LONDON, (Reuters) – Police arrested four current and former staff of Rupert Murdoch’s best-selling Sun tabloid and a policeman on Saturday in a probe into suspected payments by journalists to officers for information, police and the newspaper’s publisher said.
Police also searched the London offices of Sun publisher News International, News Corp’s British arm, in a corruption probe linked to a continuing investigation into phone hacking at its now closed News of the World weekly tabloid.
News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee, set up in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, said Saturday’s operation was the result of information it had passed to police.
“News Corporation made a commitment last summer that unacceptable news gathering practices by individuals in the past would not be repeated,” the committee said in a statement confirming the arrests of four “current and former employees” of the Sun.
Three of the employees, all arrested at their homes, were a 48-year-old man from north London and two men from Essex, east of the capital, aged 48 and 56, police said.
The fourth man, aged 42, was arrested after reporting to an east London police station.
The fifth arrest was a 29-year-old police officer serving with the Met Police’s Territorial Policing Command, who was arrested at the central London police station where he worked.
All five were being questioned on suspicion of corruption.
A Sun reporter, who asked not to be named, said: “Everyone is a bit shocked, there is disbelief really. But there is a big difference between phone hacking and payments to the police.”
The arrests included the Sun’s crime editor Mike Sullivan, its head of news Chris Pharo, and former deputy editor Fergus Shanahan, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.
Also arrested was the paper’s former managing editor Graham Dudman, now a columnist and media writer, the source said.
Searches at News International’s offices in Wapping, east London, and at the arrested men’s homes, were expected to continue until the afternoon, police said.
The operation takes to 13 the number of arrests in a probe into allegations journalists paid police in return for information, known as Operation Elveden, one of three criminal investigations into the news-gathering practices of the News of the World.
Last week, News International settled a string of legal claims after it admitted that people working for the tabloid had hacked in to the private phones of celebrities and others to generate stories.
The phone hacking scandal drew attention to the level of political influence held by editors and executives at News International, and other newspapers in Britain.
It embarrassed British politicians for their close ties with newspaper executives and also the police, who repeatedly failed to investigate allegations of illegal phone hacking.