The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Literary lies

Tallinn (Estonia), Sept. 8 (Reuters): A young Estonian journalist who shot to fame after gaining exclusive interviews with world literati has admitted he was a cut-and-paste con artist, but only after years of high-profile fabrications went unnoticed.

The bogus interviews made up by Argo Riistan, 21, were published in most leading Estonian newspapers and magazines since he started the scam in high school three years ago.

“Maybe I was naive, but I really didn’t suspect Riistan of being a fraud,” said Kalev Keskula, editor of the Eesti Express weekly, which ran several of the fake stories.

“Journalists’ fees are so small in Estonia that it doesn’t make much sense to do it for the money,” he said. “Of course I trusted him,” he added.

But the editor of the Sirp weekly magazine got suspicious last month when offered an exclusive with world financier and philanthropist George Soros, and checked with Soros’ office to find the interview had never taken place. Sirp responded by exposing the star freelancer, and Riistan later admitted his scam to local media. “I realised that the only option was to face up,” he told the Postimes.

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