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News Corp. Sun Journalist to Be Charged in U.K. Bribery Case

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. police probing a bribery scandal at News Corp.’s Sun tabloid, Britain’s best-selling daily newspaper, charged a journalist and a former London police officer with conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.

Virginia Wheeler, the title’s crime editor, paid ex-Metropolitan Police Service constable Paul Flattley for secret information about murder victims and suspects over a four-year period, the Crown Prosecution Service said today.

“The information provided included information about the tragic death of a 15-year-old girl, as well as details about both suspects and victims of accidents, incidents and crimes,” Alison Levitt, the agency’s lead legal adviser, said in a statement about the so-called charging decision.

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of the U.K. unit, and Andy Coulson, who edited its News of the World tabloid, were charged last year in the same bribery probe. The pair has also been charged in a parallel investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World, which News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed in 2011 to quell public anger over the scandal.

Wheeler, 33, paid Flattley, 30, at least 6,450 pounds ($10,200) for confidential information between 2008 and 2011, the Metropolitan Police said in a separate statement. Flattley was charged today and released on bail, while Wheeler was ordered to appear in court on Feb. 11 to face the charge.

Emily Coen, a spokeswoman at News Corp.’s News International unit in London, declined to comment on the CPS decision.

56 Arrests

Another Sun journalist and two more police officers were detained on Jan. 17, for a total of 56 arrests since the investigation started. The probe has snared reporters, editors, prison workers, a Defence Ministry employee and a terrorism detective, among others.

Police officers issue formal charges based on CPS decisions.

Prosecutors allege Brooks paid 100,000 pounds to a defense ministry employee, while Coulson is accused of swapping cash for a palace phone directory for the royal family and their staff. Two other journalists and the defense employee were also charged over claims they conspired with Brooks and Coulson.

April Casburn, a London police detective who specialized in counter-terrorism, became the first person to face prison in the bribery probe after a London jury found her guilty of misconduct on Jan. 10.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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