May 15 (Bloomberg) — Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News Corp.’s British publishing unit and a close friend of company Chairman Rupert Murdoch, was charged by U.K. prosecutors with trying to cover up the tabloid phone- hacking scandal.
Brooks, 43, faces three charges for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, Alison Levitt, the principal legal adviser to Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions, said in London today. Brooks’s husband, Charlie, a racehorse trainer, was also charged.
Brooks conspired “to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from officers of the Metropolitan Police Service,” and “permanently to remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International,” in the police investigations into phone hacking and bribery of public officials by journalists at the News of the World and the Sun tabloids, prosecutors said.
The phone-hacking scandal prompted News Corp. to close the News of the World and drop its 7.8 billion-pound ($12.5 billion) bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. James Murdoch resigned as BSkyB chairman in April.
Brooks’s personal assistant, Cheryl Carter; the former head of security at News International, Mark Hanna; Brooks’s chauffeur, Paul Edwards, and former News International security guard Daryl Jorsling were also charged in the cover-up, Levitt said.
Brooks and her husband “deplore this weak and unjust decision,” they said in a statement, released minutes before the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would charge them.
“After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS, we will respond later today after our return from the police station,” they said in the statement, e-mailed by their spokesman, David Wilson.
The charges, which relate to events from July, are the first in the expanded police investigation into phone hacking, which began in January last year. The charge, which can be related to destroying evidence or deliberately misleading a court or investigation, carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, according to prosecutors.
The CPS decided “there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction” in regards to the defendants, Levitt said. The defendants were told to report to police stations today to face the charges.
Prosecutors received evidence from the Metropolitan Police on March 27 in relation to seven suspects. The seventh, who provided security for Brooks on behalf of News International, wasn’t charged. The six who were charged will have their first court appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, at a date that is yet to be determined, prosecutors said.
Police arrested Brooks on March 13 in the probe. Her husband and Hanna were also arrested at the time.
The charges against Brooks come four days after she testified at an inquiry into media ethics led by Judge Brian Leveson triggered by the phone-hacking scandal. News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch testified last month.
Leveson’s inquiry is in addition to parliamentary probes and police investigations that have expanded to include bribery of public officials and computer hacking and have resulted in about 45 arrests.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.
–With assistance from Amy Thomson in London. Editors: Christopher Scinta, Peter Chapman
To contact the reporters on this story: Lindsay Fortado in London at [email protected]; Erik Larson in London at [email protected]
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at [email protected]
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