News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch arrived in London before meetings with his British newspaper employees amid continuing police inquiries into alleged misconduct.
Murdoch, who arrived on a private plane at Luton Airport, planned to hold talks yesterday at the Sun newspaper after five of its employees were arrested last Saturday in an inquiry into the alleged payment of bribes to police and defense officials.
A total of 10 current and former staff at the tabloid, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, have now been questioned in the investigation. None have so far been charged with any offense.
British police are also continuing separate inquiries into the illegal interception of cellphone voicemail messages and into alleged e-mail hacking, which have also led to other arrests.
Murdoch’s plans for talks were confirmed by a person familiar with his travel plans, who requested anonymity to discuss the media tycoon’s schedule.
News International, a British division of News Corp, previously said the visit had long been planned and was not connected to the latest arrests.
Murdoch did not comment, but smiled to waiting reporters as he arrived from the airport at his home in London’s Mayfair district in a silver Range Rover on Thursday.
In July, Murdoch shuttered the News of The World amid public outrage after the extent of its phone hacking of celebrities, public figures and crime victims was exposed.
However, in a message to the Sun’s staff e-mailed last Saturday, a top executive said he had been given a guarantee that Murdoch did not plan to close the newspaper, which he bought in 1969.
News International chief executive Tom Mockridge said he had a “personal assurance” from Murdoch “about his total commitment to continue to own and publish the Sun newspaper.”
Britain’s National Union of Journalists claim some News International staff were outraged after both police and the company confirmed the latest arrests came after information was provided to detectives by a News Corp management standards committee, set up to carry out an internal investigation into alleged malpractice.
The union’s general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said some staff accuse Murdoch of “trying to pin the blame on individual journalists, hoping that a few scalps will salvage his corporate reputation.”
In a much commented on 800-word editorial published on Monday, the Sun’s associate editor, Trevor Kavanagh, said there was “unease about the way some of the best journalists ... have ended up being arrested on evidence” provided to police by the committee.
He also accused police of deploying heavy handed tactics, accusing them of a “witch hunt” that was threatening “the very foundations of a free press.”