A former top executive of embattled 21st Century Media Group admitted to state media while in police custody that he was involved in the alleged news extortion schemes of the group's publications. Shen Hao, 43, former president of the group that owns the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper, Moneyweek magazine and the 21cbh.com financial news portal, told Xinhua yesterday that he regretted betraying his profession. The extortion probe against 21st Century Media became public early this month when eight executives and editors of the news portal, as well as two executives from a Shanghai and a Shenzhen public relations firm, were detained by police. Citing Shanghai police investigators, Xinhua said the three media outlets allegedly shared a similar approach to soliciting illicit gains, and were closely linked. Police have detained more than 30 people from the media group and the three outlets, including their chief editors and advertising executives. Xinhua said that more than 200 businesses, most of them listed or preparing to list, were forced to sign advertising "cooperation deals" with the media outlets or the PR firms Shanghai Roya and Shenzhen Nukirin. "I knew a long time ago that extortion in journalism is a kind of economic crime. But it's no secret in the media community and it's very common," Xinhua quoted Shen as saying. "In these extortion cases, I was a leader, supporter, coordinator and participant. "I should take the biggest share of responsibility. I feel I breached my commitment to journalism and I feel very regretful." Xinhua said bottled water firm Nongfu Spring, which was mired in a quality controversy last year, was among the few companies that refused to yield - and suffered the consequences. Nongfu Spring board secretary Zhou Li said when the first negative report appeared on 21cbh.com on March 14, 2013, the company, based in Zhejiang , clarified in public that it met provincial standards. But in the next three months, the website published 19 reports about Nongfu's water quality issues. The negative media coverage cost the company hundreds of millions of yuan in lost sales, according to Zhou. Shen said if the companies signed agreements with his group, he would direct editors of 21cbh.com to delete reports to "protect his clients". Liu Hui , editor-in-chief of the Herald , said Shen would ask duty editors not to run unpublished print reports if the companies paid up. Liu said the Herald ran one negative report about State Grid, but Shen later told him not to write any more because the power company was planning to invest in their financial news website.