'Beckham kidnap plot' man was set up by paper, libel court is told

By Roger Pearson

The November 2002 story of a £5m plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham was
an “elaborate set-up” by the News of the World, it was claimed in court
this week.

One of the men accused by the NoW of taking part in the plot, Alin
Turcu, a 20-year-old Romanian who only recently admitted that his real
name is Bogdan Maris, is claiming libel damages against the paper.

In
documents before the court, Turcu’s solicitor-advocate David Price
said: “There is not a shred of evidence that he was the surveillance
expert of an international terror gang on the brink of kidnapping
Victoria Beckham and her two sons and was prepared to kill them if the
ransom was not paid.”

News Group stands by its story, and pleads justification.

Its
counsel, John Kelsey-Fry QC, opening the case on Tuesday, said Turcu
was one of a five-man criminal gang who were involved in drug dealing,
possession of firearms, burglary, theft and handling.

He said Turcu contributed to discussions about the Beckham kidnap at three covertly recorded meetings in October 2002.

The gang was arrested after the NoW leaked details of the plot to Scotland Yard.

According
to Price: “A particularly disturbing feature was the manipulation of
Scotland Yard’s elite kidnap squad as accessories to the circulation
demands of a Sunday tabloid.

“They were fed snippets of the plot by Mazher Mahmood (NoW investigations editor) in the week before publication.

“However, the identity of the target was deliberately withheld from them until the Saturday morning before publication.”

He
said there had been a tactical meeting between Mahmood and the police
to work out how the arrests would take place later that day. This was
because the editor (Rebekah Wade) was concerned that earlier disclosure
might spoil her splash.

Price said the “genesis” of the News of the World articles was information supplied by Kosovan asylum-seeker Florim Gashi.

His
earlier stories about the alleged gang’s theft of a ceremonial turban
from Sotheby’s and plot to kidnap an Arab prince had not been regarded
by Mahmood as of sufficient “calibre” for publication.

He said: “It was only when Gashi said that the gang’s target was Victoria Beckham that Mahmood bit.”

Price
told the court: “In essence, the most that can be said about the
claimant is that he kept bad company and engaged in tasteless
conversation in bars instigated by a News of the World informant.”

The hearing continues.

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