Diddy denies he knew of plot to kill Tupac

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Times has linked two former associates of rap mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs to a 1994 attack on singer Tupac Shakur and suggested Combs knew in advance of the assault, but Combs called the story "a lie."

The story cites an unnamed source who said he was questioned during a federal probe of the shooting and beating of Shakur at the Quad Recording Studios in New York City.

Combs' associates helped plan the attack, the source told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Times. The paper said it corroborated the source's comments in several ways.

The Times suggested Combs and another rapper, the Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace), knew Shakur was being set up. For years, Shakur claimed Combs' was involved, it said.

"This story is a lie," Combs said in a statement today.

"It is beyond ridiculous and is completely false. Neither Biggie (Wallace) nor I had any knowledge of any attack before, during or after it happened."

Shakur's assault ignited a widely reported feud between US East Coast and West Coast rappers that resulted in insults hurled back and forth in songs and, on occasion, violence against members of both camps.

Shakur, a rising star in the early 1990s with hit CDs such as 2pacalypse Now and a member of the West Coast group, was killed in 1996 in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.

Six months later, Notorious B.I.G., who was signed to Combs' New York-based Bad Boy Records, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles.

Neither of the murders has been solved and speculation persists about possible suspects.

Similarly, the identity of Shakur's attackers at Quad Studios and the motive remain mysteries despite an FBI probe.

The Times said it recently obtained FBI records showing a confidential informant had implicated two New York rap figures at the time - talent manager James "Jimmy Henchman" Rosemond and promoter James Sabatino - as having "set up the rapper Tupac Shakur to get shot at Quad Studios."

The paper's story linked Rosemond and Sabatino to Combs, who wanted to sign Shakur to a recording contract. It said Rosemond and Sabatino helped plan the attack "to punish Shakur for disrespecting them and rejecting their business overtures and, not incidentally, to curry favour with Combs."

Rosemond, jailed for three years after a 1996 conviction on drugs and weapons charges, has for years denied any involvement in the 1994 attack on Shakur and he declined comment for the Times story.

His attorney, Andrew Lichtman, told the Times that Rosemond "was not involved in the assault" and dismissed the information as "ancient."

Sabatino, now in federal prison for wire fraud and racketeering, and Combs declined to comment for the story.

Combs, who got his start as a rapper, now runs a business empire that spans records, restaurants, fashion and fragrances. Last year, Forbes magazine estimated his income at US$23 million ($29.17 million), and he recently starred in a Broadway and television production of the classic play A Raisin in the Sun.

While the FBI records did not name the informant, the Times said it learned the person's identity and verified the person was at Quad Studios on the night of the assault.

The paper also said it contacted the informant, who said the FBI records were accurate. Other sources verified the informant's account of the assault, the Times said.

- REUTERS

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