British PR guru Max Clifford denies teen sex charges

LONDON (AFP) - British celebrity publicist Max Clifford on Tuesday pleaded not guilty in a London court to 11 counts of indecent assault on teenage girls, saying the charges were unfounded.

Clifford, 70, allegedly committed the offences between 1966 and 1985 on girls and women aged between 14 and 19.

The publicist, who has become a well-known figure himself through his work to protect the image of scandal-hit celebrities in Britain's tabloid press, was released on conditional bail.

"I'm totally innocent of these allegations and the nightmare continues," he said outside court, surrounded by a scrum of photographers.

"What I've got to do now is to prove that these allegations are totally without foundation, which I know they are."

Clifford was arrested in December and charged last month as part of a wider investigation into sex offences sparked by allegations against the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.

The charges are unrelated to Savile, who allegedly abused hundreds of women and young girls while "hiding in plain sight" as one of the most familiar faces in British entertainment for four decades.

Clifford was told he must live at his home in Surrey, outside London, until his next court appearance on June 12 and must not contact any prosecution witnesses.

He is among a handful of celebrities arrested under a Scotland Yard investigation codenamed Operation Yewtree set up in the wake of the Savile scandal.

Former glam rocker and convicted paedophile Gary Glitter, Australian-born entertainer Rolf Harris, comedian Freddie Starr and radio presenter Dave Lee Travis are among those who have been arrested.

Clifford is one of the most influential publicity agents in Britain and has represented everyone from O.J. Simpson to Mohamed Al Fayed, the former owner of iconic London department store Harrods.

Clifford 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, into a powerful force in the British media.

He became the first port of call for clients either wanting to sell stories to the media, or stop them from appearing at all.

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