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 News of the World, questioning him for nine hours on phone hacking and corruption allegations.

Coulson, 43, was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and corruption allegations relating to his time in charge of Britain's top-selling Sunday newspaper from 2003 to 2007.

As he left Lewisham police station in southeast London on Friday evening, he told a scrum of reporters that he had attended the station voluntarily, adding: "There is an awful lot I would like to say, but I can't at this time."

He was bailed to return to a London police station in October.

Coulson was arrested while Prime Minister David Cameron was giving a press conference on the issue.

"At 10:30 am (0930 GMT) officers from the Metropolitan Police Service's 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," it said.

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

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

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 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, saying that when the spokesman needs a spokesman, it was time to go.

© 2011 AFP

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