"Lives have been ruined by the dishonest actions of Mahmood."
Mazher Mahmood, an undercover reporter also referred to as the fake sheikh, has been found with tampering with evidence in regards to N-dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos’ drug trial.
Alongside his 67-year-old driver, Alan Smith, the fake sheikh conspired to suppress evidence in the N-Dubz star’s trial, which was thrown out at Southwark Crown Court in July 2014 after it was revealed Mahmood had misled the judge.
The investigative journalist was charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice over a statement made to police. The singer had been accused of arranging to sell £800 cocaine to Mahmood, following an elaborate sting operation in May 2013.
After her case collapsed, Contostavlos reported that she had been the victim of ‘a horrific and disgusting entrapment’.
Ben Rose, Contostavlos’ defence lawyer, said: “The real scandal, in this case, is that Mahmood was allowed to operate as a wholly unregulated police force, ‘investigating’ crimes without the safeguards which apply to the police.
“It was obvious from the outset that Tulisa should never have had to go to court. If Mahmood’s evidence had been properly stress-tested instead of accepted wholesale by the CPS, we are confident it would have come to the same conclusion.
“Investigative journalists do important work, but Mahmood clearly went too far.”
Mahmood could now face a series of court cases. The fake sheikh is known for his intense operations to suss out criminals. He claims to have helped put more than 100 criminals behind bars, but ever since the collapse of Contostavalos’ trial, he has been suspended by News UK.
Mark Lewis, a media lawyer and partner at Seddons solicitors, has been instructed by 18 people to pursue civil claims against Mahmood which could amount to the huge total of £800 million.
Lewis said: “Over the last 25 years, innumerable lives have been ruined by the dishonest actions of Mazher Mahmood. People have lost their livelihoods, their homes and relationships, with some spending time in prison.
We anticipate the total sums involved could easily reach 800 million, with some awards dwarfing those seen in the phone-hacking scandal.”
The fake sheikh had managed to convince Contostavalos that he was a Bollywood film producer after she announced she was trying to crack the film industry.
The jury heard that Smith, Mahmood’s driver for 20 years, had chauffeured the singer and her two associates to her Hertfordshire home following a meeting with Mahmood at London’s Metropolitan hotel, where the singer reportedly got very drunk.
When interviewed by police about the journey more than a year later, Smith recalled the conversation about drugs.
The court heard, however, that a day later, after speaking to Mahmood and emailing his draft statement, the singer’s anti-drugs comments were removed.
At a pre-trial hearing, Mahmood also denied that he discussed the drugs conversation with his driver.
Neither defendant gave evidence but it was said on Mahmood’s behalf that there had been a “misunderstanding” of his evidence.
Defence lawyer John Kelsey-Fry QC told jurors:
“Mr Mahmood is not a policeman. He is a journalist. Whilst the prosecution may say he boasts of the number of convictions resulting from his work, securing convictions is not actually his job.”
Mahmood’s whole investigation was about exposing the pop star’s life of ‘smoking weed’ and ‘supplying cocaine’; his aim was to question her celebrity ‘role model’ persona.
A selection of live criminal cases in which Mahmood was a witness have now been dropped by The Crown Prosecution Service.