News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s U.K. bribery scandal led to three more arrests today, including a royal editor at its Sun tabloid and an ex-member of the armed forces, as prosecutors consider the first criminal charges in the case.
The arrests were made during early morning raids on two homes in Kent and Lancashire, both in England, according to a statement from the Metropolitan Police Service in London. The three people, whom the police didn’t identify, are still in custody and their homes are being searched.
Duncan Larcombe, 36, who writes about Prince William, his wife Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, and her sister Pippa for the Sun, Britain’s best-selling daily paper, was one of those detained today, according to a person familiar with the matter. He was arrested at his home in Kent, said the person, who couldn’t be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The arrests come about a week before News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son James, its deputy chief operating officer, are scheduled to testify at an ethics inquiry triggered by a related phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World tabloid. Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said yesterday it’s considering the first new criminal charges in the case after the Met, running parallel probes of hacking and bribery, turned over files outlining potential claims against as many as four journalists, a police officer and six members of the public.
The man in Kent was detained on suspicion of conspiracy to corrupt and cause misconduct in a public office, the Met said. Police also arrested a 42-year-old man who was in the military and a 38-year-old woman at their home in Lancashire, for alleged misconduct in a public office and aiding and abetting.
The phone-hacking scandal emerged in 2006 with the arrest of the News of the World’s royal reporter Clive Goodman and the tabloid’s private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who both pleaded guilty and were jailed the next year. While News International claimed the practice was contained, civil lawsuits by victims revealed phone hacking was far more widespread, triggering a new police probe last year and the closing of the paper.
Police have now made 45 arrests in probes of phone hacking, computer hacking and bribery by journalists at News Corp.’s U.K. titles. The bribery probe, called Operation Elveden, which has the most arrests at 26, was triggered by alleged payments made to police for stories.
Mary Kearney, a spokeswoman for News Corp.’s U.K. unit, News International, confirmed a Sun employee was arrested and declined to identify the person. Today’s arrests resulted from information provided by New York-based News Corp.’s Management & Standards Committee, the Met said.
Phone-hacking victims claim the company covered up the extent of the practice and a judge in a civil lawsuit said executives destroyed evidence to hide the scandal.
Rebekah Brooks, who edited the Sun before becoming chief executive officer of News International, was arrested in July as part of the probes into phone hacking and bribery. She was arrested again last month with her husband Charlie, a former race-horse trainer, on suspicion of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
The ethics inquiry, led by Judge Brian Leveson, will begin probing next week the U.K. media’s relationship with politicians, to determine how it’s used and whether it’s in the public’s interest. He previously examined the press’s relationship with the public and police.
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