Rebekah Brooks’s Latest Pickle in News Corp. Investigation
In 2003, Rupert Murdoch’s then-star editor Rebekah Brooks made a fateful appearance before Parliament, in which she boldly admitted that her reporters had paid police for information in the past. Brooks’s comments are now coming back to haunt her. Last month, a wave of arrests shook Murdoch’s flagship tabloid The Sun—which Brooks was editing at the time of her 2003 testimony, following a stint editing News of the World—as part of an investigation into whether journalists had paid police. After the arrests, lead phone-hacking investigator Sue Akers publicly denounced a “culture” of illegal payments at The Sun to the Leveson Inquiry, which is now examining the troublesome relationship between the British media and the country’s public officials.
Now, it has been confirmed that Scotland Yard is also interested in questioning Brooks about payments to the Ministry of Defence.
Brooks was arrested last week, along with her husband, on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice. It was Brooks’s second arrest since the phone-hacking scandal broke last summer: the first came just days after she resigned as the head of News International, the U.K. arm of News Corp., last July. Today, she had to answer her bail for the July arrest, which she did at a police station in the borough of Milton Keynes, arriving at 10 a.m. in a black BMW, according to a local paper. As part of the bail questioning today, the British Press Association reports, police asked Brooks about payments to a source in the Ministry of Defence.
A Defence official was arrested last month in the same round of arrests that swept through the Sun’s upper ranks. (Scotland Yard also rounded up a police officer and a member of the armed forces that same day.) Scotland Yard isn’t the only agency looking into the activities of Murdoch’s tabloids. The FBI has long been reported to be investigating whether News Corp. is in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which prohibits American companies from baying bribes to foreign officials. On Sunday, British papers reported that the FBI has told Scotland Yard it is “prepared to step in” if the British police fail to investigate the full extent of allegedly illegal activity in Murdoch’s tabloids. As Mike Koehler, an FCPA expert at Butler University, told The Daily Beast after last month’s arrests, the risk to News Corp. grows as the investigation expands from police to include the military and government. “The issue when it comes to executives will be, did they authorize the payments, or did they know about them but fail to put a stop to them,” Koehler said.