UK

'Fake Sheikh' Mazher Mahmood gives no evidence in trial

Court sketch of Mazher Mahmood and Alan Smith
Image caption Mazher Mahmood and Alan Smith both deny intending to pervert the course of justice

Undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood has declined to give evidence in his trial for allegedly tampering with evidence in a case against pop singer Tulisa Contostavlos.

The reporter known as the Fake Sheikh and his driver Alan Smith deny plotting to change a witness statement.

The former X Factor judge had been accused of supplying cocaine but the case against her collapsed in 2014.

Prosecutors said Mr Mahmood had had a "vested interest" in her prosecution.

The Old Bailey has heard that Miss Contostavlos had been targeted by the self-styled "king of the sting", posing as an influential film producer who wanted her to star in a Hollywood blockbuster.

The court was told Mr Mahmood had a boozy meeting with the singer at the Metropolitan Hotel in London, and she had allegedly arranged for him to be sold half an ounce of cocaine by one of her contacts for £800.

The former N-Dubz star was later arrested and charged with being concerned in the supply of a class A drug, after Mr Mahmood handed evidence to police.

But her trial was later thrown out of court after driver Mr Smith changed his police statement to remove comments she allegedly made to him expressing disapproval of hard drugs.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The pair are accused of plotting to change a witness statement in the case against pop singer Tulisa Contostavlos
Image copyright PA
Image caption Mazher Mahmood and Alan Smith

Prosecutors told the court Miss Contostavlos' disapproval of drugs was "airbrushed out" so Mr Mahmood could be the "swashbuckling hero".

Mr Smith has also declined to give evidence in his defence.

Prosector Sarah Forshaw QC said in her closing speech: "If they were innocent men with nothing to hide, wouldn't they be shouting it from the rooftops?"

She told jurors: "When you put them all together, they altogether lead you to the compelling inference that these two men put their heads together to change that statement - a compelling inference that demands an explanation and you have had none."

Mr Mahmood, 53, of Purley, south London, and Mr Smith, 67, from Dereham, Norfolk are charged with conspiring together to do an act, namely that Mr Smith would change a draft statement to police, with the intention to pervert the course of justice, between 22 June and 22 July 2014.

The trial continues.