Saturday 24 February 2018

'Fake Sheikh' faces jail after being found guilty of evidence tampering

Pop star Tulisa Contostavlos Picture: PA
Pop star Tulisa Contostavlos Picture: PA

Emily Pennink

'Fake Sheikh' Mazher Mahmood is facing jail and a string of multimillion-pound lawsuits after being found guilty of tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos.

Following a two-week trial at the Old Bailey, a jury found the 53-year-old 'King of the Sting' and his driver, Alan Smith (67) guilty of plotting to pervert the course of justice.

Following the verdict, it was announced that 18 civil claims were being launched against Mahmood, which could total some £800 million (€910m).

Media lawyer Mark Lewis said the claims would "dwarf" those brought following the phone-hacking scandal.

The UK's Crown Prosecution Service has already dropped a number of live cases in the wake of the Tulisa trial and reviewed 25 past convictions.

Six of those involving mainly high-profile individuals have been taken up by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The trial had heard that Mahmood and Smith conspired to suppress evidence in the N-Dubz star's trial, which was thrown out at Southwark Crown Court in July 2014.

The singer had been accused of arranging for Mahmood to be sold £800 of cocaine by one of her contacts following an elaborate sting for the 'Sun on Sunday' in May 2013.

During a meeting at the Metropolitan Hotel in London, Mahmood posed as a film producer and plied Ms Contostavlos with alcohol as they discussed an acting role alongside Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.

As Smith drove the former 'X Factor' judge home to Hertfordshire, she allegedly spoke about a family member who had a drugs problem.

When he was interviewed by police about the journey more than a year later, Smith, of Dereham, Norfolk, recalled the conversation.

But a day later, after speaking to Mahmood and emailing his draft statement, the singer's anti-drugs comments were removed, the court heard.

At a pre-trial hearing, Mahmood denied being an "agent provocateur" or that he discussed the drugs conversation with Smith.

But when he was questioned at length in the trial, Mahmood appeared to concede he had talked to Smith about what Ms Contostavlos said about drugs in the car.

After her case collapsed in July 2014, Ms Contostavlos claimed to reporters she had been the victim of "a horrific and disgusting entrapment''.

For more than 25 years, Mahmood has enjoyed a position as "King of the Sting" at the now defunct 'News of the World', 'Sunday Times' and 'Sun on Sunday'.

Mahmood, from Purley, south London, has been suspended by News UK since the collapse of the Tulisa trial.

Judge Gerald Gordon adjourned sentencing until October 21 and allowed the defendants continued bail.

Irish Independent

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