News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s U.K. bribery scandal led to the arrest of an employee at its British publishing unit today, bringing to 30 the number of tabloid journalists, police officers and other public officials have detained in the probe.
The 37-year-old woman was arrested “by appointment” in London on suspicion of conspiring to corrupt public officials with illegal payments for stories, the Metropolitan Police Service said today, without naming her. Police said in a statement that the woman was released on bail.
The woman is Clodagh Hartley, a government editor for Rupert Murdoch’s Sun tabloid, the Telegraph newspaper reported. Mary Kearney, a spokeswoman for News Corp.’s U.K. unit, News International, confirmed the woman arrested today was an employee and declined to comment further.
The arrest was prompted by new information given to police by New York-based News Corp.’s Management Standards Committee, the company’s internal group investigating illegal voice-mail interception and other wrongdoing by its U.K. journalists. Before the group was created, the company had been accused by victims of seeking to cover up the scandal.
Police have detained and released on bail more than 50 people since January 2011 in related probes of phone hacking, computer hacking and bribery at News Corp. titles. Each new arrest complicates News Corp.’s attempt to move on from the affair, which has triggered public anger, botched its takeover bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY) and cost the company about $258 million in lawsuit legal fees and settlements.
British prosecutors filed the probes’ first charges on May 15, accusing former News International Chief Executive Officer Rebekah Brooks and five others, including her husband, of conspiring to hide the phone hacking.
The arrest today comes a month after Murdoch, News Corp.’s chairman, and Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch testified at an ethics inquiry triggered by the scandals at the Sun, Britain’s best-selling title, and the News of the World, a newspaper the company shuttered in July to help contain public anger. The father and son said they weren’t aware of the extent of the hacking because subordinates had kept it from them and lawyers had bungled internal probes.
Previous arrests in the bribery probe, dubbed Operation Elveden, included the Sun’s Royal editor, pictures editor, a chief reporter and an ex-member of the armed forces, as well as police officers. They’re accused of paying or accepting bribes for tabloid scoops.
The hacking affair 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 following year. While News International claimed the practice was contained, civil lawsuits by victims in 2010 revealed phone hacking was far more widespread.
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