Record damages paid to ex-Celtic keeper

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A FORMER Celtic player has received substantial damages after a Sunday newspaper fell for an elaborate sting operation, a judge heard yesterday.

The 70,000 payout is believed to be the largest out of court settlement ever offered in a Scottish defamation case.

Goalkeeper Artur Boruc - now with Italian side Fiorentina - had raised an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh over a story in the News of the World last July.

The fake expos accused him of "sexting" - sending a series of sexually charged messages and a graphic photo to another woman while his girlfriend, Sara Manei, was pregnant.

Both sides were expected to lead witnesses in court next month, but yesterday judge Lord Woolman was told that the case had been settled.

Publisher of the News of the World, News Group Newspapers, made a full apology and agreed to make a payment to Mr Boruc of 70,000.

Lawyers told Lord Woolman they believed this was a record for an out-of-court settlement in a defamation action in Scotland.

The deal had been done in advance but the case called in court yesterday to argue about the legal expenses, which are believed to have run to around 50,000.

The News of the World will pay the footballer's bills, which include fees for expert witnesses who analysed phone recordings and examined mobile phone details which eventually led to the story unravelling.

Roddy Dunlop QC, for the tabloid's publishers, said they thought they had good reason - at the time - to carry the story but had been "victim of a highly complex deceit by one man."

The person the newspaper blamed was named in court as Kevin O'Donnell, of Cambuslang, Glasgow.

Mr Dunlop said: "The defenders (News Group] accept that they were entirely taken in by this fraud but they were not reckless or irresponsible in the beliefs that they held.

"A highly believable web was woven by Mr O'Donnell with many inter-linked strands which appeared to corroborate the story and it was only when the phone details began to emerge that the tissue of lies was revealed."

During yesterday's hearing the judge was told how it appeared that a photo of a headless man's torso had been "photo-shopped" to add a distinctive monkey tattoo to the navel.