UK ‘fake sheikh’ re­porter jailed

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

LONDON: Bri­tish jour­nal­ist Mazher Mah­mood, renowned for his “fake sheikh” un­der­cover sting op­er­a­tions for me­dia mogul Ru­pert Mur­doch’s tabloids, was jailed for 15 months yes­ter­day for tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence in a high-pro­file trial. Mah­mood, 53, whose elab­o­rate dis­guises have duped crim­i­nals, celebri­ties, and even roy­alty, plot­ted to get his driver to change a po­lice state­ment dur­ing the drugs pros­e­cu­tion of Tulisa Con­tostav­los, a singer and for­mer judge of the Bri­tish ver­sion of the “X Fac­tor” TV tal­ent show.

Con­tostav­los had been about to go on trial ac­cused of sup­ply­ing co­caine for Mah­mood, the self-styled “King of the Sting”, as he posed as an in­flu­en­tial In­dian film pro­ducer while work­ing on an ex­clu­sive story for the Sun on Sun­day pa­per. The con­vic­tion is set to ruin the ca­reer of Mah­mood, one of Bri­tain’s best-known un­der­cover jour­nal­ists. News UK, Mur­doch’s UK news­pa­per arm, said it had sacked him.

Some 18 in­di­vid­u­als caught out by Mah­mood’s stings are plan­ning to take civil ac­tion against him and lawyers are re­view­ing cases in which his ev­i­dence had led to suc­cess­ful crim­i­nal prose­cu­tions. “Mazher has led scores of suc­cess­ful in­ves­ti­ga­tions dur­ing his 25-year ca­reer with the com­pany,” a News UK spokesman said, adding any le­gal claims would be “vig­or­ously de­fended”. “His work has led to the ex­po­sure of crim­i­nal­ity and wrong­do­ing. It is a source of great re­gret that his time with the com­pany should end in this man­ner.”

Pros­e­cu­tors said Mah­mood got his driver, Alan Smith, to change a state­ment he gave to de­tec­tives which would have made Con­tostav­los’s con­vic­tion less likely by sup­port­ing her case that she was a vic­tim of en­trap­ment. Her trial col­lapsed in July 2014 af­ter ques­tions arose about Smith’s ev­i­dence. Ear­lier this month both men were found guilty of con­spir­acy to per­vert the course of jus­tice at London’s Old Bai­ley court and on Fri­day Mah­mood was jailed for 15 months while Smith was given a sus­pended 12month prison term.

Mah­mood made his name at Mur­doch’s News of the World, which was closed in 2011 af­ter it was re­vealed se­nior jour­nal­ists had been hack­ing voice­mails on mo­bile phones to get sto­ries. He car­ried out the un­der­cover in­quiry which led to the 2011 con­vic­tion of three Pak­istani crick­eters for tak­ing bribes to fix in­ci­dents in a match against Eng­land and also duped So­phie, Count­ess of Wes­sex, wife of Queen El­iz­a­beth’s youngest son Prince Ed­ward, in 2001 when he posed as an Arab sheikh. But other stings have led to prose­cu­tions which col­lapsed, in­clud­ing the case against five men ac­cused of plot­ting to kid­nap singer-turned-de­signer Vic­to­ria Beck­ham in 2002. — Reuters

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