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Max Clifford takes £1m to drop hack probe

Kiss and don't tell

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Celebrity publicist Max Clifford has agreed to accept a £1m plus payoff in exchange for dropping phone hacking allegations against the News of the World.

Clifford's settlement over allegations that the paper intercepted his voicemail messages, means the case will not proceed to court, and that News of the World publisher News International admits no wrongdoing The Guardian reports. Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association and two others footballers' union execs agreed to a £1m settlement on much the same terms last year.

The privacy violation lawsuits brought by both Clifford and Taylor arise from the activities of disgraced former News of World royal correspondent Clive Goodman and a private eye associate, Glenn Mulcaire. Goodman and Mulcaire were jailed in 2007 after they were convicted of hacking into the voice mail messages of royal aides. Mulcaire also admitted to hacking into the voicemail boxes of Clifford, Taylor, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, supermodel Elle Macpherson and football agent Andrew Skylet.

News International has consistently maintained that only a handful of public figures were bugged by a rogue reporter who acted without the permission or knowledge of his editorial bosses. The police declined to re-open the case after news of the Taylor payoff was broken by The Guardian last July.

The paper has been doggedly investigating the case since last summer, seeking to uncover evidence that phone tapping of celebrities and public figures was a routine tactic at the News of the World during the time when Andy Coulson, current Tory communications director, edited the paper. The Guardian said other victims of the snooping included Prince William, Prince Harry, former Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, George Galloway MP and the former Executive Director of the Football Association, David Davies.

A Press Complaints Commission inquiry last November sided with News International and concluded there was "no evidence that it was materially misled by the News of the World, and no evidence that phone message hacking is ongoing".

However, another inquiry from the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee was less convinced by testimony from News International execs and accused them of "obfuscation" and "collective amnesia". ®

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