Desmond 'received death threats from US mafia'

Richard Desmond, the owner of Express Newspapers, received death threats from the American mafia after becoming entangled in a porn scam, reports suggested last night.

Richard Desmond, the owner of Express Newspapers, received death threats from the American mafia after becoming entangled in a porn scam, reports suggested last night.

According to court papers from a racketeering case in New York, Mr Desmond was unwittingly caught up in the telephone and internet con, one of the biggest consumer frauds in US history.

The Guardian reports that documents lift the lid on a deal involving mafia-linked companies in which advertisements were placed in Mr Desmond's top-shelf magazines in Britain. The paper says the arrangement went so badly, a "soldier" from the Gambino crime family flew to London to warn Mr Desmond - to be told by the publisher he was "stupid" and "common".

Last night it was reported that soon after the meeting a senior executive at Mr Desmond's group, Northern and Shell, had a Taser-style gun fired at his testicles while on a trip to New York.

Richard Martino, a mafia associate, pleaded guilty this week to conspiracy to commit fraud in a scam thought to have netted the mafia $650m (£345m). He also admitted conspiring to extort money from Mr Desmond and Northern and Shell.

There is no suggestion Mr Desmond was involved in the scam. A Northern and Shell spokesman said last night he had never met Martino or "knowingly had dealings with him".

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