THE verdict is expected next week in a trial involving two men accused of supplying fake sports star autographs bought by the public.
Graeme Walker, 45, owner of Chester-based Sporting Icons Ltd, of Mountain View Close, Connah’s Quay, Deeside, denies more than 50 counts of cheating his customers by selling counterfeit signatures.
Faisal Madani, 43, of Grange Road, Bramhall, Stockport, described in court as the “the wholesaler”, denies 20 counts of supplying forgeries.
Andrew Thomas, QC, summing up for the prosecution, told the jury Walker had not only failed to prove “due diligence” in ensuring his stock was genuine – he knew he was buying and selling fakes.
In many cases he did not possess specimen signatures to compare with his goods.
He accepted Walker might have been “conned” by Madani who falsely claimed he was the brother of a former Manchester United director and cited George Best as a close friend after meeting him twice, yet this did not excuse his failure to carry out checks.
Walker continued to sell signed Jonny Wilkinson memorabilia, now accepted as fake, bought from Madani despite complaints even from Wilkinson’s own father. George Best’s agent Phil Hughes went in a national newspaper to say Sporting Icons was selling fake Best goods.
There had been a query over Madani’s signed David Beckham goods and yet Walker was happy to accept a statement from Madani self-certifying the goods were genuine.
The most powerful warning for Walker, said Mr Thomas, was when he, his wife and Madani were arrested yet he continued to buy stock through his co-defendant.
Forged letters purporting to be from Manchester Utd and Liverpool indicated a mounting business used by Walker had permission to reproduce trademark club logos.
There was a forged letter apparently supplied by Man Utd to confirm examples of David Beckham signatures and a letter with a forged Ian Rush signature again used to illustrate the authenticity of stock. Mr Thomas said the “common element” of these forgeries was Mr Walker.
An e-mail from Sporting Icons, signed in the name of Walker’s 10-year-old son Jack, was sent to a customer to falsely confirm the authenticity of Tiger Woods memorabilia.
Mr Thomas said “practice signatures” for stars including Pele and Rooney were found at Walker’s home and shop and it didn’t matter who had produced them. “What is a dealer of genuine autographs doing with practice autographs in his house?” he asked.
Turning to Madani, Mr Thomas made much of his refusal to enter the witness box to give evidence in his defence and asked jury members “to keep their eye on the ball”.
“We say the fakes are mixed in with the genuine and that mixture creates a false impression to perpetuate the fraud,” argued Mr Thomas.
Mr Thomas said a birthday card from Madani to Walker featuring fake Alex Ferguson and Ruud van Nistelrooy signatures revealed what was really going on.
Madani had written a personal message saying he knew Walker would be peeved and he and his wife Sharon had also signed the card because that meant it couldn’t be sold on eBay. He wrote: “Knowing you, you will find an idiot who will pay £300.”
The case continues.