By Jeanne Whalen
British prosecutors said they are charging a former police officer and a journalist from News Corp NWSA +0.88%.’s Sun tabloid as part of a bribery probe focusing on the media’s alleged attempts to pay public officials for information.
- Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
- British prosecutors charged Paul Flattley, a former officer with the Metropolitan Police, and Virginia Wheeler, a journalist at the Sun, with “conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.”
The Crown Prosecution Service said it is charging Paul Flattley, a former officer with the Metropolitan Police, and Virginia Wheeler, a journalist at the Sun, Britain’s best-selling newspaper, with “conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.”
Prosecutors alleged that between May 2008 and September 2011, the Sun paid Flattley at least £6,450 ($10,210) in exchange for information about the death of a 15-year-old-girl and about suspects and victims of accidents and crimes, including “high-profile individuals” and their associates, prosecutors said. Police opened their bribery probe, called Operation Elveden, in July 2011, as a scandal erupted in the U.K. over illegal reporting tactics.
A spokeswoman for News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper unit said Wheeler is the Sun’s defense editor. Wheeler didn’t respond to a request for comment, and the News Corp. spokeswoman declined to comment on her behalf.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said it didn’t have any comment on Flattley, who couldn’t be reached. Prosecutors said Flattley received the money by check and cash.
Wheeler is the latest News Corp. employee to be charged in the bribery probe. In November prosecutors charged Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of the Sun who later rose to lead News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper unit, with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office from 2004 to 2012, in relation to £100,000 in bribes allegedly paid by the Sun to a Defense Ministry official for information. The Defense Ministry official and the chief reporter at the Sun from 1990 to 2011 were charged with the same crime.
At the same time, Andy Coulson, who was editor of News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid from 2003 to 2007, was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office in relation to alleged payments to public officials in exchange for information, including a private phone directory that included contact details for the royal family, prosecutors said. After leaving News Corp., Coulson served as U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s top communications adviser until resigning in 2011.
Former News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman was charged with two counts of the same crime in relation to the same payments, prosecutors said. At the time of those charges, only Coulson commented publicly, saying: “I deny the allegations made against me and will fight the charges in court.” News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal.
Aside from bribery, police also are investigating journalists’ alleged attempts to illegally intercept email and voice-mail messages in pursuit of information. Widespread allegations of voice-mail interception at News of the World caused News Corp. to close the tabloid in July 2011.
This article was written by Jeanne Whalen and originally published on blogs.wsj