Zeta Mag Denies Conspiracy

The managing director of Hello! magazine yesterday denied there was a conspiracy between him and a fixer who helps arrange celebrity stories to publish paparazzi pics of Michael Douglas' wedding to Catherine Zeta-Jones without their permission.

And the publisher, Javier Riera, also claimed that any errors in statements given to the court by the Marquesa de Varela, the fixer, arose because of a "misunderstanding."

Lawyers representing the Douglases claim a misleading statement by de Varela that she had the authority to sell the wedding shots was part of a broader conspiracy created by Hello! to obscure direct involvement with the photographer.

But Riera said he honestly believed de Varela sold him wedding pictures -- acting as a go-between for the magazine and paparazzo Phil Ramey, who took the sneaky shots -- when in fact Ramey sold them directly to Hello!

"The error in the fax was the product of a misunderstanding . . . as we did not have accurate information as to the manner in which the agreement was finalized . . . ," Riera said.

Last week de Varela claimed in court that she felt pressured by Riera to sign a faxed witness statement saying her company had sold the shots to Hello! in order to lift injunctions barring the magazine's sale.

Judge Justice Lindsay, who is presiding over the case, yesterday said de Varela's claims lay at the very heart of the case.