Rupert Murdoch's former British newspaper boss and Prime Minister David Cameron's former media chief will both be charged with conspiring to pay public officials for information about the royal family, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The charges stem from a wider investigation into the British press that was sparked by revelations that journalists at Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World, had hacked into phones to secure salacious stories.
Andy Coulson was editor of the News of the World from 2003 to 2007 before he took over as Cameron's spokesman from 2007 to 2011, and the latest charges are likely to pose yet more difficult questions for Cameron over his judgment in hiring Coulson in the first place.
"We have concluded, following a careful review of the evidence, that Clive Goodman and Andy Coulson should be charged with two conspiracies," Alison Levitt of the Director of Public Prosecutions said, referring to former royal reporter Goodman.
"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."
Rebekah Brooks, who served as editor of both The News of the World and The Sun, as well as chief executive of News International, will be charged along with John Kay, who was chief reporter at The Sun between 1990 and 2011, and Bettina Jordan-Barber, a Ministry of Defense employee, for “conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012,” according to prosecutors.
“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.”
Brooks and Coulson have already been charged in connection with phone-hacking offences - the original crime that sent shockwaves through the British political establishment and exposed the close ties between government and sections of the media.
Brooks has also been charged along with her husband and staff over allegations that she sought to interfere with the police investigation.
British police began investigating the conduct of the press last year after it emerged that News of the World staff had hacked into phones on an industrial scale.
Facing a public backlash, Murdoch closed the mass-selling Sunday title last year and formed an internal committee to cooperate with the police.
Police have since arrested 52 people in connection with making payments to public officials, including staff from The Sun newspaper, the police and a member of the armed forces.
Reuters contributed to this report.
More world stories from NBC News:
- Clinton heads to Mideast on peace mission as Gaza crisis rages
- Too much democracy? Apathy triumphs in UK's latest election
- Obama's visit a sign of Myanmar's dizzying pace of change
- Key players in the Israel-Gaza cross-border conflict
- French girl found tied up - but alive - in trunk after routine traffic stop
- Mexican company Bimbo may be eyeing Twinkies