Martha Stewart has been refused a visa to Britain because of her criminal convictions for obstructing justice, the Daily Telegraph has learned.
The lifestyle guru, convicted four years ago in the US for obstructing justice, was planning to speak at the Royal Academy and to hold meetings with several figures in the fashion and leisure industry, including Jasper Conran, and was due to travel within the next few days.
The refusal by the UK Border Agency was sent to Ms Stewart, aged 66. A spokesperson for the business magnate said: "Martha loves England and hopes this can be resolved and that she will be able to visit soon."
She added that Ms Stewart has many friends in Britain, which she has visited numerous times.
A cook, designer and publisher, Ms Stewart was once called "the definitive American woman of our time" and once collaborated with Wedgwood on a range of crockery.
A British government official called the decision "an own goal" given the transatlantic business and goodwill her visit could generate.
"It is a bit silly given some of the other people allowed into the country," the official added.
It was not clear if Ms Stewart had been singled out or was a victim of a blanket rule imposed by the new agency. In 2004 she served five months in prison for lying to federal agents investigating the sale of shares shortly before they fell sharply in value.
The UK Border Agency said it would not comment on individual cases. A spokesman added: "We continue to oppose the entry to the UK of individuals where we believe their presence in the United Kingdom is not conducive to the public good or where they have been found guilty of serious criminal offences abroad."
Martha has issued a statement on her blog from Poland, where she is visiting without any visa hassles: "Because I cannot yet go to England because of my visa situation, I am leaving Warsaw to go to Prague for a bit of sightseeing, exploring, and research. We are hoping that the visa situation will be cleared up in time for me to fulfill my business obligations in England next week. We will keep you posted."
Thanks to Pru for the heads up.