Arrested British ex-tabloid exec was paid police advisor

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A former News of the World senior executive, who was arrested Thursday over Britain's phone-hacking scandal, was paid £24,000 as an advisor by the police force now investigating him, Scotland Yard said.

Neil Wallis, 60, former executive editor and deputy editor of the now-closed Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, was arrested at his London home "on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications", the Metropolitan Police said.

Wallis, who worked under the leadership of then editor Andy Coulson, was the ninth person to be arrested since the inquiry was reopened in January.

But just hours after he was detained, London's Metropolitan Police were forced to admit that until September last year it had paid him for consultancy work.

Wallis left the News of the World in August 2009 -- and just two months later his company Chamy Media was hired by the Metropolitan Police to "provide strategic communication advice and support", a Scotland Yard statement said.

This included advice on speech writing and public relations work while the force's deputy director of public affairs was on sick leave recovering from a serious illness, it said.

He worked two days a month for around a year and was paid £24,000 ($39,000, 27,000 euros) -- the equivalent of £1,000 a day of taxpayers' money, police confirmed.

Scotland Yard defended the decision to employ Wallis, saying Chamy Media was "significantly cheaper" than two other companies which bid for the work.

After his arrest Thursday, he was questioned for several hours at a west London police station and then released on bail until November. He did not comment to reporters.

Home Secretary Theresa May wrote to the head of the Metropolitan Police, Paul Stephenson, about Wallis to "get the full picture", an interior ministry spokesman said.

It is the latest evidence of close links between Scotland Yard and the News of the World, and came as the Metropolitan Police are investigating allegations that the paper bribed its officers, as well as the hacking claims.

The original probe into phone hacking led to the jailing in 2007 of the News of the World's royal reporter Clive Goodman -- who was rearrested last week on suspicion of corruption -- and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

Police reopened the hacking investigation in January this year but have faced fierce criticism for failing to revive it earlier.

Scotland Yard judged in 2009 there was insufficient evidence to reopen the investigation. John Yates, the senior officer who took the decision, at the weekend expressed "massive regret" that he did not do so.

Murdoch shut the News of the World on Sunday amid public outrage over allegations that Britain's biggest selling Sunday newspaper hacked the phones of a teenage murder victim and the families of dead soldiers.

Wallis was deputy editor at the 168-year-old title from 2003 to 2007 under editor Coulson. Coulson quit the paper in 2007 after its royal reporter and a private investigator were jailed for hacking mobile phone voicemails.

Before his spell at the News of the World Wallis was editor of The People, another British Sunday tabloid.

Coulson, who went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief before quitting that job in January, was arrested on Friday in connection with the scandal.

Coulson and Goodman were arrested on the same day and both later released on bail.

In April police arrested News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, 50, and former assistant editor (news) Ian Edmondson.

Cameron told parliament on Wednesday there had been eight arrests so far in the scandal, which has derailed Murdoch's takeover bid for pay-TV giant BSkyB.

© 2011 AFP

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