Mazher Mahmood: 'Fake Sheikh' jailed over Tulisa case

image copyrightMet Police/PA
image captionMazher Mahmood tricked Tulisa Contostavlos into believing he was a film producer

Undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood, known as the "Fake Sheikh", has been jailed for 15 months for tampering with evidence in a case involving singer Tulisa Contostavlos.

The reporter, 53, and his driver Alan Smith, 67, were both found guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice earlier this month.

Judge Gerald Gordon said Mahmood had wanted to "enhance" his reputation.

Smith was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years.

Immediately after the sentencing News UK announced that Mahmood - a former News Of The World investigations editor - had been sacked after working for the company for 25 years.

A company spokesman said any civil claims brought against the company over Mahmood's past work would be "vigorously defended".

Following the guilty verdict earlier this month, lawyers announced that 18 other people targeted by Mahmood - who also worked for the Sunday Times and Sun on Sunday - planned to bring civil claims against him, which could total £800m.

Some of the individuals were convicted of crimes which, they argued at the time, came as the result of false evidence.

'Another scalp'

Judge Gordon told the pair: "You, Alan Smith, agreed to and did alter your original witness statement to remove the passage that you both realised could be used to support Tulisa Contostavlos's case in an entrapment hearing.

"Mazher Mahmood, it was your idea. You were the intended beneficiary and you made use of a loyal person, partly an employee, in order to achieve your purpose.

"The motive was to preserve and enhance your reputation.

"You wanted another scalp and Miss Contostavlos's conviction would have achieved that.

"And to achieve that, when you saw a problem, you were prepared for the court to be deceived."

As Mahmood was sent down, a man, believed to be one of Mahmood's alleged victims, shouted from the public gallery "your turn now Mazher".

'Unscrupulous press'

media captionFormer London's Burning actor, John Alford, welcomes the conviction of the "Fake Sheikh" journalist, Mazher Mahmood.

After the sentencing hearing, former London's Burning star John Alford, whose case is among those being taken up by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, said: "It's taken over 20 years for some of us, but finally a judge and a jury of our peers has woken up to Mazher Mahmood's lies.

"We would now like to ask Parliament to honour their promise to the British people and implement Leveson part two.

"Our three estates, the monarch, our Parliament and our judicial system, must be held accountable, yes?

"But they must not be held to ransom by a corrupt or unscrupulous press. So please let's cleanse this stain on our democracy once and for all."

The first part of the Leveson inquiry, in 2011-2012, examined press ethics, but hearings into ties between newspapers and the police were put on hold amid criminal inquiries over phone hacking.

Former page three model Emma Morgan, who plans to sue Mahmood over a drugs sting in the 1990s, said: "As far as a guilty man receiving 15 months jail, of which he's going to serve seven and a half months, at the end of his career, I don't think it's quite the same as what he gave me in a sense.

"It was a life sentence at the very beginning of my career."

Mahmood's lawyer, John Kelsey-Fry QC, had said his client stood before the court as a "very frightened man".

"Whatever people say of him today, that career has provided some valuable service," he said.

"He has brought catastrophe upon himself and a lifetime's work will be forever tarnished."

During the trial at London's Old Bailey, the court heard that Miss Contostavlos had been targeted by Mahmood, posing as an influential film producer who wanted her to star in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Mahmood met the singer at the Metropolitan Hotel in London in 2013 and she allegedly arranged for him to be sold half an ounce of cocaine by one of her contacts for £800.

The former N-Dubz star and X Factor judge was later arrested and charged with being concerned in the supply of a class A drug, after Mahmood, from Purley, south London, handed evidence to police.

But her trial was eventually thrown out, the Old Bailey was told, after driver Smith was found to have changed his police statement, removing comments that she made to him expressing her disapproval of hard drugs.

'Great regret'

A News UK spokesman said Mahmood was originally suspended pending an internal inquiry after the Tulisa Contostavlos trial collapsed, but the inquiry had been superseded by the criminal process.

Mahmood had led "scores of successful investigations" during his 25-year career with the company which had "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," he said.

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