Man accused of Beckham kidnap plot sues 'News of the World'

A man accused of being part of a gang which targeted Victoria Beckham in a £5m kidnapping plot has begun a libel action against the newspaper which first published the allegations.

A man accused of being part of a gang which targeted Victoria Beckham in a £5m kidnapping plot has begun a libel action against the newspaper which first published the allegations.

Alin Turcu, a Romanian, whose real name is Bogdan Maris, is suing the News of the World over a front-page splash in November 2002, which alleged that he was a member of an international criminal gang that plotted to kidnap the former Spice Girl. The newspaper alleged that the gang intended to kill Mrs Beckham if her husband, David, failed to pay a £5m ransom.

Mr Turcu, who arrived in the UK in 1999, is also taking legal action over a follow-up article in The Sun. He was identified in both reports by photographs accompanied by his pseudonym.

The 24-year-old, who was arrested and held on remand for eight months, returned to Romania after the case against him collapsed and will not attend the libel trial.

News Group Newspapers, which publishes both newspapers, denied libel and said the articles were true, or substantially so.

John Kelsey-Fry QC, for the newspaper group, said there was little to differentiate the two sides' arguments.

He said the key differences were that Mr Turcu claimed the articles meant the kidnap was imminent and he was prepared to kill Mrs Beckham if her husband did not pay up.

The newspaper's case is that Mr Turcu, who lived in Morden, south London, at the time, was a member of a five-man gang involved in drug-dealing, burglary, theft and possession of firearms.

The Beckham kidnap plan is alleged to have arisen after the collapse of a separate plot to kidnap a Saudi Arabian prince living in London.

Mr Kelsey-Fry said Mr Turcu had been present at three of nine covertly recorded meetings at which the plot to seize Mrs Beckham was discussed.

David Price, who is representing Mr Turcu on a no-win, no-fee basis, said in court papers that there was no evidence that Mr Turcu had any involvement with the kidnap plan or any other criminal action with the alleged gang.

The most that could be said about Mr Turcu was that he "kept bad company and engaged in tasteless conversation in bars instigated by a News of the World informant".

On 3 November 2002, the News of the World splashed on the story under the headline, "Posh kidnap: we stop £5m ransom gang", claiming Mr Turcu was the "surveillance expert".

The article followed an undercover operation by the newspaper's investigations editor, Mazher Mahmood, based on information provided by Florim Gashi, a parking attendant from Kosovo, who was paid £10,000 as part of a deal arranged by Mr Mahmood.

Although the News of the World usually takes great pains to keep Mr Mahmood's identity a secret, he is expected to take the witness stand.

On the eve of publication, the newspaper passed a dossier of evidence, including taped conversations, to the police.

A police operation based on information that the gang was about to kidnap a prominent person and was also planning a payroll robbery at the auctioneers Sotheby's, led to the arrest of five men including Mr Turcu. Mr Turcu spent nearly eight months on remand at Feltham young offenders institution. He pleaded not guilty to the allegations against him, which were later dropped.

The trial of the five men collapsed in June 2003, when the Crown Prosecution Service described Mr Gashi, who had previous convictions for dishonesty, as an "unreliable witness".

The Press Complaints Commission subsequently cleared the newspaper of breaching the editors' code of conduct by paying Mr Gashi.

The hearing was adjourned until today when the judge will view undercover footage obtained by the defence.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
film
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
News
video
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owne...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£17 - £20 per hour: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owned and c...

Guru Careers: Mac Operator / Artworker

£Negotiable (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Mac Operator / Artworker to ...

Guru Careers: Digital Content Designer / Web Designer

£Negotiable (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Digital Content Designer / W...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore