Tabloid reporter known as ‘The King of the Sting’ facing jail for tampering with evidence in the collapsed trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos
Undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood, known as the ‘Fake Sheikh,’ has been found guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
After a two-week trial, the court found that Mahmood (53) and his driver Alan Smith (67) had plotted to suppress evidence in the collapsed 2014 drugs trial of British pop singer and TV star, Tulisa Contostavlos.
In 2013, Mahmood - the former News Of The World investigations editor - met with Contostavlos at a hotel in London posing as an influential film producer who wanted her to star in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Following the meeting, the former X Factor judge allegedly arranged for him to be sold half an ounce of cocaine by one of her contacts.
Contostavlos was later arrested after the story was published in the Sun on Sunday under the headline ‘Tulisa’s cocaine deal shame.’
Her 2014 trial was eventually thrown out however, when it emerged that Smith had changed his police statement – which originally included comments made by the singer expressing her disapproval of hard drugs – after conferring with Mahmood.
The comments would have been beneficial to her case and as the trial collapsed, prosecutors turned their attention to Mahmood and Smith.
Contostavlos spoke out after her case collapsed in 2014:
Mahmood, who called himself ‘The King of the Sting,’ claims to have had a role in 100 convictions during his 25 year career as an investigative journalist.
But media commentator Roy Greenslade - who was once Mahmood's boss - says his stings often had little journalistic merit.
“He has gone after trivial stories involving high profile people and I think he is guilty, very often, of stimulating the crimes that he then reports on,” said Mr Greenslade.
Lawyers say a number of Mahmood’s previous targets could now bring civil claims against him.
Media lawyer Mark Lewis said the civil claims could "dwarf" those brought following the phone-hacking scandal.
“This is worse than phone hacking in a way because the devastating effect on people is that they have lost their liberty. They have been sent to prison,” he said.
“They have suddenly found themselves unemployed for 20 years, just because of the arrogance of one person who wanted a story, who would pick on somebody who was doing well.”
Mahmood and Smith are due for sentencing on October 21.