sturgis.

They were arrested after News International's management and standards committee, set up to deal with the phone hacking scandal, provided information to Scotland Yard.

A Ministry of Defence employee and a member of the armed forces have also been arrested on suspicion of corruption as part of the Operation Elveden probe into payments to police.

News International chief executive Tom Mockridge issued a memo to Sun staff on Saturday saying: "The Sun has a proud history of delivering ground-breaking journalism.

"I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper."

News International says Rupert Murdoch remains committed to owning and publishing the Sun.

But British publicist Max Clifford says the developments could put the paper's future in jeopardy.

"You've only go to see what happened to the News of the World which obviously became an embarrassment to Rupert Murdoch and it's not the newspapers that make the big profits for his organisation.

"So I think that it's becoming ever more possible that ... if this continues we could see the end of The Sun in this country."

In January this year, four former and current Sun journalists and a Metropolitan Police officer were arrested as part of the inquiry and released on bail.

Rupert Murdoch is expected to visit staff in London later this week.