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NRI tycoon's daughter jailed for stolen credit card fraud

LONDON, October 15 2005

NRI, Farah Damji, who first shot to notoriety in 2003 with alleged claims of her affairs with a Guardian newspaper executive and writer William Dalrymple, has been jailed for three and a half years for credit card fraud. Damaji was jailed on Thursday.

Her dubious past in the US was well hidden in the UK. In 1995 she served a six-month sentence at New York's Rikers Island jail for grand larceny and forgery.

Former editor and publisher of Another Generation magazine - for which Jessica Hines, now famous for her relationship with Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, worked - Damji, daughter of a property tycoon lived a luxurious life.

But when the funds, which bought her homes in Hampshire, New York and Chelsea, ran dry, she used credit fraud as a way to keep up her lifestyle, running up thousands of pounds on credit cards stolen from her nanny and a former employee.

When she faced charges, Damji, 39, posed as a crown prosecution official to try to get the case against her dropped. But her attempts failed. The daughter of Amir Damji, a property tycoon and millionaire in South Africa and London, now bankrupt, admitted a series of thefts, which totalled almost 50,000 pounds and deception charges.

Judge John Samuels jailed her for two years for dishonesty and a further 18 months for perverting the course of Justice. Sentencing her at Blackfriars Crown Court, he said: "you are undoubtedly an intelligent person of considerable social and educational standing in the community. However, in my judgement you are a thoroughly dishonest and manipulative woman."

Damji, who says she has an alcohol and drugs problem, 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 pounds. 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 pounds and food for 92.94 pounds. 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.

The court also heard that Damji obtained two diamond and platinum rings. 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 Amberina Hasan, a freelance journalist, and obtained a Sainsbury's loan under the same name. She also stole a credit card belonging to her osteopath friend, Nazia Soonasara, who began receiving letters from nationwide and car phone 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. But Judge Samuels maintained: "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."

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Farah Damji was editor of the British-Asian lifestyle magazine, Indobrit