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(Updates with Murdoch’s comments in second paragraph.)
Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch told staff he would continue to publish his Sun newspaper as he prepared to visit the U.K. after five more staff were arrested in a widening probe into alleged bribery of U.K. officials.
Murdoch reaffirmed his “total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun,” according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News from News International Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Tom Mockridge to staff at the tabloid, the U.K.’s best- selling daily paper.
Murdoch is likely to visit The Sun newsroom and reiterate those sentiments on a previously scheduled visit to his U.K. operations in the second half of the coming week, a person familiar with his plans said on condition of anonymity.
A police officer, a member of the armed forces and a Ministry of Defense employee were also detained today as the investigation widened to include alleged payments by journalists to public servants as well as police.
The arrests are part of the Operation Elveden bribery probe and add to about 30 detentions since January in three investigations related to phone hacking, computer hacking and bribery. Four current and former employees of The Sun were arrested on Jan. 29 on bribery allegations in a scandal that prompted Murdoch to shut his News of the World tabloid in July.
The five journalists arrested today were Geoff Webster, deputy editor of The Sun; reporter John Sturgis; picture editor John Edwards; chief reporter John Kay; and chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, according to Mockridge’s memo.
Efforts to contact the five men using phone numbers listed by directory assistance failed. The Sun’s switchboard declined to release contact details.
News Corp. has offered legal representation to the employees, it said in a company statement. Miranda Higham, a News Corp. spokeswoman, declined to comment beyond the statement.
Police said in a statement they searched home addresses and News Corp.’s offices in London as part of today’s operation.
News Corp.’s Management and Standards Committee provided the information to the Metropolitan Police which led to the arrests of its staff today, according to the statement.
“News Corporation remains committed to ensuring that unacceptable news gathering practices by individuals in the past will not be repeated,” the company said. The committee was established in July to investigate phone hacking at News of the World, police payments and other issues.
The Metropolitan Police said that the men were arrested in relation to suspected corruption involving public officials who are not police officers. They are being held in police stations across London and Kent, it said.
A sixth person, a 39-year-old service officer with Surrey Police, was being questioned in London on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to those offenses. A 39-year-old woman, who is a Ministry of Defense employee, was being questioned at Wiltshire Police station on the same charge as the police officer, alongside a 36-year-old man who is a member of the Armed Forces.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defense declined to comment.
Operation Elveden was set up last year to investigate alleged bribes paid to police by the News of the World. The weekly newspaper was shuttered after revelations that journalists hacked into the phone of a murdered schoolgirl while she was still missing.
News of the World
News Corp.’s investigative committee also turned over information to police that led to the Jan. 29 arrests at The Sun. The Elveden probe is expanding beyond bribes to police officers after the company’s investigative committee presented evidence in a civil lawsuit that a former editor at the Sun and News of the World had agreed to pay a prison guard to get a story about a child killer.
The Metropolitan Police said last month when asked about a wrongful termination case filed by the editor that the Elveden probe was focused on corrupt payments to police.
News International is facing police probes of phone hacking, computer hacking and bribery and has agreed to pay $15.6 million in settlements to victims of phone hacking.
In the phone-hacking investigation, called Operation Weeting, police have made at least 17 arrests since the probe started about a year ago.
--With assistance from Anthony Aarons in London. Editors: Alex Devine, Dick Schumacher
To contact the reporters on this story: Sarah Shannon in London at firstname.lastname@example.org; Firat Kayakiran in London at email@example.com
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