Ex-Murdoch exec held over hacking, pie attacker jailed

2nd August 2011, Comments 0 comments

British police investigating phone hacking on Tuesday arrested a former veteran executive of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, as the protester who attacked the tycoon with a foam pie was jailed.

A 71-year-old man believed to be ex-News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner was detained at 10:50 am (0950 GMT) at a London police station on suspicion of phone hacking and bribing police, Scotland Yard said.

Police have now arrested 11 people since launching a new hacking probe in January, including ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson and ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

The scandal has sent shock waves through Murdoch's global News Corp. empire, forcing the resignation of Brooks and top US aide Les Hinton, and prompting the group to drop its bid for British pay-TV giant BSkyB.

Kuttner was managing editor of the News of the World for 22 years until he resigned in July 2009, taking charge of its finances and acting as the public face of the paper, which closed last month amid the hacking scandal.

He quit shortly before media reports emerged disclosing that the News of the World paid out more than £1 million ($1.6 million, 1.1 million euros) to settle cases which threatened to reveal evidence of phone hacking.

Police said in a statement that officers "from Operation Weeting together with officers from Operation Elveden arrested a man on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications... and on suspicion of corruption allegations."

They refused to identify the man but he was widely reported to be Kuttner.

Operation Weeting is the name of the police probe into phone hacking, while Operation Elveden is examining allegations that police officers were bribed.

Meanwhile, comedian Jonathan May-Bowles was jailed at a London court for six weeks after pleading guilty to assaulting Australian-born Murdoch during a parliamentary hearing on phone hacking on July 19.

The 26-year-old, who goes by the stage name of "Johnnie Marbles", splattered the 80-year-old tycoon with a plate of shaving foam.

Wendi Deng, Murdoch's Chinese-born wife who was sitting behind him during the hearing, sprang to her husband's defence, leaping up and hitting May-Bowles.

"You attended with only one objective in mind, which was to disrupt proceedings," said District Judge Daphne Wickham, adding that May-Bowles must serve a minimum of three out of the six weeks.

Murdoch has apologised publicly for the phone hacking, which has put his interests in Britain, the United States and Australia under intense scrutiny.

Brooks resigned last month as chief executive of News International, Murdoch's British newspaper division and the publisher of the News of the World, and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of phone hacking and corruption.

Her successor as editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, was also detained last month on suspicion of phone hacking and corruption.

This proved highly embarrassing for Prime Minister David Cameron, who employed Coulson as his media chief until January.

The hacking row began with a police investigation in 2006 which led to the jailing of the paper's royal reporter, Clive Goodman, and a private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, who had hacked into phones of members of the royal household.

But the evidence lay untouched for several years, until mounting evidence that the practice was widespread at the News of the World prompted the police to reopen their inquiries in January.

The scandal erupted into a full-blown crisis last month, as new allegations emerged that a private detective working for the paper hacked into the phones of a murdered teenager and relatives of dead British soldiers.

© 2011 AFP

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