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Fake Sheikh in court over conduct in Tulisa sting

By | Published on Thursday 22 September 2016


The trial of former Sun and News Of The World journalist Mazher Mahmood, aka the “fake sheikh”, is underway. He is accused of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to a court case involving Tulisa Contostavlos.

The one time N-Dubz member and ‘X-Factor’ judge found herself in court in 2014 following one of Mahmood’s classic stings, the “let’s see if we can trick a celebrity into getting us some drugs” sting, that being the sort of thing that constitutes news for his former employer.

As previously reported, the case against Contostavlos collapsed after the judge presiding accused the journalist, who had given evidence against his latest victim, of “serious misconduct to the point that the integrity of the court would be compromised by allowing the trial to go ahead”.

It was claimed that there were inconsistencies in statements Mahmood had made to the court between a pre-trial hearing and the main trial. These related specifically to comments made by Contostavlos and overheard by the journalist’s driver Alan Smith, which led the judge to believe that Mahmood had been “manipulating the evidence”.

Kicking off the trial against Mahmood and Smith, Sarah Forshaw QC told the jury this week, according to the BBC: “In effect, the hearing in June 2014 put Mr Mahmood and his journalistic process on trial. He liked to call himself the king of sting, he boasted in a book he had written of the number of convictions that he personally was responsible for”.

The QC continued: “He knew that if it could be shown that he had acted improperly as an agent provocateur, inducing Miss Contostavlos to do something she would not otherwise do, his own credibility and standing and the prospect of conviction in the case might both be severely damaged”.

Smith initially told police about Contostavlos’s comments in which she spoke negatively about drugs, and in particular cocaine. But the driver then asked to retract that part of his statement. At a pre-trial hearing under oath, Mahmood said he had had no involvement in that change to Smith’s statement. But he later admitted that he had indeed seen a copy of what Smith had originally said to the police and had spoken to his driver about it.

Forshaw: “Miss Contostavlos had expressed her disapproval of hard drugs to his own driver, that was the bit of the statement that was altered. Mr Smith had told the police officer making the statement that he remembered that while driving Miss Contostavlos… that she had spoken about someone in her family being dependent on cocaine”.

On Mahmood’s original denial of knowledge about Smith’s police statement, Forshaw continued: “He deliberately misled the court – not only had he discussed it but he had been sent a copy of the statement. There is no doubt that Smith did change his statement … The change would undoubtedly have disadvantaged Miss Contostavlos’s case. It would have deprived her of supporting evidence from Mahmood’s own right-hand man that she made an anti-drugs comment at a time when untainted by any influence or pressure”.

Concluding, the QC said: “Mr Mahmood may be the master of subterfuge and deception. But on this occasion it is he, together with his employee, who are exposed”.

Both Mahmood and Smith deny the charges that have been made against them.

As also previously reported, Contostavlos has repeatedly hit out at Mahmood, and the tactics he employed to get a story, accusing the journalist of entrapment. The fake sheikh told Contostavlos that he could get her a high profile film project, and then exploited the resulting relationship to try to persuade her to get him illegal drugs, all in a bid to run a “popstar deals cocaine” story.