‘The allegations relate to the request and authorisation of payments to public officials in exchange for information, including a palace phone directory.’
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
The scandal involving alleged criminality at Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloids grew on Tuesday as prosecutors brought the first charges against a journalist employed by the Sun and also brought fresh cases against the media mogul’s most senior lieutenants.
Rebekah Brooks was charged over an alleged conspiracy to make illegal payments to a public official while working as editor of The Sun. Also charged was the paper’s chief reporter John Kay. Both are alleged to have been involved in a conspiracy to pay £100,000 over seven years to a defence ministry official.
Andy Coulson was facing a fresh charge relating to his tenure as editor of the News of the World for allegedly authorising the payment of money, along with the paper’s former royal reporter, Clive Goodman to get hold of confidential information about the Royal family.
The Crown Prosecution Service made the announcements of the new charges, meaning prosecutors believe they can prove to a jury the conspiracies to bribe took place.
Any convictions could have consequences for News Corporation in the United States where the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal for officers of a US company to bribe foreign officials.
Brooks and Coulson, both confidants of prime minister David Cameron, now face three separate sets of criminal charges, and the news of the fresh charges and the allegations against the Sun, which joins the defunct News of the World as having its journalists face trial, comes just before Lord Leveson’s report on standards and regulation of the press is expected to be published next week.
The announcement came as a result of Operation Elveden, in which the Metropolitan police are investigating claims of unlawful payments by News International staff to police officers and other public officials.
Coulson, former deputy editor and then editor of the now defunct News of the World, and the former royal editor Clive Goodman, are both charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. These relate to payments allegedly made to gain the “green book” which contains confidential royal family and palace phone numbers.
In a statement, Alison Levitt, QC, principal legal adviser to the director of public prosecutions (DPP), said: “The allegations relate to the request and authorisation of payments to public officials in exchange for information, including a palace phone directory known as the “green book” containing contact details for the royal family and members of the household.”
Also charged are Brooks, editor of the Sun between 14 January 2003 and 1 September 2009, the Sun’s former chief reporter John Kay, and a Ministry of Defence official Bettina Jordan-Barber, who is alleged to have been paid £100,000 over a seven-year period.
The CPS said all three “conspired together, and with others, to commit misconduct in public office” between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012.
Levitt said: “This conspiracy relates to information allegedly provided by Bettina Jordan Barber for payment which formed the basis of a series of news stories published by the Sun. It is alleged that approximately £100,000 was paid to Bettina Jordan Barber between 2004 and 2011.”
As part of the investigation into illegal payments, the Met has arrested 52 people, including 21 Sun journalists. The CPS has more decisions to make about whether any more journalists from Britain’s best selling newspaper should be charged or not.
Convictions in the UK over illegal payments could affect the Murdoch media empire in the US, said Tom Fox, a Houston-based lawyer and expert in the US’s foreign corrupt practices act: “This may be the game changer some had been expecting. As a US firm News Corp is subject to the FCPA, if its executives are proven to have been directly involved in acts of bribery then I would expect there to a settlement with the FCPA.
“The US authorities are likely to step back and let the UK authorities get on with their prosecutions.”
The charges are the third set faced by Brooks and Coulson.
David Cameron’s former director of communications, was first charged in Scotland over allegations of lying on oath when he gave evidence in court about phone hacking at the News of the World.
He was then charged over phone hacking, which he denies.
Coulson said: “I am extremely disappointed by this latest CPS decision. I deny the allegations made against me and will fight the charges in court.”
The criminal cases involving his friends poses potential problems for the prime minister.
During a visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Cameron said he had expressed “regret” on many occasions regarding the issue.
“I have also said very clearly that we should allow the police and the prosecuting authorities to follow the evidence wherever it may lead and I think that is very, very important,” he said.
“But I think, particularly as we get to a situation with pending court cases, I think we should probably leave it at that.”
Ms Brooks was first charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by allegedly concealing evidence from the police investigating her activities as a News International top executive. Also charged is her husband, Charlie, and both deny the allegations.
Ms Brook’s personal assistant and Mark Hanna, head of security at NI, were among four others also charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The former NI boss was then charged in July over phone hacking, which she denies.Brooks and Coulson were among eight people charged with 19 counts of conspiracy over the phone-hacking scandal involving the News of the World.
The other News of the World staff facing phone-hacking-related charges are Stuart Kuttner, former managing editor, Ian Edmondson, former assistant editor (news), Greg Miskiw, a former news editor, Neville Thurlbeck, former chief reporter, James Weatherup, former assistant news editor, and a the private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. Kuttner faces three charges, while Miskiw faces 10 charges. Edmondson faces 12 charges, Thurlbeck eight, and Weatherup eight.
Brooks, Coulson and Kay will appear at at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on November 29 over the allegations of illegal payments.
Operation Elveden is also looking at payments at the Mirror and Express newspapers.
The Met has said the investigations triggered by the phone-hacking scandal may last another three years and cost £40m.
The force has 185 officers and civilian staff working on all the related investigations – 96 on Operation Weeting, looking at phone hacking, 70 on Elveden and 19 on Tuleta, which covers computer hacking.
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