Tycoon's daughter is jailed for card theft

Damji, a former editor of Another Generation magazine, developed a second career as a conwoman, running up thousands of pounds on credit cards stolen from her nanny and a former employee.

When she found herself facing charges, Damji, 39, continued the deception, posing as a Crown Prosecution official to try to get the case against her dropped. Her attempts failed and yesterday she was jailed for three and a half years.

Despite serving a six-month sentence at New York's Rikers Island Jail for grand larceny and forgery in 1995, Damji appears to have successfully hidden her criminal past from friends and associates in Britain.

The daughter of Amir Damji, a property tycoon and millionaire in South Africa and London, she gained notoriety in this country only in 2003 when she made public details of affairs with two journalists in a national newspaper.

Yesterday, at Blackfriars Crown Court in London, Damji, who says she has an alcohol and drugs problem, admitted offences involving nearly £50,000 and asked for 25 other offences to be taken into consideration

In 2002, Damji stole the Mastercard belonging to her nanny, Milla Salminen, and made 61 unauthorised transactions totalling £3,903.78.

She booked into the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Birmingham under the name Farah Marshall and used the card to pay the hotel bill. Later that month she went to Dixons in Hammersmith and bought a Packard Bell laptop for £1,268. That December, she went back to the store to report a fault on the laptop but staff contacted police and arrested her.

When questioned she told detectives she had used her childminder's card because she was collecting "air points".

In October 2004, Damji stole a credit card belonging to one of her colleagues, marketing consultant Darshika Mahavir, the court heard. She used the card to buy clothes from Harvey Nichols for £1,030 and food for £92.94. Later, she tried to buy clothes and toys at Peter Jones but was arrested when police became suspicious.

While on bail she stole another card from Rakhi Gokani while on a photo shoot. She used the card to spend £2,639.54.

The court also heard that Damji, who has been declared bankrupt, obtained two diamond and platinum rings from Boodle and Dunthorne jewellers in Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, west London. She claimed the rings were for a press loan and said she was representing Kiki King from the Daily Mail, who now works for the Daily Mirror.

Damji, who has two children, aged eight and three, was to stand trial on theft charges on 14 February this year. But before the trial she phoned Ian Muir, the main prosecution witness, and said she was from the Crown Prosecution Service. She told him he would not need to attend court and the case was adjourned when he did not turn up.

She also phoned the prosecution solicitor, Wayne Cranston-Morris, after obtaining his home phone number from his chambers by claiming to be from the CPS. She told him a record of her previous convictions was "unreliable", her solicitors were "very good and therefore she was likely to win" .

Police later found a phone bill which showed three calls from Damji's phone to the solicitor. In May this year, she opened a savings account in the name of Amborina Hasan and obtained a Sainsbury's loan under the same name.

She stole a credit card belonging to her osteopath friend, Nazia Soonasara, who began receiving letters from Nationwide and Carphone Warehouse thanking her for opening accounts.

Nicholas Wrack, for the defence, said Damji was "extremely remorseful", and that "she has seen her life wrecked". Her children were now being cared for by her mother in South Africa, he said. "She has over the last year or so essentially lost everything." Her business has collapsed and she had lost her money and her magazine. Reports showed she was emotionally unstable and had suffered post-natal depression. She had also self-harmed in prison and was under watch in custody.

Judge John Samuels sentenced her to two years for dishonesty and theft and 18 months for perverting justice.

He said: "You are a thoroughly dishonest and manipulative woman, and the aggravated features of your offending include the way in which you caused suspicion to fall on your employees and others to whom you were in flagrant breach of your position as an editor."