Eight held in corruption probe

 

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The Independent Online

Five employees of The Sun, a serving Surrey Police officer, a serving member of the armed forces and a Ministry of Defence employee were arrested today over allegations of inappropriate payments to police and public officials.

Five men aged between 45 and 68 were arrested at addresses in London, Kent and Essex on suspicion of corruption, aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office, and conspiracy in relation to both these offences. They are being questioned at police stations in London and Kent.

The men were named by Sky News as deputy editor Geoff Webster, chief reporter John Kay, picture editor John Edwards, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, and John Sturgis, who is a news editor.

A 39-year-old serving Surrey Police officer, a 39-year-old Ministry of Defence employee and a 36-year-old member of the armed forces were also arrested at their homes on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to both.

They are being questioned, at police stations in London and Wiltshire.

A statement from News Corporation, parent company of News International which owns The Sun and The Times, confirmed that five employees of The Sun were among those arrested today.

It said its Management and Standards Committee (MSC) had provided information to the Elveden investigation which led to the arrests and had also provided the option of "immediate legal representation" to those arrested.

"News Corporation remains committed to ensuring that unacceptable news-gathering practices by individuals in the past will not be repeated and last summer authorised the MSC to co-operate with the relevant authorities," it said.

"The MSC will continue to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to protect legitimate journalistic privilege and sources, private or personal information and legal privilege.

"News Corporation maintains its total support to the ongoing work of the MSC and is committed to making certain that legitimate journalism is vigorously pursued in both the public interest and in full compliance with the law."

Officers from Operation Elveden made the arrests between 6am and 8am as part of the investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police and public officials.

Operation Elveden - which runs alongside the Met's Operation Weeting team - was launched as the phone-hacking scandal erupted last July with allegations about the now-defunct News of the World targeting Milly Dowler's mobile phone.

The home addresses of all eight suspects are being searched and officers are also carrying out searches at the offices of News International in Wapping, east London, the Metropolitan Police said.

Surrey Police confirmed a serving officer was arrested at the officer's home address today as part of Operation Elveden.

A spokesman said: "Surrey Police has been working closely with Operation Elveden since it was established in 2011, with a number of its officers seconded to the MPS to assist with the investigations.

"On learning about the involvement of one of its officers, the force immediately referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)."

Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby said: "The Force takes matters of this nature extremely seriously and we will not hesitate to respond robustly to allegations where there is evidence to support them."

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman today said: "We do not comment on ongoing investigations."

PA