(Updates with mayor in eighth paragraph)
July 14 (Bloomberg) -- London police arrested a former News of the World editor as part of the investigation into phone hacking at the News Corp. tabloid, a day after the company dropped a bid for full ownership of British Sky Broadcasting Plc.
Neil Wallis, 60, was arrested today on suspicion of conspiring to intercept phone calls. He had also worked as a paid communications consultant for the police in 2009 and 2010, the Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement.
The arrest is at least the seventh of a reporter or editor with ties to News of the World this year. Police are investigating allegations reporters at the now-defunct tabloid hacked into the mobile phones of politicians, celebrities, and murder and terror victims, and bribed police officers for information. The scandal forced Rupert Murdoch-led News Corp. to shut the newspaper.
Wallis had a contract to provide communication consulting, including advice on speech writing and public relations, while the agency’s deputy director of public affairs was on sick leave, the police said.
A call by Bloomberg News to a North London phone number listed for an N. Wallis wasn’t answered.
Andy Coulson, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s former spokesman and the ex-editor of News of the World at the time of the alleged crimes, was detained and questioned by police last week in the highest-profile arrest so far.
The Metropolitan Police agreed the hiring of Wallis should be reviewed after London Mayor Boris Johnson had a “very frank discussion” with Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson, Johnson’s office said in an e-mailed statement today.
Stephenson agreed with Johnson that the judge who was appointed to lead an independent review of the phone-hacking scandal should probe the Wallis hiring arrangements in an effort to reassure the public it “was not inappropriate,” the statement said.
The tabloid’s former royal reporter, Clive Goodman, was re- arrested on July 8 and his office at the Daily Star was searched in relation to the phone-hacking probe. On the same day, police arrested a 63-year old man in Surrey, England, on suspicion of corruption.
Police in April arrested James Weatherup, a former News of the World reporter. Ian Edmondson, who was fired from his job as a news editor at the tabloid in January, and Neville Thurlbeck, the paper’s former chief reporter, were also arrested in April. Last month, Terenia Taras, a former freelance writer for the tabloid, and a 34-year-old woman who works at the U.K. news service Press Association were also arrested in the probe.
Wallis worked at News of the World from 2003 until 2009 and had previously worked for its sister News Corp. weekday tabloid the Sun, the Telegraph reported.
Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed in 2007 for tapping mobile phones. Mulcaire was sentenced to six months for hacking into the messages of celebrities, while Goodman was sentenced to four months for conspiring to intercept communications.
The investigation was re-opened in September after the New York Times reported phone hacking was more widespread at the newspaper than the prior case showed. In December, prosecutors said they didn’t have enough evidence to file further criminal charges.
The current police investigation was opened in January after new information surfaced as the result of civil lawsuits filed by celebrities, including actress Sienna Miller, against the tabloid. Police opened a second investigation last week into the allegations of payments made to police. Cameron appointed a judge yesterday to lead a public inquiry into the scandal.
The paper’s owners previously denied that illegal activity went beyond Goodman and Mulcaire, and insisted phone-hacking stopped with their 2007 jailing. It has since admitted liability in some of the lawsuits, and settled with Miller and sports commentator Andy Gray.
Separately, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is examining whether News Corp. employees tried to hack into the phones of Sept. 11 victims, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to discuss it publicly.
--With assistance from Kit Chellel and Amy Thomson in London. Editors: Christopher Scinta, Peter Chapman
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