There was more bad news for Rupert Murdoch's British media group on Thursday as the Royal Editor of The Sun, its best-selling newspaper, was arrested over allegations of paying bribes to police and public officials to get stories.
The arrest of Duncan Larcombe (36), who was picked up from his home in Kent on “suspicion of conspiracy to corrupt and conspiracy to cause misconduct in a public office”, came as it was announced that Mr. Murdoch and his son James Murdoch would appear before the Leveson inquiry — an ongoing judicial probe into media ethics led by Lord Justice Brian Henry Leveson — next week.
Mr. Larcombe is the tenth top Sun journalist to be arrested in the bribery scandal that is turning out to be as big as the News of the World phone-hacking case which eventually led to the closure of the paper.
Two public officials, including a former member of the armed forces, were also arrested, bringing the total number of arrests to 26.
Police said the arrests followed information provided by News Corporation, parent company of News International, publishers of The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.
The defunct News of the World was also published by News International then headed by Mr. James Murdoch who has since quit as its executive chairman. Its former chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, is among the nearly dozen NI journalists and officials likely to be charged over the hacking scandal.
In a statement, Scotland Yard said the arrests related to “suspected payments to a public official” and were “not about seeking journalists to reveal confidential sources in relation to information that has been obtained legitimately”.
Mr. Larcombe, who was also the paper's Defence Editor for sometime, denies that he ever bribed police officers, but told the Leveson inquiry that he had paid money to members of the public for pictures and stories. He said it was “no secret” that The Sun offered payments for tip-offs.
“There have been several occasions when I, as Royal Editor, have paid people money for stories or pictures that have ended up in the paper. Some of these people have become regular ‘tipsters' while others may only have been a one-off,” he told the inquiry.