Eight arrested in bribery probe at Murdoch's Sun

LONDON, Feb 11 (AFP) - British police widened a probe into alleged bribery by Rupert Murdoch's media empire today, arresting five staff at The Sun tabloid, a member of the armed forces, a defence official and a policeman.

The arrests cast a shadow over the future of Britain's biggest selling daily, following the phone hacking scandal which led to the closure of its weekly sister paper the News of the World in July. The arrested Sun staff were deputy editor Geoff Webster, picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker and reporter John Sturgis, a source with knowledge of the investigation said.

"I'm as shocked as anyone by today's arrests but am determined to lead The Sun through these difficult times," said Sun editor Dominic Mohan. "I have a brilliant staff and we have a duty to serve our readers and will continue to do that. Our focus is on putting out Monday's newspaper."

News International -- the British newspaper arm of Murdoch's global media operation -- would not confirm reports that Murdoch was flying to London to reassure Sun staff that he would not close the paper down.

Scotland Yard said it had now broadened its investigation into alleged payments by journalists for information, which had previously focused on bribes paid to the police. "The remit of Operation Elveden has widened to include the investigation of evidence uncovered in relation to suspected corruption involving public officials who are not police officers," it said in a statement.

It said five men aged 45, 47, 50, 52 and 68 were arrested in dawn raids at their homes in London and nearby areas on suspicion of corruption and of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office.

In the first cases of their kind, a Ministry of Defence employee aged 39 was arrested at her home in Wiltshire, southwest England, and a 36-year-old man serving in the armed forces was arrested in the same area.

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