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'Extortionists drove MJ to early death'

A Canadian author, whose biography of the late King of Pop titled Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson hits the stands this week, says extortionists drove Jackson to his early death.

books Updated: Jul 13, 2009 13:47 IST

A Canadian author, whose biography of the late King of Pop titled Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson hits the stands this week, says extortionists drove Jackson to his early death.

Montreal-born Ian Halperin, who has been working for four years on what will be the pop icon's first definite biography after his death, said extensive research showed that the charges of child molestation were concocted by "extortionists" to grab money from the pop icon.

At the age of 50, Jackson was forced to undertake 50 concerts by his "extortionist" handlers for "their own bank accounts", the Canadian told Montreal Gazette newspaper in an interview from Los Angeles.

"He (Jackson) has been the victim of extortionists, people who have come after him maliciously, and it's very sad. That's what led to the emotional pain and that's what drove him to numb himself," he said.

Halperin, who had predicted in December that Jackson will live only for six more months, said: "People were sceptical when you say someone has six months to live and I said that Dec 24, 2008.

"He hasn't been in great shape for a long time, both mentally and physically, so I wasn't just saying something off the top of my head. I was serious."

The 44-year-old Canadian, who started working on the biography in 2005 after Jackson's acquittal of a second charge of child molestation, said his idea was to nail the pop icon.

But by the time he finished the book just weeks before Jackson's death, his opinion of the troubled artist "had undergone a 180-degree shift", said Halperin who used all kinds of tricks to infiltrate the Jackson camp.

"I interviewed all kinds of people connected to the case and kids who stayed at Neverland, and my final conclusion today is that he is 100 percent not a child molester," Halperin said.

It was Jackson's childlike attitude towards both his business dealings and his personal life that ruined him, according to the author.

He said Jackson's slide began with his addiction to painkillers after suffering burns in a Pepsi commercial in 1984. Then came the charges of child molestation first in 1993 and then in 2004. The final straw was the gruelling 50-concert tour at the age of 50.

Jackson paid $25 million in 1994 to the family of the first boy who accused him of molestation. The case of the second boy, which went to court, ended in his acquittal in 2005.

Quoting a letter from Jackson in the first molestation case, Halperin said: "Michael was livid, he broke down in tears, he did not want to settle (by paying $25 million), he wanted to prove his innocence."

In the second case, the boy, Gavin Arvizo, who accused Jackson of sexual touching, was drugged when he made his statement against the pop icon, the author said.

The family of the boy had "a history of being fraudsters; they had tried this drill before on other people". The case went to court and ended in Michael's acquittal in 2005.

"The child-molestation charges just drained him, in legal fees and also mentally," the Canadian said.

"He has been the victim of extortionists, people who have come after him maliciously, and it's very sad."

He said Michael had agreed to do the 10 concerts in London. "But not the 50 (concerts) that were forced on him by his handlers who were drooling at the prospect of all that money.

"They (the handlers) never cared about him and just wanted to see what he could do for their own bank accounts."

To infiltrate the Jackson camp, Halperin said, he befriended many people in Jackson's inner circle and went undercover as a hairdresser, taking a two-month course learning how to style hair.