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Illegal payments 'culture at Sun'

Police investigating allegations that public officials unlawfully accepted money from journalists think they have uncovered a "network" of corruption, the Leveson Inquiry has been told.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Sue Akers, who is leading the Metropolitan Police's latest inquiries into allegations of phone hacking, email hacking and corrupt payments, said investigations pointed to a "culture of illegal payments" at The Sun newspaper, with payments being made to officials in "all areas of public life".

She said payments did not amount to an "odd drink or meal" but "frequent" and "sometimes significant" amounts. Evidence suggested that one public official was paid around £80,000 over a period of years and indicated that a journalist received more than £150,000 over several years to pay "sources", said DAC Akers.

She said a number of Sun employees and police officers - plus a member of the Ministry of Defence and a member of the armed forces - had been arrested as she gave an update on the investigation.

She suggested that journalists appeared to have been "well aware" that "what they were doing was unlawful". Ms Akers said because of the nature of the investigation it was "easier" to identify journalists than public officials. But she said police hoped that more investigation would reveal the identities of public officials.

Former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick alleged that there was a "revolving door" between the Metropolitan Police and News International. He cited the fact that former commissioner Lord Stevens and former assistant commissioner Andy Hayman were employed by the publishing company after they retired from the Met, and former News International editors and journalists were taken on by the force as press advisers.

Mr Paddick noted that Lord Stevens had a "very good relationship" with the media, in contrast to his successor Lord Blair, about whom the "overwhelming majority" of publicity was negative. He recalled that reporter Ken Hyder raised questions about the renewal of the contract of the Met's director of public affairs, Dick Fedorcio, shortly before Lord Stevens stepped down.

He said: "A freelance journalist queried with me how Dick Fedorcio could continue as Ian Blair's head of press when he had been engaged in extensive briefing against Ian Blair when Ian Blair was the deputy in line to become the commissioner."

Mr Paddick, who left the Met in 2007 after more than 30 years in the force and is the Lib Dem candidate in this year's London mayoral election. He claimed last July that some police officers had received tens of thousands of pounds for providing reporters with tip-offs.

He told the BBC: "I met a journalist who said he was paying sometimes £20,000 to £30,000 to police officers for information. All of this is done in a very clandestine way. You know the stories about a drive-through fast food restaurant near the News International headquarters? That's where police officers used to go to collect envelopes. It was all done very discreetly. I personally never came across it during my career."


From Belfast Telegraph