Akers: Sun 'network of corrupt officials' across public life

  • Journalist received more than £150,000 to pay sources
  • Payments made to a “network of corrupted officials’
  • MSC set up inquriy ‘of their own volition’

Met Police deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers today revealed extensive details about allegations of criminality against The Sun newspaper – claiming there was a “culture of illegal payments” to public officials.

Akers also revealed that News Corporation‘s Management and Standards Committee (MSC) – set up to investigate alleged criminal acts by journalists – began its internal review into The Sun ‘of their own volition’and not as a result of a request from the Met.

The MSC review has led to the arrest of 10 current and former Sun journalists in the past three months.

The information that led to the arrests was provided by the MSC but Akers said the Met then had to carry out ‘extensive enquiries’to discover ‘the source, the journalist, the cash payment, the authorisation of the cash payment and the subsequent story”.

She insisted that the purpose of the police investigation was to investigate criminality and that ‘the aim has never been to threaten the existence of The Sun”.

‘To this end there has been liaison with the MSC to take account of business risk to The Sun newspaper hence searches being made at The Sun offices on a Saturday when the office would be empty,’she said in her second witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry.

Despite the fact the journalists arrested are still on bail and none have been charged, Akers went on to detail criminality allegedly uncovered, which included payment to public officials working for the police, military, the health service, Government and the prison service.

The evidence suggests a ‘network of corrupted officials’from every walk of public life, claimed.

‘There appears to have been a culture at The Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money,’she said.

‘The emails indicate that payments to ‘sources’ were openly referred to within The Sun, with the category of public official being identified, that than the individual’s identity.”

Regular, frequent and sometimes significant’ payments

Akers said there was a recognition among those journalists allegedly involved in the payments that what they were doing was illegal – with references to staff ‘risking losing their pension or job’and the need for ‘care”.

There were also indications of ‘tradecraft”, said Akers, whereby cash payments to sources were hidden by paying them to a friend or relative, which suggests the authority for such payments were made at a ‘senior level”.

The identities of many of the public officials receiving the payments remain hidden, however, which was why so few have been arrested compared with the number of journalists.

The cases were ‘not ones involving the odd drink, or meal, to police officers or other public officials’but ‘regular, frequent and sometimes significant sums of money”, according to Akers.

Some of the emails received from the MSC showed multiple payments to one figure over several years totalled more than £80,000, while one of the arrested journalists allegedly received more than £150,000 over several years to pay sources – Akers said.

Akers added that the investigation into The Sun was ‘nearer the start line than the finishing line”, and that ultimately it was up to a judge to decide if the payments were in the public interest or not. But she claimed the “vast majority” of disclosures were said to involve “salacious gossip”.

Responding to Akers’ evidence, News Corp chirman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said: “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.

“That process is well underway. 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.”

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