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Last Updated: Friday, 13 June, 2003, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Beckham 'kidnap' was 'a joke'
David and Victoria Beckham
The Beckhams' wealth and fame makes them a kidnap target
One of the men accused of plotting to kidnap Victoria Beckham has told the BBC it was a joke.

The case against the men collapsed after the alleged plot was first exposed by the News of the World in November last year.

Adrian Pasereanu spoke exclusively to Radio 5Live's Breakfast programme.

He said the plan was "just a joke" and believes they had all been set up.

He said: "There was never a getaway car, there was never arms and wasn't a house to keep Victoria Beckham, because it was never, ever discussed."

The five men had been charged with conspiring to kidnap the wife of England football captain David Beckham on or before 2 November last year.

I thought he [Mr Gashi] should be on medication - everybody laughed
Adrian Pasereanu

But at a hearing at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court, the judge was told the News of the World had paid 10,000 to a convicted criminal, Florim Gashi, for his story.

The Crown Prosecution Service then refused to put the case forward because the key witness - Mr Gashi - was considered unreliable.

Mr Pasereanu told the BBC he had never taken Mr Gashi's talk of kidnapping seriously.

"He wasn't drunk and I thought he should be on medication. Everybody laughed," he said.

Witness payments

Mr Pasereanu said he had never believed Mr Gashi was capable of masterminding such an operation.

The judge referred the News of the World's role in the matter to the attorney general "to consider the temptations that money being offered in return for stories concerning celebrities give rise to".

Not long after the paper's story, the rules governing witness payments were tightened up, following government threats to make them illegal.

The News of the World justified its actions by saying the payment had been made before the proceedings started and one of the accepted "public interest" justifications is "detecting or exposing crime".

Last November the front page of the paper proclaimed "Posh kidnap - we stop 5m ransom gang".

Over several pages the paper's investigations editor Mazher Mahmood described how its reporters had infiltrated an apparent plot to ambush Mrs Beckham, including installing one of its own reporters as the getaway driver.

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