Celebrity Publicist Clifford Arrested in Sex-Abuse Probe

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Max Clifford, a celebrity publicist who has represented O.J. Simpson, David Beckham and Simon Cowell, was arrested by U.K. police probing decades-old pedophilia claims against people in the entertainment industry.

Clifford, 69, was detained yesterday by officers investigating the abuse of hundreds of children over almost 50 years by people including the late British Broadcasting Corp. television star Jimmy Savile, whose actions are at the center of the case.

“Max Clifford is being interviewed by police,” his lawyer Charlotte Harris, of Mishcon de Reya in London, said in an e-mailed statement. “He will assist police as best he can with their inquiries. When we are in a position to provide further information we will.”

The probe was opened in October after broadcaster ITV Plc aired a story about Savile almost a year after his death at the age of 84. Savile and the other suspects were involved in sexual abuse on an “unprecedented scale,” Commander Peter Spindler said when the investigation started.

The Metropolitan Police Service said yesterday it detained a man in his 60s for sexual offenses, without identifying him. He was later bailed. It’s the fifth arrest in what’s being called Operation Yewtree, which is targeting people who may have engaged in abuse with Savile or acted on their own during the same period. Other people arrested include singer Gary Glitter and former BBC disc jockey Dave Lee Travis.

Messages left at Clifford’s firm, London-based Max Clifford Associates Ltd., and the phones of two of his assistants, weren’t returned. An e-mail also wasn’t returned.

Phone Hacking

Clifford was the subject of news stories earlier this year because he was a victim of phone hacking by News Corp.’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid. In February, he told a media-ethics inquiry triggered by that scandal that he personally negotiated a roughly 1 million-pound ($1.58 million) settlement with Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News Corp.’s U.K. unit who was arrested last year.

Clifford’s company, which promotes celebrity news items to U.K. tabloids, was responsible for more than 170 “front-page exclusives” in the last 18 months, according to his website. Most pages on Clifford’s website stopped working after reports of his arrest yesterday.

Police are investigating claims dating back as far as 1959 and as recent as 2006, including that Savile, who hosted BBC shows “Top of the Pops” and “Jim’ll Fix It,” misused his status as a charity worker to abuse hospital patients.

The BBC, the world’s largest public broadcaster, reported on Nov. 11 that Yewtree officers arrested a former BBC producer who worked on one of Savile’s shows and is now in his 70s. The Met hasn’t identified any of the people arrested.

The BBC appointed former Court of Appeal Judge Janet Smith and ex-British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc journalist Nick Pollard on Oct. 17 to head internal investigations. Victims’ lawyers have said they may sue the BBC over claims it’s liable for Savile’s wrongdoing.

Former BBC Director General George Entwistle stepped down on Nov. 10 as a result of the scandal.

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