Far from the innocent, upright democracy of its self-image, Britain is showing a seamy side that anti-corruption campaigners say is getting worse and may be politically explosive as society becomes more unequal due to the financial and economic crises.
Behind a facade of probity, London offers a haven for oligarchs and despots, a place where foreign media magnates have bought access to and influence over the government.
The scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch's media empire has already destroyed a newspaper, cost two top police officers their jobs, seen the arrest of powerful media figures and embarrassed the prime minister and political elite.
But it points to a bigger problem in British society -- overly cozy relationships among elites that are ethically dangerous, even when they do not involve outright criminality.
Britain says it has been bolstering its legal and regulatory system. Just this month a new law on bribery tightening rules for UK firms operating abroad entered force.
But some of the world's leading transparency campaigners say that the hacking scandal exemplifies unhealthy links between power and money.
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