London Police Official Accuses News Corp.'s Sun of 'Culture of Illegal Payments'

Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:25pm EST

A London police official has accused the Sun newspaper, News Corp.’s most popular British title, of having a “culture [...] of illegal payments."

Sue Akers, the London Police’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner, told the Leveson Inquiry, an examination of media ethics in Britain, that News Corp.’s tabloid was making payments to officials “in all areas of public life.”

Earlier this month, the London police arrested Sun journalists on suspicion of corruption and bribing governmental officials. 

Akers testified that in the course of her department’s investigation, they have found numerous cases in which journalists paid “significant sums of money” to public officials, including 80,000 British pounds (almost $130,000) to one person. Akers also said that one journalist withdrew up to 150,000 pounds (about $220,000) over recent years to pay off officials.

She described the corruption as systematic and suggested that high-level executives knew about it. That raises the specter of possible criminal activity prosecutable in the United States under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The FCPA outlaws payments by employees of U.S. companies to foreign public officials, and can lead to millions of dollars in fines. How much danger News Corp. is really in on that front remains a subject of debate.

"As I've made very clear, we have vowed to do everything we can to get to the bottom of prior wrongdoings in order to set us on the right path for the future," News Corp. CEO Murdoch, who is in London, said in a statement.

"That process is well under way. The practises Sue Akers described at the Leveson Inquiry are ones of the past, and no longer exist at the Sun. We have already emerged a stronger company."

Akers’ testimony came a day after News Corp. unveiled the Sun on Sunday, the latest edition of Britain's most popular daily newspaper.

Murdoch has already tweeted that it sold more than 3 million copies, denting the readership of the Sunday Mirror and the People.

News Corp.’s News of the World had been a Sunday tabloid, but the company was forced to close it last July as a phone hacking scandal began to engulf the publication. 

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