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Brooks, Coulson charged over alleged payments to officials

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
November 26, 2012 -- Updated 1618 GMT (0018 HKT)
(File photo) Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News International is pictured on September 26 in London.
(File photo) Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News International is pictured on September 26 in London.
  • NEW: Rebekah Brooks will appear in court next week, charged over alleged illegal payments
  • Andy Coulson faces charges over alleged payments to officials in a separate case
  • Brooks and Coulson edited a newspaper that was part of the News Corp. empire
  • Coulson was director of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron

London (CNN) -- Rupert Murdoch protégé Rebekah Brooks was charged Tuesday with conspiracy over alleged illegal payments to a Ministry of Defence employee, London's Metropolitan Police said Tuesday.

In a separate case, Andy Coulson, another former Murdoch employee who went on to work for Prime Minister David Cameron, faces charges of conspiring to make illegal payments to officials for information relating to the royal family, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said.

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Brooks and Coulson are former editors of the now-defunct News of the World newspaper, owned by a UK subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corp., News International.

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Brooks also was editor of daily tabloid The Sun from 2003 to 2009 before becoming chief executive of News International.

Two others face charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office alongside Brooks -- the former chief reporter at The Sun, John Kay, and Bettina Jordan-Barber, employed by the Ministry of Defence.

A fourth suspect, identified only as a second public official, remains under investigation, the CPS said.

The charges in this case relate to the period from January 1, 2004, to January 31 of this year, Alison Levitt, chief legal adviser to the director of public prosecutions, said in a statement.

"This conspiracy relates to information allegedly provided by Bettina Jordan Barber for payment which formed the basis of a series of news stories published by The Sun," Levitt said. "It is alleged that approximately £100,000 was paid to Bettina Jordan Barber between 2004 and 2011."

Kay, 69, and Brooks, 44, were formally charged at London police stations Tuesday. Both are scheduled to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on November 29.

The case in which Coulson is charged also involves former News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman.

Both men face two counts of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.

"The allegations relate to the request and authorization of payments to public officials in exchange for information, including a palace phone directory known as the "Green Book" containing contact details for the royal family and members of the household," Levitt said.

Royal officials declined to comment on the charges.

Coulson, who took over as editor of News of the World in 2003, having served as deputy editor for three years, resigned from the post in 2007.

He was then appointed director of communications for Cameron but stepped down in early 2011 amid questions over allegations of phone hacking by the News of the World, saying he did not want to be a distraction.

The charges against Coulson, Brooks and the other suspects result from a Metropolitan Police investigation into alleged illegal payments to public officials, codenamed Operation Elveden. It was launched in conjunction with police inquiries into alleged phone and computer hacking.

The News of the World was shuttered in summer 2011 amid public outrage over revelations that it hacked into the voicemail of a missing schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, who later turned out to have been murdered.

CNN's Marilia Brocchetto, Susannah Palk and Max Foster contributed to this report.

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