Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 14:11 UK

Autograph fraudsters found guilty

Graeme Walker (left) and Faisal Madani
Graeme Walker (left) and Faisal Madani denied the charges

Two business partners have been found guilty of cheating their customers by forging and selling the signatures of sports stars.

Faisal Madani, 43, from Bramall, Stockport, and Graeme Walker, 45, of Flintshire, had denied the charges under the Trades Descriptions Act.

Chester Crown Court heard the pair faked autographs of stars including Pele, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.

The memorabilia was then sold at the Sporting Icons shop in Chester.

Madani, of Grange Road, and Walker, of Connah's Quay, Flintshire, already have convictions for dishonesty and trademark offences and now face potential jail terms.

Mr Walker's barrister told the jury at Chester Crown Court that Mr Madani was guilty of an "outrageous fraud".

But Mr Madani's barrister insisted he had not supplied the bogus signatures.

Today's court result will be welcomed by sports fans everywhere
John Weeks, Cheshire County Council

Mr Walker's barrister, Paul Lawton, told the court that since 1996, during a meeting with a Coutts bank manager, Mr Madani had been passing himself off as the brother of ex-Manchester United director Armer Mouffac Al Midani.

He said Mr Madani had "duped" his client by providing false merchandise in the form of shirts, photographs and other items.

Walker was found guilty on 51 of the 53 charges against him, including dishonestly trading by selling faked signatures of Sir Alex Ferguson, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roy Keane, Gerrard, Wilkinson and others.

He was cleared of selling a fraudulent Worthington Cup Final LFC match shirt purporting to be the original match shirt worn by Michael Owen.

He was also cleared of selling a photograph with a fake signature of Owen.

Credit card probe

Madani was convicted of 18 of the 20 charges against him including supplying many of the items to Walker.

He was cleared of selling a photograph with a fake signature of Gerrard.

Andrew Thomas QC, prosecuting, informed the jury that during the first trial Madani was arrested at the court by City of London Police.

He said: "Mr Madani was arrested in relation to the alleged use of fraudulently obtained credit cards.

"No charges have been brought as the investigation is still ongoing."

Madani was remanded in custody until sentencing takes place on Thursday.

'Ruthless exploitation'

Walker's Chester city centre shop continued trading until two weeks ago, but has now been boarded up.

Cheshire Trading Standards said it hoped to obtain an injunction against the business to prevent any further trading.

Cheshire County Council's director of community services, John Weeks, said: "This has been a long and complex investigation, but today's court result will be welcomed by sports fans everywhere.

"Ruthless exploitation of the devotion that fans show their clubs and sporting heroes was exposed on a scale which shocked us and, indeed, helped fund a high street business."

Mr Weeks said that the investigation had been helped the assistance of Liverpool and Manchester United and their players, as well as England rugby star Jonny Wilkinson and Newcastle United's Michael Owen.

video and audio news
Faisal Madani and Graeme Walker found guilty

Genuine concern at fake mementos
02 Apr 08 |  England
No evidence from forgery accused
17 Mar 08 |  England
Seller 'thought autographs real'
10 Mar 08 |  England
Autograph trial hears from Owen
26 Feb 08 |  England
Stars called to autograph trial
05 Feb 08 |  Merseyside

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