Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Finally: The Truth about the Beckham 'Kidnap'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Finally: The Truth about the Beckham 'Kidnap'

Article excerpt

Byline: ROY GREENSLADE

ANOTHER hole has been torn today in the threadbare fabric that was the Victoria Beckham kidnap plot, a "world exclusive" revelation by the News of the World. In the High Court, the paper's lawyers accepted that one of the people it named in its original story, Alin Turcu, was not involved in any kidnap plot.

This settlement is another turning point in the sordid story of a scoop about a plot-that-never-was and, once again, calls into question the News of the World's journalism and also the activities of its investigations editor, Mazher Mahmood (aka the fake sheikh).

To recap, in November 2002, the NoW splashed on a story, under Mahmood's byline, that an international gang's plot to kidnap Ms Beckham had been foiled. It showed armed police in the act of arresting several men, who were named as the plotters. They were charged with conspiracy and spent seven months in prison awaiting trial.

When they finally appeared in court, the prosecution announced that it could not proceed because of the unreliability of the main witness. He was a man with a series of convictions and he had been paid [pounds sterling]10,000 by the News of the World.

Months later, that witness, an Albanian from Kosovo named Florim Gashi, helped provide another scoop for the News of the World, about a woman in Plymouth who, allegedly, was willing to sell her baby. That led directly to him being deported and he vanished for several months until, in the summer of 2005, he contacted me. He wanted, he said, to come clean and tell the truth.

I flew to Croatia to meet him, as did three Scotland Yard detectives who were also intrigued by his relationship with Mahmood and the News of the World in another court case. Gashi admitted - among other things - that he had acted as an agent provocateur in the Beckham kidnap case.

He claimed to have planted the idea in the men's minds, tricked them into making compromising statements that he secretly filmed (courtesy of the News of the World), introduced them to a getaway driver (Mahmood's cousin), guided them to the Beckhams' house (without them realising where they were going) and then, most crucially, provided them with a gun.

Gashi had a history of dishonesty so, although his tale was corroborated by one of the "gang" I had interviewed previously, I had no way of verifying his allegations.

Could he really have fooled those men and the News of the World?

But he did give me one lead. The gun was crucial. It was the reason that the police had taken the matter so seriously, dispatching an armed squad to arrest the men.

Much was made of the fact that one of the gang - a Romanian medical student, Adrian Pasareanu - had obtained the gun. But if it had been supplied by Gashi, the News of the World's informant, then it would severely weaken the notion that the men had been involved in a plot. It suggested that they had, after all, been set up.

So I set about tracing the man who Gashi claimed to have supplied him with the gun. It wasn't easy because Gashi had forgotten his name. He simply remembered that it was his former boss at a south London car park.

Eventually, though, I discovered the man's identity and he was later to confirm - on oath - that he had indeed sold Gashi the gun, a Mauser blank-firing starting pistol that had the appearance of a real gun. …

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