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The Sun the Times

Murdoch flies in to allegations that public officials were paid £10,000 'retainers' for info

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

February 16, 2012 | 3 min read

Rupert Murdoch, the New York-based News Corp chairman and chief executive, will fly into London tomorrow to find an even more sizzling hot potato on his plate.

Rupert Murdoch: new crisis

The Guardian and Telegraph reported yesterday that the police investigation into alleged illegal payments by Sun journalists to police and other public officials is looking into claims that some individuals received more than £10,000 a year.

They were "effectively on retainer", said both papers.

News Corporation's controversial Management Standards Committee - which has been passing information on to Scotland Yard's Operation Elveden - was said to believe it has uncovered evidence of "serious suspected criminality over a sustained period" by some public officials supplying information to the Sun.

A source familiar with the operations of the MSC told the Guardian the evidence was uncovered after months of trawling through 300 million internal News International emails and other documentation.

The evidence involved "regular cash payments totalling tens of thousands of pounds a year for several years to public officials, some of whom were effectively on retainer to provide information" to the Sun. "In totality it involves a six-figure sum," the insider told the Guardian.

The source said that the investigation is not to do with "sources or expenses" claims by journalists.

Meanwhile the Sun's opposition to the MSC grows, with the revelation yesterday that journalists from the paper have approached the National Union of Journalists about launching a legal challenge.

The latest arrests of five senior Sun journalists on Saturday, making nine arrests in all, has led to near civil war at News International's Wapping HQ, said the Guardian with editorial staff accusing the MSC of throwing them "to the wolves".

Journalists at News International say they feel "angry and betrayed".

The MSC was set up in July and operates independently of the Sun and other News International titles in the UK. It reports directly to News Corp in New York.

With anger across all three Murdoch titles, The Times yesterday ran a comment piece attacking the MSC written by leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson.

Scotland Yard has also extended its inquiry into alleged illegal payments by News International journalists to include all public servants.

The Met said it "recently uncovered evidence of suspected corruption by public officials who are not former or serving police officers" and has therefore "expanded its terms of reference".

In a statement issued on Wednesday it also confirmed that Operation Elveden was confined to News International titles.

"The unauthorised disclosure of information in return for payment is illegal and will be robustly investigated," the Met said.

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