The private investigator at the center of the phone hacking scandal at the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World has launched legal action against the tabloid, its owners said on Thursday.
Glenn Mulcaire, who was imprisoned for six months in 2007 for intercepting messages on royal aides’ phones, has lodged papers at the High Court in London, News International said.
Mulcaire’s decision to sue for “breach of contractual indemnity” came after British police arrested a 13th person in the probe into phone hacking, with reports saying it was the now-defunct tabloid’s award-winning Hollywood reporter James Desborough.
Mulcaire’s action comes after the company, part of Murdoch’s News Corporation, announced on July 20 it would stop paying his legal costs with immediate effect.
A spokeswoman for the discontinued newspaper’s owners, News International, confirmed that the action was being taken, but made no further comment.
The Guardian newspaper reported that the High Court writ claims that a News International subsidiary has a contractual obligation to pay Mulcaire’s legal costs as he fights more than a dozen court cases brought by celebrities and public figures who believe their voicemail messages were hacked.
It emerged this week that News International has paid “approximately ￡246,000” (US$405,000) to lawyers acting for Mulcaire.
Mulcaire is alleged to have hacked into thousands of messages left on mobile phones, at the newspaper’s request.
The Guardian also reported that the journalist arrested on Thursday was Desborough, who was working for the News of the World until it was closed last month because of the scandal, but there was no immediate confirmation.
The Metropolitan Police would only say that a 38-year-old man had been arrested “on suspicion of conspiring to unlawfully intercept voicemails.”
“He was arrested by appointment at a London police station and remains in custody,” it added. He was later bailed until October.
The allegations are believed to relate to events prior to Desborough’s promotion to become the paper’s Los Angeles-based US editor in April 2009.
Desborough won the British Press Award prize for showbusiness writer of the year in the same year.
Police began investigating phone hacking in 2006, a probe which resulted in the jailing of Mulcaire and the News of the World’s royal editor, Clive Goodman.
Despite a steady stream of new claims, police did not reopen the probe until January this year. Since then they have made a series of arrests, including those of former editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks.
Coulson was British Prime Minister David Cameron’s media chief from 2007 to January this year.
On Tuesday, British lawmakers released a letter from Goodman, claiming phone hacking was “widely discussed” at the tabloid.