LONDON – Police arrested top publicist Max Clifford on suspicion of sexual offences Thursday, his lawyer said, adding that the man best known for helping scandal-hit celebrities would cooperate with detectives.
Clifford was arrested as part of a wider investigation in Britain into sex offences sparked by allegations that late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was a serial paedophile, although police would not specify what Clifford is accused of.
“Max Clifford is being interviewed by police. Mr Clifford will assist the police as best he can with their enquiries,” his lawyer Charlotte Harris said in a statement.
“When we are in a position to provide further information, we will.”
Clifford, 69, is one of the most influential publicity agents in Britain who has represented everyone from OJ Simpson to Mohamed Al Fayed, working closely with the press to manage, break and stop stories about his clients.
He left school with no qualifications but after a brief stint as a press officer for EMI records in the 1960s, built up his company, Max Clifford Associates, to become one of the most powerful forces in British media.
Clifford becomes the latest in a string of celebrities to be arrested under a Scotland Yard investigation codenamed Operation Yewtree, after former glam rocker and convicted paedophile Gary Glitter, comedian Freddie Starr and radio presenter Dave Lee Travis.
All three have protested their innocence and Travis made clear that the allegations against him, unlike those against Savile, did not concern children.
Police gave no details of the specific allegations against Clifford, saying only that he had been arrested under the strand of their investigation into suspects who had no involvement with Savile.
“Officers working on Operation Yewtree have this morning, Thursday 6 December, arrested a man in his 60s in connection with the investigation,” Scotland Yard said in a statement.
“The man from Surrey (near London) was arrested at 07:40 hrs on suspicion of sexual offences and has been taken into a central London police station.”
Police launched Operation Yewtree in October after a television documentary alleged that Savile, who died in 2011, was a predatory paedophile.
Savile is now believed to have preyed on as many as 300 young victims.
Clifford has a client list that is the envy of publicists around the world and has the power to make or break stars — and the journalists who cover them.
He was behind kiss-and-tell stories by Rebecca Loos, who claimed to have had an affair with footballer David Beckham, although he has always denied it, and Daisy Wright, Jude Law’s nanny who had an affair with the actor.
The story behind one of the most famous headlines ever to appear in Rupert Murdoch’s daily tabloid The Sun — “Freddie Starr ate my hamster” — was typical of how Clifford promoted his stars.
Clifford told an inquiry into press ethics earlier this year that the tabloid proposed the story but, despite realising that it was rubbish, he said they could go ahead because it would help publicise Starr’s upcoming tour.
The publicist gave evidence in part because he was a victim of phone-hacking by the News of the World, the weekly tabloid shut down by Murdoch last year.
Clifford told the inquiry that he agreed a settlement with Murdoch’s News International worth £660,000 ($1.06 million, 800,000 euros) plus legal costs, and in return agreed to continue working with the News of the World on stories.