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Murdoch aide Brooks ‘arrested’ in phone hack scandal

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, July 17, 2011 9:28 EDT
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British police on Sunday reportedly arrested a former top aide to Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, over the hacking scandal that has led to calls for the break-up of the media mogul’s empire in the country.

Brooks, 43, who resigned on Friday as chief executive of Murdoch’s British newspaper wing on Friday, would be the tenth person and the most senior so far to be arrested over the scandal at the News of the World tabloid.

Her arrest came hours after Murdoch published his second apology in British newspapers, although it failed to stop opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband calling for his British media interests to be dismantled.

Scotland Yard confirmed that a unnamed 43-year-old woman had been arrested by appointment at a London police station on Sunday “in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking.”

She was in custody, it said in a statement.

Sky News, which is part of Murdoch’s British operation, and the BBC both named her as Brooks, a former editor of the News of the World at the time it allegedly hacked the voicemails of a murdered girl, Milly Dowler.

There was no immediate reaction from the News International newspaper group.

The arrest comes nine days after police detained another former editor of the tabloid, Andy Coulson, who quit the paper in 2007 and went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron’s media chief until January this year.

Murdoch closed the News of the World one week ago but it failed to stem the scandal, with his bid for control of pay-TV giant BSkyB collapsing and Brooks’ departure followed by that of Dow Jones chief Les Hinton on Friday.

Adding to the pressure, Miliband said British politicians had to “look at the situation” whereby Murdoch was able to own more than 20 percent of the newspaper market plus have a large stake in satellite television.

“I think he has too much power over British public life,” Miliband told the Observer newspaper.

Murdoch owns The Sun, Britain’s biggest selling newspaper, The Times and The Sunday Times. His family also owns a 39 percent share in BSkyB.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, of the Liberal Democrats, agreed that there should be more “plurality” in the British media.

Clegg also urged Murdoch to “come absolutely clean” when he, his son James Murdoch and Brooks face a grilling by lawmakers this week.

Abandoning his earlier defiance, Murdoch placed ads in most of Britain’s Sunday newspapers entitled “Putting right what’s gone wrong”, a day after taking out full-page, signed ads in the British press saying “We Are Sorry.”

Sunday’s ads promised to fully cooperate with police investigating the hacking and provide compensation for those targeted, adding: “There are no excuses and there should be no place to hide.”

In a further blow, however, the Sunday Telegraph reported that board members at BSkyB will hold a special session on July 28 to discuss James Murdoch’s future as chairman.

The Murdoch empire’s links to the British establishment also came under fresh scrutiny.

Scotland Yard revealed that Commissioner Paul Stephenson met its executives and editors 18 times socially between 2006 and 2010.

The force has faced criticism for failing to unearth information on thousands of victims when the hacking claims first emerged in 2005.

Stephenson was linked to former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis in reports Sunday which said the police chief accepted a five-week stay earlier this year at a luxury health spa where Wallis worked as a PR consultant.

The force is already facing questions about why it hired Wallis as an advisor two months after he quit the tabloid. Wallis was arrested last week.

A police spokesman strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Home Secretary Theresa May will make a statement to parliament on Monday to set out her “concerns” about the hiring of Wallis, Home Office minister James Brokenshire said.

Lawmaker John Whittingdale, the head of the parliamentary committee that will grill Murdoch this Tuesday, meanwhile defended himself over reports that he was a Facebook “friend” of Brooks, Hinton and Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth.

Cameron was also forced on the defensive after it emerged that he personally had 26 meetings in 15 months with key Murdoch aides and hosted Brooks and James Murdoch at his country retreat, Chequers.

Foreign Secretary William Hague also defended Cameron’s decision to invite Coulson to Chequers in March, two months after Coulson quit Downing Street.

The hacking scandal is also being investigated by the FBI in the US.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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