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Ex-Murdoch Aide Brooks Arrested in Phone-Hack Probe

Sunday, 17 Jul 2011 02:05 PM

Former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks was arrested by police investigating phone hacking at News Corp.’s Sunday tabloid.

Brooks, 43, went to a London police station voluntarily by appointment, her spokesman David Wilson said Sunday in a phone interview. Brooks is the most senior former News Corp. employee detained in the probe, which two days ago resulted in her stepping down as chief executive officer of News International.

“Undoubtedly she should have been arrested,” Mark Lewis, a lawyer for victims of phone-hacking including the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, said in a phone interview. “She was editor of the newspaper at the time that Milly Dowler was abducted and killed. The police undoubtedly have to ask her questions about what happened and what she knew or doesn’t know.”

The revelation that News of the World reporters in 2002 deleted messages from Dowler’s voice-mail turned phone-hacking into a national scandal that led to the closure of the tabloid and the end of News Corp.’s bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, his son James, News Corp.’s deputy chief operating officer, and Brooks are scheduled to testify at a U.K. Parliament hearing on July 19.

A News Corp. spokeswoman today reiterated the company’s intention to fully cooperate with the police.

U.S. Congressional Probe

In the U.S., Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the assistant majority leader, Sunday called for a congressional probe into the affair.

“There are questions about whether the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has been violated by Rupert Murdoch and his news empire,” Durbin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

Brooks edited the News of the World and then The Sun before being promoted to chief executive of News International, the publisher of News Corp.’s British titles, in 2009. She stepped down on July 15, the same day as Les Hinton resigned as head of News Corp.’s Dow Jones unit.

About $4.4 billion has been wiped off News Corp.’s market value, and 2.5 billion pounds for BSkyB, since the Guardian reported on July 4 that the News of the World in 2002 hacked into Dowler’s voice mails and deleted messages.

U.K. politicians today questioned whether Brooks’s arrest might interfere with the Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee hearing.

“This makes me wonder whether this is some ruse to avoid answering questions on Tuesday,” Chris Bryant, an opposition Labour lawmaker, told Sky News. “I don’t want to over stress that argument, but it is unusual to be arrested on a Sunday by appointment.”

‘Level of Knowledge’

Niri Shan, a lawyer at Taylor Wessing LLP, said that she may not even attend the the hearing.

“If she does appear, her lawyers will advise her not to answer questions that might damage her defense,” Shan said in an e-mail. “All the questions will be directed to her level of knowledge. That’s going to be a key part of any case against her, and a key part of any successful defense.”

Police said in an e-mailed statement the arrest was part of their probe into phone hacking and an investigation into whether officers were paid for information.

Brooks told lawmakers at a 2003 committee hearing that “we have paid the police for information in the past.” The committee wrote in its report that Hinton, then chairman of News International, later told them Brooks had since told him she had “not authorized payments to police.”

“Personally I think she should have been arrested in 2003 when she said she had paid police officers for information,” Bryant told Sky today.

News Corp. Committee

News Corp. will take over its U.K. newspaper unit’s committee to work with police over the widening phone-hacking scandal, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Simon Greenberg, corporate affairs director at News International, and General Manager Will Lewis will be employed full time by the management and standards committee, which will report to Joel Klein, Murdoch’s top adviser, and Viet Dinh on behalf of News Corp.’s independent directors, said the people, who asked not to be identified. An announcement may be made as early as tomorrow, they said.

Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.

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Former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks was arrested by police investigating phone hacking at News Corp. s Sunday tabloid. Brooks, 43, went to a London police station voluntarily by appointment, her spokesman David Wilson said Sunday in a phone interview. Brooks is...
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Sunday, 17 Jul 2011 02:05 PM
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