Top UK publicist arrested in BBC sex abuse inquiry

LONDON Thu Dec 6, 2012 10:16pm IST

Publicist Max Clifford arrives with wife Jo to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the media at the High Court in London February 9, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/Files

Publicist Max Clifford arrives with wife Jo to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the media at the High Court in London February 9, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor/Files

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LONDON (Reuters) - Max Clifford, Britain's most high-profile celebrity publicist, was arrested for alleged sex crimes on Thursday by a special police unit set up in the wake of an abuse scandal involving a former BBC TV star, his lawyer said.

Clifford, 69, made his name and fortune helping some of Britain's most famous people defend and shape their reputations in the country's muckraking tabloid press and has been a longstanding media pundit on celebrity scandal and the press.

He is the fifth person to be arrested since police launched an extensive inquiry into sex crime allegations against the late Jimmy Savile, one of the BBC's most high profile stars in the 1970s and 80s. His arrest suggests detectives are continuing to expand the scope of their investigation.

"Max Clifford is being interviewed by police. Mr Clifford will assist the police as best he can with their enquiries. When we are in a position to provide further information, we will," his lawyer, Charlotte Harris, said in a statement.

Earlier, London's Metropolitan Police said they were questioning a 69-year-old man on suspicion of sexual offences.

That arrest was part of an investigation into Savile, who detectives say was one of Britain's most prolific child sex offenders. Police are looking into more than 200 allegations of assault and have heard from more than 500 victims.

Police are looking into three categories of alleged offences; those involving just Savile, which make up the majority of cases; those involving Savile and others; and those which had no direct link to Savile.

Clifford's arrest is part of the third strand.

Some of Savile's alleged victims said they were abused on BBC premises at the height of his fame and the fallout from the revelations has thrown the publicly-funded broadcaster into turmoil, forcing its director general to resign.

The other people arrested include the former glam rock singer Gary Glitter and comedian Freddie Starr, who both deny any wrongdoing. Police have also questioned a fifth man aged in his 80s.

Clifford is best known in Britain for selling "kiss and tell" stories relating to the rich and famous to scandal-hungry tabloids, though he says he actually earned more money by keeping details about celebrities out of the papers.

The publicist's clients have included "X Factor" reality TV show creator Simon Cowell.

On Wednesday, police charged veteran BBC TV and radio presenter Stuart Hall with three counts of indecent assault involving girls as young as nine, relating to alleged offences from the 1970s and 80s.

Detectives said Hall's alleged crimes were not linked to the Savile inquiry. (Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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