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British police arrest 5 in London tabloid bribery probe

Written By Ivan Kolev on Sunday, January 29, 2012 | 6:46 PM

LONDON – British authorities investigating potential cases of bribery of police arrested four current and former employees of News Corp.'s tabloid the Sun, the company said, deepening the media firm's problems in a scandal involving illicit reporting tactics.

The focus on Sun employees expands a police probe that until now had focused largely on News Corp.'s now closed News of the World tabloid. A police officer also was arrested on Saturday in connection to the bribery probe, according to London's Metropolitan Police.

While neither police nor the company named the employees, a person familiar with the matter indicated that some of the arrested have served in top roles in the Sun's newsroom. They include Graham Dudman, who had been the paper's managing editor before being promoted last year to a job as editorial development director at News International, the company's U.K. newspaper unit.

In addition to Dudman, the arrested Sun employees are Mike Sullivan, Chris Pharo and Fergus Shanahan, according to a person familiar with the matter. Sullivan is the tabloid's crime editor. Pharo last year was promoted to associate editor of news. In 2007, Shanahan was named executive editor of the paper, a senior editorial role. Shanahan previously had been deputy editor. The men couldn't immediately be reached to comment.

Police said they also were carrying out searches at the east London offices of News International, the News Corp. unit that publishes the Sun and the Times of London. It also published the News of the World before it was closed down last summer amid the scandal over the tabloid's practice of illegally intercepting voice-mail messages in pursuit of scoops.

Police said the arrests were "the result of information provided to police by News Corp.'s Management and Standards Committee." The operation "relates to suspected payments to police officers and is not about seeking journalists to reveal confidential sources in relation to information that has been obtained legitimately," the police statement said. News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.

In its statement, News Corp. said it intends to ensure "that unacceptable news-gathering practices by individuals in the past would not be repeated."

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