11 Feb 2012

Eight arrested in payments probe

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

Eight arrested, including five employees from The Sun, over allegations of inappropriate payments (Image: Getty)

Officers from Operation Elveden made the arrests at dawn on Saturday as part of the investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police and public officials.

It is the first time public officials have been arrested over the scandal that began with revelations of hacking phones belonging to the royal family.

Police raided the homes of five senior staff members at News International’s flagship title The Sun in London, Kent and Essex. The men, aged between 45 and 68, are understood to be 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.

They are being questioned on suspicion of corruption, aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office, and conspiracy in relation to both these offences.

I’m as shocked as anyone by today’s arrests but am determined to lead The Sun through these difficult times. Dominic Mohan, editor of The Sun

But the swoop didn’t end there. 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 – all in connection with making, or receiving, corrupt payments.

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 is reported that Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp, is flying to London to steady nerves at Britain’s biggest selling newspaper.

The Sun’s editor Dominic Mohan said in a statement: “I’m as shocked as anyone by today’s arrests but am determined to lead The Sun through these difficult times. I have a brilliant staff and we we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that. Our focus is putting out Monday’s newspaper.”

Special report: Phone hacking

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.

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. They confirmed that the officer in question is not connected to the Milly Dowler case.

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.”

The arrests come two weeks after four former and current Sun journalists and a serving Metropolitan Police officer were arrested over alleged illegal police payments.

Senior Sun employees Chris Pharo, 42, and Mike Sullivan along with executive editor Fergus Shanahan, 57, and News International’s editorial development director Graham Dudman, were named by sources as suspects facing corruption allegations. All five were released on bail.