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
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."