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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 18:27 GMT
Hello! executive denies 'court plot'
Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas
The couple just before their wedding in 2000
A magazine executive has denied being involved in a plot to persuade a court to lift a ban on selling an edition of Hello! containing images of Catherine Zeta Jones' wedding.

Javier Riera had been accused in court by the magazine's own celebrity "fixer", the Marquesa De Varela, of pressuring her into signing false statements about where paparazzi pictures came from.

Mr Riera was at London's High Court as part of the case brought by Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones against the magazine.

The couple signed a 1m deal with OK! magazine for exclusive coverage of their wedding in 2000, but were angered to find unauthorised pictures appearing in Hello!

They are full of subjective interpretations, far from reality... and almost always offensive to someone
Hola!'s Javier Riera
on messages from the Marquesa
The Marquesa De Varela, who helps arrange high-profile interviews for Hello!, told London's High Court she had been asked to sign statements which wrongly said she had sold the couple's photo rights to the magazine.

She said Mr Riera, managing director of Hello!'s Spanish counterpart, Hola!, had been the prime force behind the move.

'Normally confused'

The statements had been submitted to the Court of Appeal, which lifted injunctions won by the Douglases some days after their wedding.

Through an interpreter, Mr Rierer told the court he had sent a fax for the Marquesa to sign, stating she had agreed a final price for the pictures, because of a misunderstanding.

But, he said, the Marquesa did not correct the statement sent from Madrid when she received it at her London office.

Mr Riera agreed he had failed to reply to the Marquesa when she got in touch with him to express her misgivings.

He said of her communications: "It has been my preference for many years now not to answer them, as they are full of subjective interpretations, far from reality, they are normally confused and almost always offensive to someone, so that they disqualify themselves."

Mr Riera added that he believed the Marquesa would not have protested about her role in the affair if the Douglas wedding feature had not been the subject of court proceedings.

Zeta Jones and Douglas are suing Hello! for 500,000, while OK! is suing for 1.75m.

Proceedings were adjourned until Thursday.




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