London, Jul 17: Rebekah Brooks, a top executive in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. media empire before resigning Friday in the wake of a phone hacking scandal, was arrested on Sunday by Scotland Yard in a broadening probe into illicit newsgathering.
Police confirmed a 43-year- old woman was taken into custody Sunday on charges of conspiring to intercept communications and on corruption allegations, a reference to bribes made to police officers for news tips.
David Wilson, Brooks' spokesman, confirmed the woman as Brooks, making her the highest-ranking News Corp official yet to be arrested in the case.
The arrest marks a dramatic fall from grace for Brooks, a woman both feared and courted by the British political establishment as she rose to the title of chief executive of News International, News Corp's British subsidiary.
She is a close personal friend of British Prime Minister David Cameron, with whom she was known to go horseback riding with in the town 75 miles from London where the two both own rural estates.
Brooks headed Murdoch's News of the World tabloid from 2000 to 2003, a time when the paper is said to have engaged in widespread phone hacking.
In 2003, Brooks admitted to Parliament that under her leadership News of the World had paid police officers for information—an admission that Scotland Yard paid little heed to at the time. But police officials now— under massive pressure amid widespread criticism of their cozy ties to News Corp and for ignoring longstanding allegations of broad corruption at News of the World —are intensifying their investigation, with Brooks the highest ranking of several News Corp officials arrested in recent days.
Her arrest raises the stakes for News Corp., whose reputation has been severely damaged by the mounting scandal, which also forced the company to drop its bid for the lucrative British Sky Broadcasting Corp last week.
With Brooks – who Murdoch once described as a being like a “daughter” to him – now arrested, experts were questioning whether James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's 38-year—old son who overseas News Corp's British interests, could yet become entangled in the scandal.
Both father and son have agreed to appear before Parliament on Tuesday, when they are expected to be grilled by lawmakers.
Britain's opposition leader, the Labor Party's Ed Miliband, suggested Murdoch's vast British media holdings should be disbanded, saying in an interview with The Observer that News Corp. now has “too much power over British public life.”