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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 01:55 GMT
Jackson to pay staff back wages
Neverland Ranch (archive image from 2004)
Jackson moved abroad soon after his acquittal
Singer Michael Jackson has agreed to pay overdue wages to staff at his Neverland ranch, hours before a legal deadline ran out, state officials say.

At least 30 workers are owed $306,000 (174,000) in unpaid wages dating back to December last year.

Jackson was threatened with a lawsuit if he did not pay up by a Tuesday deadline, later extended to Wednesday.

However, he will still be fined for allowing workplace insurance at the California ranch to lapse.

The wages will be paid on Thursday, said a statement from the California Department of Industrial Relations. "There is no need to take legal action in this matter at this time," said Robert Jones, acting California labour commissioner.

Jackson, who is overseas, was cleared of child abuse charges in June 2005.

Insurance fine

No staff have been allowed to work on the 1,100 hectare (2,800 acre) Neverland estate in California.

Neverland Estate
The private estate came under scrutiny during Jackson's 2005 trial

Gardeners and maintenance staff for Jackson's amusement park are employed as well as domestic staff in the house.

Jackson was fined $169,000 (97,000) in January for failing to renew employer's insurance. He has 30 days to appeal against that fine, which was issued last week.

The animals in the ranch's zoo are to be cared for by the local authority, and have included elephants, giraffes, snakes, tigers and a crocodile.

Jackson's spokeswoman, Raymone Bain, said the singer does not comment on matters involving his finances because he considers them to be private.

Jackson is currently living in Bahrain, but has denied rumours published in a British newspaper last weekend that he plans to relocate to London.

"He's not purchased a house in London, he's not been scouting schools for his kids, he has no intention to moving to London," said Ms Bain.

"This is totally erroneous and they need to stop it."

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