On Sunday, News International launched its shiny new Sunday edition on The Sun (which owner Rupert Murdoch boasted sold 3.2 million copies), but the company still faces serious accusations of bribery that could hurt the company as much as its phone hacking scandal. The New York Times and the AP report that Sue Akers, the British police official in charge of investigating New Corp's U.K. newspapers, has found hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments given out by reporters and editors at The Sun. "There appears to have been a culture at the Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money," said Akers.
That "culture," as summed up by Akers, involves editorial staff paying sources for information despite knowing such gifts were illegal, as emails referencing “risking losing their pension or job” indicate. Akers' comments on the illegal payments confirm what News Corp. announced last week in its own internal investigation: "cash payments totaling tens of thousands of pounds a year for several years to public officials, some of whom were effectively on retainers to provide information," as Reuters put it.
While these accusations are hardly new for News Corp.'s British newspapers, this latest one seems particularly ill-timed for The Sun as Murdoch tries to pacify staff members worried they may face the same fates as their former colleagues at News of the World. The British payments may also have a legal impact in the U.S. if they amount to bribery under U.S. law. Though that's unclear today, as even American companies attempt to clarify how much bribery overseas is permissible under U.S. federal law.