Rupert Murdoch empire’s roller coaster ride goes through whiplash turn

Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch launched a new Sunday newspaper to replace the defunct News of the World.The NoW was closed suddenly last July when the phone hacking scandal exploded around it.

The new newspaper was called the Sun on Sunday. The Sun is Murdoch's daily tabloid, his most successful and notorious newspaper here. Today the Sun became embroiled in revelations that are arguably more dangerous to the Murdoch empire than the phone hacking at the NoW.

At the Leveson Enquiry, set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, the Metropolitan Police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, in charge of the investigation into illegal activities at News International, publisher of Murdoch's newspapers here, gave an interim report.

She painted a picture of systematic corruption of public officials by The Sun. One public official received £80,000 ($126,500) over a period of years to provide confidential information about individuals to the paper.

Akers told the enquiry, "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."

Because criminal investigations continue, names could not be named. But the details show that the Sun's network of paid informants worked in many departments of government. E-mails submitted by News International at the request of police show that many reporters were involved in these activities and that they knew what they were doing was illegal.

Meanwhile the fallout from the News of the World phone-hacking scandal continues to rumble. Welsh singer Charlotte Church accepted a £600,000 ($950,000) settlement from News International for having her phone-hacked when she was still a teen-ager.

All of today's news overshadowed a 24-hour period of generally positive headlines for Murdoch. The octogenarian mogul has been in Britain for more than a week overseeing the launch of the Sun on Sunday. His smiling face adorned newspaper front pages.

The good vibe didn't last a full news cycle. Now the question has to be asked again: will today's revelations push the FBI's investigation into News Corp further towards the company's indictment under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?

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