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Former White Tie & Tiara Organiser Loses Court Case

Friday 6 March 2009 @ 15:25 - GMT

A party organiser to the stars has been made bankrupt after being accused by one of his wealthiest clients of cheating over the bill, the Evening Standard has disclosed.

Matthew James arranged events for the likes of Elton and Kevin Spacey. But his glittering business collapsed after he lost a High Court battle over the fees for a party he organised for one of Britain's richest men, property tycoon Rafi Manoukian.

Manoukian withheld the final £200,000 instalment of the £825,000 bill for the party at Sir Elton's home, unhappy with aspects of the service and angry that James was making a further £50,000 in commission from suppliers. DNA Productions sued to recover the money but found itself on the losing end of a costly High Court battle, which ended last year.

This week, Matthew was declared bankrupt, unable to pay Rafi's legal costs of about £450,000. DNA Productions (Europe) has also been wound up. At his home in Earl's Court, Mr. James said: "I am no cheat. It's a complicated matter."

 The 33-year-old made his name organising Elton's White Tie and Tiara Ball, held annually at the vocalist's Windsor abode.

But Matthew, who set up his business 10 years ago, ran into trouble over Rafi's soiree in December 2006. The Armenian businessman, said to be worth up to £250 million, and his wife Jo hired DNA to stage a joint celebration for his 50th birthday and the christening of their daughter Fimi, now aged four. The event was attended by 200 people and included the Beckhams and Gordon Ramsay.

The court effectively ruled that DNA had grossly overcharged Manoukian and had routinely concealed the true costs of events to other clients. Mr. James said: "The party seemed to go very well. It was only afterwards he said he was upset with some of it."

He added: "People's perceptions of me are always very over-glorified. We were not some super-slick outfit. We had stumbled into it. People like Sir Elton were not my friends. They were my clients."

The former drama student's legal case was not helped by an email, accidentally sent to Rafi, which revealed how he hid costs from his customers. The email, meant for a supplier, said: "When you do quote, could you also just include 10 per cent commission to us hidden in the quote? We have to show the client our invoices which is why we need the written quote and also the commission included."

Mr. Justice Evans-Lombe said: "Matthew James accepted it was DNA's practice to conceal from its clients that it was receiving commissions or discounts in addition to an event management fee." DNA went into voluntary liquidation in 2008. It was £200,000 short on the bash, and owed about £100,000 to its own lawyers and about £450,000 for Mr. Manoukian's costs. On Monday in the High Court, Manoukian had James made personally bankrupt too.

A source close to the case stated: "Matthew James was double-dipping. He got caught out and has gone bust. He has got just what he deserved."

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