Michael Jackson's life was "infiltrated" by the Nation of Islam, according to his former publicist.

The 'Thriller' singer became a devotee of the controversial 'black power' Islamic sect shortly after child abuse charges were brought against him in 2003 - according to publicist Stuart Backerman, who left as Jackson's closest adviser when the group "took hold" of him.

Backerman said: "I quit because the Nation of Islam had infiltrated Michael's world. I was the only one who was left standing at that point because Michael wasn't in his right mind.

"It was heartbreaking for him to have these charges and his life turned upside down."

Backerman believes the Nation of Islam - which practices a modified form of Islam and holds radical beliefs about the role of black people in society - seized control of Jackson in his vulnerable state.

He added to Britain's The Sun newspaper: "In that period of weakness he allowed the Nation of Islam to come in acting under the guise of security first, to taking control of his business operations and have an advisory role on legal matters. Basically they just took over."

The group - led by Louis Farrakhan - first had contact with Jackson in 2003 and in December that year Leonard F. Muhammad, Farrakhan's chief of staff, was named Jacksons bodyguard. He eventually worked his way up to running the star's business affairs.

Jackson was alleged to have converted to Islam in 2008 and changed his name to Mikaeel, although he never talked about his faith publicly.

Grace Rwaramba - who was nanny to the King of Pop's children - is also believed to have links to Farrakhan, but has spoken out about the group's influence over Michael since his death last month.

She alleged, among other things, that they overcharged him for the house he was renting when he died, claiming they billed him $60,000 a month, when similar properties in the same area cost a third of that amount.

Backerman explained his reasons for leaving Jackson's staff, saying: "I just felt it didn't make sense to become a front for the Nation of Islam. I felt this was not in Michael's interest to associate with a group like that and it turned out to be true."