Ruling

01437-16 Khaman v Sunday Post

    • Date complaint received

      26th May 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01437-16 Khaman v Sunday Post 

Summary of complaint 

1.    Yasmin Khaman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Sunday Post breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in two articles headlined “Football stars in car cash mystery / Mystery over what happened to football stars’ car deposits” and “Businesswoman ‘told footballer she was related to the Aga Khan’”, published on 21 February 2016 and 28 February 2016 respectively.

2.    The articles reported that the complainant’s business, Royal Luxury Cars (RLC), which rents high-end vehicles to members of the public, was being investigated for fraud after a number of clients claimed that their substantial deposits had not been returned to them.

3.    The articles were substantially the same online and in print.

4.    The complainant said that there was no ongoing fraud investigation into RLC. She provided a copy of a statement her representative had sent to the newspaper in advance of publication which set out the correct position: RLC had engaged a self-employed sales agent whose services had been terminated after a number of footballers had approached the company raising concerns that he had not returned their deposits. RLC had investigated the claims and reported them to HM Revenue & Customs and the police. It said that any refunds were the sole responsibility of the relevant sales agent, and not of RLC. The complainant also said that it was inaccurate to report that she “claimed” to be a princess who was related to the Aga Khan; these statements were true as she had married into the Aga Khan’s family.

5.    The complainant also said that she had not been accused of failing to pass on funds she had raised at a charity auction in 2008; that there are not several companies registered at the her home; that she had not tried to convince a footballer named Noel Hunt to invest in a goldmine; and that she had not posed for a photograph with businessman Piers Linney at an awards ceremony, but rather he had posed with her.

6.    The newspaper believed that its article was accurate. It said that numerous people had approached the newspaper and had been prepared to speak about their dealings with the complainant; there was a clear public interest in investigating the allegations. The newspaper noted that both articles had included lengthy responses from the complainant or her representatives.

7.    The newspaper said that City of London Police’s National Fraud Reporting Centre had confirmed that they had gathered enough evidence to refer the fraud allegations to the relevant police force for investigation. The newspaper provided copies of its correspondence with the police forces it had contacted. It also said that multiple sources had confirmed that the complainant claimed to be related to His Highness the Aga Khan, and that when the newspaper contacted the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) its spokesperson confirmed that “this person is not Princess Yasmin and has no link to His Highness the Aga Khan.” The newspaper also provided copies of this correspondence.

8.    The newspaper said that Companies House records show two companies currently registered at the complainant’s address (the complainant said that she had been fraudulently named as a director of these companies). It also provided two articles from other newspapers which were published at the time that the police were investigating the funds raised at the complainant’s charity event. It stood by this aspect of its story; it did not believe that the complainant had not been involved. The newspaper said that Mr Hunt said he had had several business dealings with the complainant in recent years. This had been corroborated by other sources, and the newspaper noted that Mr Hunt and the complainant are both listed as directors of the same company in records held by Companies House. The newspaper did not accept that its phrasing about the complainant posing for a photograph with Mr Linney was in any way misleading.

Relevant Code provisions

9.    Clause 1 (Accuracy) 

(i)            The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text. 

(ii)           A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. 

(iii)          A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for. 

(iv)          The press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

10. The complainant had confirmed that one of her salespeople had been accused of not returning deposits to customers, and that RLC had terminated his employment and referred him to the police. The Committee did not accept the complainant’s position that because the salesperson had been self-employed neither she nor her company were responsible for his actions. The City of London Police had also confirmed to the newspaper that it had gathered sufficient evidence to refer the matter for investigation. There was no failure to take care over this aspect of this story, and the Committee did not establish a significant inaccuracy which needed to be corrected under Clause 1 (ii) of the Code.

11. The newspaper had published on-the-record comments from Mr Hunt that the complainant had said she “was related to the Aga Khan”. The newspaper had contacted the AKDN which had responded that the complainant had no link to the Aga Khan, and the article had also included the complainant’s position that she is entitled to use the name. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

12. It was clear from the contemporaneous coverage that the complainant had organised a charity event which was later investigated by police for allegedly not passing on enough of the money it had raised. The article under complaint had noted the complainant’s position that “bidders failed to pay for their prizes”, and also reported that the police investigation had not resulted in any charges being brought. This element of the complaint did not raise a breach of Clause 1.

13. According to Companies House records, there are at least two companies registered at the complainant’s address, with her named as a director of both companies. The article had included comments from Mr Hunt that the complainant had encouraged him “to invest £25,000 in a doomed gold mine venture”, and included her denial: “this is categorically untrue as Noel Hunt has no funds to invest”. Lastly, in these circumstances there was no substantive difference between the complainant posing for a picture with Mr Linney, and Mr Linney posing for a picture with the complainant. The article did not breach Clause 1.

Conclusions

14. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required 

N/A

Date complaint received: 29/02/2016

Date decision issued: 09/05/2016