Jackson case gets even more tangled

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The Independent Online
INTRIGUE surrounding the Michael Jackson case deepened yesterday with a report that the singer's representatives had offered the father of his 13-year-old accuser dollars 350,000 ( pounds 235,000) to keep quiet. Jackson's lawyer said police were investigating the father for extortion.

While the entertainer headed for Singapore for the next leg of his six-continent 'Dangerous' world tour, Howard Weitzman, his attorney, claimed that police in Los Angeles had said the boy's father was the subject of an investigation into possible blackmail.

Mr Weitzman, who successfully defended the businessman John De Lorean against drug charges, is heading Jackson's efforts to protect his reputation from what he says are wholly unfounded accusations. The Los Angeles Police Department has refused to discuss either the accusations of extortion or the criminal inquiry into the singer.

Police last week revealed that an unspecified inquiry was under way. Confidential documents from the Los Angeles Department of Children's Services revealed that it began after a complaint of sex abuse from Jordan Chandler, the son of a Beverly Hills dentist.

Mr Weitzman said he was told the boy's father tried to strike a deal with Jackson to start a film production and financing company. The father indicated that the abuse allegations might be reported if Mr Jackson refused. 'We believe that the conduct of the boy's father rises to a level of extortion,' the lawyer said. According to KCAL television in California, the Jackson camp - while denying the allegation - offered to pay dollars 350,000 to keep the father quiet. But the offer was rejected. There was no confirmation from Jackson's advisers on the claim.

Jackson completed the Thailand portion of his 'Dangerous' tour and headed for Singapore, where he was to rendezvous in the Raffles Hotel with his confidante, the actress Elizabeth Taylor, and his sister Janet, for his 35th birthday today. 'He's obviously concerned and really confused that anybody would make these types of allegations,' Mr Weitzman said, 'He's strong enough that he's going on with his tour and understands that people of his profile can be vulnerable and victims at times.'

Jackson's first performance today has been sold out with 45,000 people expected to attend. On Friday touts were trying to unload tickets at just face value, fearing Jackson would scrub his Singapore shows. Earlier in the week tickets with a face value equivalent to pounds 80 were selling for pounds 200. But one organiser said ticket sales have actually picked up in Singapore in the last week.

Jackson in Neverland, page 10

Men and boys, page 20