British police arrest PM's ex-aide over phone hacking

8th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

British police on Friday arrested Andy Coulson, the prime minister's former communications chief and ex-editor of the News of the World tabloid, for alleged involvement in phone hacking, Scotland Yard said.

Police were also quizzing him over allegations of corruption amid reports that the News of the World paid police officers for information when he was in charge of the paper from 2003 to 2007.

London's Metropolitan Police said a 43-year-old man was in custody at a south London police station "in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking."

Police sources confirmed to AFP the man was Coulson, who is 43.

"At 10:30 am (0930 GMT) officers from the MPS' Operation Weeting together with officers from Op Elveden arrested a man," said a police statement.

He was detained "on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to Section 1 (1) Criminal Law Act 1977 and on suspicion of corruption allegations contrary to Section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906," said the statement.

Operation Weeting is the police investigation into phone hacking and Operation Elveden is the police investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police.

Coulson's arrest came after the surprise announcement on Thursday that the News of the World, part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, is to close amid new allegations of phone hacking.

It is alleged private investigators hired by the paper hacked into the phones of a teenage girl who went missing and was later found dead, the relatives of dead British soldiers and the families of victims of the 2005 bomb attacks in London.

Coulson resigned as editor of the paper in 2007 after one of its journalists and a private investigator were jailed over illegally accessing the voicemail of mobile phones.

He always denied any knowledge of phone-hacking.

He went on to become David Cameron's media chief in the run-up to last year's general election, a key role that helped the Conservative leader become prime minister.

But Coulson resigned from that role in January this year, just days before police reopened their investigation into phone hacking at the paper he once led.

© 2011 AFP

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