LONDON: The scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch's media empire exploded in several directions on Monday, with fresh reports of phone hacking attacks against some of the nation's most powerful figures, including royals and former prime minister Gordon Brown.
Adding to the intrigue, Scotland Yard released an unusual statement accusing unidentified individuals of trying to sabotage its sprawling investigation. The police — themselves accused of accepting bribes from Murdoch's journalists — said somebody was deliberately planting distracting information in the press.
No one, it seems, had been safe from the prying eyes of corrupt journalists. Police officers betrayed members of the royal family to the News of The World, according to several reports. Other papers said Brown had his bank account broken into by a con man acting for Murdoch's Sunday Times.
The reports couldn't be confirmed, but they added to a sense of disbelief that has spread across Britain. “The events of last week shocked the nation,” Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt told lawmakers Monday. He said Britain's proud press tradition had been “shaken by the revelation of what we now
know to have happened at the News of The World.”
The British press has been furiously reporting allegations that journalists at the News of the World tabloid may have hacked into phones of young murder victims, families of dead servicemen and terrorism victims. The widening scandal has prompted Murdoch's News Corp. to close the tabloid and withdraw its promise to spin off Sky News — a move that forced Hunt to refer its bid for British Sky Broadcasting to competition authorities. The decision will delay the bid, although it was not immediately clear whether Murdoch hoped to buy time with the ploy in the hope the scandal would die down, or whether it was an implicit acknowledgement that the bid was dead.
A failure to clinch the $19 billion takeover would represent a huge setback for Murdoch, but even as the mogul was in London to try to contain the damage, as allegations against his empire rushed in. Media reported that Brown was one of thousands targeted by News International, saying that his personal details — including his bank account and his son's medical records — had been targeted by people working for titles including the Sun and the Sunday Times.