A millionaire businessman admitted yesterday that he had become "much too close" to a school teacher he is alleged to have offered to buy for $1m in a love poem, entitled "Knocking on Heaven's Door".
But Brian Maccaba, 45, who is suing a senior rabbi who allegedly called him a "sexual predator" for slander, told the High Court in London that his relationship with Nathalie Attar had never been sexual and was more akin to that of a brother and sister.
The entrepreneur, an Irish Catholic who converted to Judaism in 1990, said he and Mrs Attar had grown close between June 1998 and August 1999 through a mutual interest in poetry while both were experiencing marriage difficulties.
His voice at times breaking with emotion, Mr Maccaba told the jury that he realised by May 1999 their relationship had become emotionally "much too close" and that he decided to bring it to an end. The court heard he wrote two poems for Mrs Attar's birthday, the themes of which were in part "let's be brother and sister".
Mr Maccaba said: "Poetry is particularly dangerous because it is a personal thing and it led perhaps to greater closeness."
The businessman and Mrs Attar, a teacher at a north London school funded by him, would call each other almost daily, including one incident when she knocked on his door at 4.30am and spent an hour talking to him at a family wedding, the jury was told. Mr Maccaba said: "Looking back, obviously at some level it was quite inappropriate being that close and affectionate and looking out for each other when married to other people."
The pair had exchanged poems including one in which Mr Maccaba, who has six children, referred to "one million dollars cash" in a verse dedicated to their relationship.
Lawyers for Rabbi Dayan Yaakov Lichtenstein, who denies slandering the millionaire, claim the phrase was a reference to a deal reminiscent of the Hollywood film Indecent Proposal, in which a businessman offers a younger man $1m to sleep with his beautiful wife.
The trial has been told that Mr Maccaba believed he was in love with Mrs Attar, who was in her twenties when they met through her husband, Alain, and saw her as his "soul mate".
But the millionaire, from Hendon, north London, who owns a large technology company, denied that his poem amounted to a serious proposal. He said: "Absolutely not. It is just a poem. I did not intend to make any offer and neither she or Alain understood it as an offer. It was a silly poem."
The businessman also denied that he had attempted to kiss Mrs Attar or persuade her that her marriage was not valid under Jewish law.
Rabbi Lichtenstein, the senior judge in the Beth Din or rabbinical court of the orthodox Federation of Synagogues, is accused by the millionaire of slander after Mrs Attar allegedly approached him for help to end Mr Maccaba's advances.
The businessman said he found out in 2001 that the Beth Din had a file on him supposedly containing evidence that he had committed "Nuif", or adultery with a married Jewish woman, on three occasions.
Mr Maccaba said the rabbi was the originator of the claims, which he strongly denied. The millionaire said: "I told him I had never done such a thing. I was in deep shock."
The case continues.
- More about:
- The Super-Rich