Former Murdoch Executives Charged with Bribery
In this file photo taken Feb. 1, 2010, News Corp.'s headquarters is shown, in New York. News Corp. releases quarterly financial earnings Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010, after the market close. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Prosecutors in the U.K. said they would charge four journalists who had worked for media mogul Rupert Murdoch with bribing public officials on Tuesday.
The charges are the latest, and likely the most serious, to spring from a series of investigations into allegations of misconduct, including phone hacking, by top editors and reporters at Murdoch’s British tabloids.
The Crown Prosecution Service said in an official statement Tuesday that Rebekah Brooks, former editor of The Sun, and former Sun reporter John Kay paid a Defense Ministry official about 100,000 pounds — more than $150,000 — for information for a series of stories between 2004 and 2011.
Bettina Jordan-Barber, a deputy team leader and strategy officer at the ministry, was also charged.
“We have concluded, following a careful review of the evidence, that Bettina Jordan-Barber, John Kay and Rebekah Brooks should be charged with a conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012,” said Alison Levitt, the principal legal adviser to the Public Prosecutions director.
Neither Kay, Brooks nor Jordan-Barber have issued a comment, according to The Guardian.
In another case, Andy Coulson, the former editor of Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid, and reporter Clive Goodman were also charged with paying public officials for information, including a phone book from the palace known as the “Green Book,” which has contact information for the royal family and members of their household.
Coulson denied the charges, in a statement to The Guardian: “I am extremely disappointed by this latest CPS decision. I deny the allegations made against me and will fight the charges in court.” Goodman has not issued a statement.
A charge of misconduct in public office can carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, although a much lighter sentence of 18 months is more commonly handed down.
Brooks, who rose to the top of News Corp.’s U.K. publishing arm, News International, and Coulson, who later worked as an aide to Prime Minister David Cameron, have already been accused of conspiring to hack the voicemails of more than 600 people over six years, beginning in October 2000 through August 2006.
According to the police, the targets included celebrities, politicians and 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler. It was a July 2011 story alleging that News of the World reporters hacked into Dowler’s voicemail that sparked the current probe.
Brooks and Coulson have denied those charges.
The new charges are a further embarrassment for the prime minister, who hired Coulson as his communications director after his time at the World, even as the hacking allegations had emerged. Cameron also has a close relationship with Brooks and her husband.
The charges could also lead to legal trouble for News Corp.’s operations in the U.S., where authorities could pursue charges based on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a law that prohibits U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials.
A court date hasn’t yet been set for these latest charges.