Well-known undercover investigative reporter Mazher Mahmood is going to court, the UK prosecution decided today. He is charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Mahmood, also known as the “fake sheikh,” has worked for News of the World and the Sun, going undercover to write articles for each of these tabloids.
In a statement on its website today, the Crown Prosecution Service announced the charges against Mahmood as well as Alan Smith, who was Contostavlos’s driver the night she is alleged to have helped procure drugs.
“After carefully considering all of the evidence the CPS has decided that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to charge both men. This decision comes after it was alleged that Mr Smith agreed with Mr Mahmood to change his statement to police as part of a trial in July 2014, and that Mr Mahmood then misled the court,” the CPS’s deputy head of special crime Nick Vamos is quoted as saying.
Mahmood was suspended last year from the Sun, as iMediaEthics wrote, when one of his stories which led to criminal charges went bust. He had reported for the Sun in 2013 that UK pop star Tulisa Contostavlos helped him get cocaine. She and a friend were then charged over the claims but the charges were dropped after the judge accused Mahmood of “improper conduct.”
Contostavlos denies that she helped him get drugs and said she thought she was auditioning for Mahmood, who was posing as a producer. During the trial, Smith changed his testimony, and the judge said Mahmood had talked him into changing the story.
The CPS warned journalists, “It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings. For these reasons, it would be inappropriate for any further comment.”
Mahmood responded to the charges in a statement via his lawyers published by the Guardian and Press Gazette saying he was “deeply disappointed” about the charges, which he plans to “vigorously contest.”
iMediaEthics has written to the Sun for comment.