LONDON (AP) — The Sun newspaper’s executive editor was charged Thursday with authorizing bribes to a government official, making him one of most senior journalists to be caught up in Britain’s sprawling media ethics scandal.
Fergus Shanahan is accused of authorizing one of his journalists to make two payments totaling 7,000 pounds ($10,700) to an unidentified public official in exchange for tips between August 2006 and August 2007.
Shanahan, 58, joins a growing list of senior Sun journalists who have found themselves either under arrest or facing criminal charges as the scandal rumbles on.
The Sun’s deputy editor, Geoff Webster, is charged with authorizing thousands of pounds in illegal payoffs. The Sun’s defense editor, Virginia Wheeler, is charged with being in on a conspiracy to pay thousands of pounds worth of bribes to a police official in return for tips. The Sun’s former chief reporter, John Kay, faces charges in relation to tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of bribes allegedly paid to a defense official.
The Sun’s crime editor, Mike Sullivan, was arrested last year but recently learned he would not face charges.
Shanahan, the executive editor, was promoted to his job on November 2007 after four years as No. 2 to then-Sun editor Rebekah Brooks, who described him as “my outstanding and most brilliant deputy.” Brooks herself faces some of the scandal’s most serious charges, including conspiracy to hack phones, bribery, and obstruction of justice.
Many of The Sun’s corrupt sources have also wound up in court or behind bars.
Last month, former prison officer Richard Trunkfield was sentenced to 16 months in jail for leaking information about a prominent prisoner to a Sun reporter for bribes. At the same time, police officer Alan Tierney got a 10-month sentence for selling details about arrests to The Sun. Others, including police officer Paul Flattley and Ministry of Defense employee Bettina Jordan Barber, also face charges.
The phone hacking scandal exploded after it was revealed that journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid routinely hacked into the voicemail messages of the rich, the powerful and other potential information sources. The scandal spawned a substantial police investigation and a host of official inquiries, and allegations of wrongdoing have since spread to other papers outside the Murdoch empire.
Shanahan was first arrested for questioning early last year, and is scheduled to appear in court May 8.