WHEN THE News of the World closed in July 2011, the paper’s final edition cited Mazher Mahmood as a shining example of all that was good about the paper’s journalism.
Over two pages, the paper trumpeted the many achievements of the reporter, known as the “Fake Sheik” for his habit of dressing as an Arab to fool his victims.
So successful was his work, the paper claimed, that more than 250 people had been convicted as a result.
Sadly, it was all another News of the World con.
The figures were as fake as the Fake Sheik.
It wasn’t until the team behind Press Gang carried out a full audit that the truth came out — the real figure is less than a hundred.
Mahmood is an example of a rogue reporter most of the UK media are afraid to examine.
A notable exception is former Daily Mirror editor Roy Greenslade, a long-term critic of the Fake Sheik’s methods.
It wasn’t until writer Peter Burden — not a mainstream journalist — turned his attention to Mahmood that the wider truth about Murdoch’s star investigator began to emerge.
In 2008 Burden published News of the World? — Fake Sheikhs & Royal Trappings (Eye Books) — which includes a searing indictment of Mahmood and his methods.
It was Mahmood’s evidence to the Leveson Inquiry that started the Press Gang investigation entitled The Life And Times Of A Serial Perjurer.
The first article in the series — Fake Convictions — is based on a massive piece of research.
Editor Paddy French and researcher Chris Nichols spent weeks reading every article ever written by Mazher Mahmood.
Only 70 convictions resulting from Mahmood’s work were ever reported in the paper.
His response — Mahmood’s fourth statement — revealed that the solicitors Linklaters had been called in to conduct their own research.
The lawyers could only confirm 94.
The second article in the series — The Sting In The Singer’s Tale — reveals the hidden history of the recent Tulisa Contostavlos court case.
The case against the singer collapsed when Mahmood was caught lying.
He initially claimed that he had nothing to do with his driver changing his statement about comments the singer made about drugs.
He said he’d not discussed the issue with him.
But it emerged that the driver had sent a copy of his draft statement to Mahmood and had then talked to the reporter.
The judge threw out the case — and accused Mahmood of committing perjury.
In this article, Press Gang reveals that the driver has a criminal past — and was involved in another shady investigation by the Fake Sheik.
The third article — Lying To Leveson — tells the inside story of how Press Gang finally forced Mahmood’s employers to admit he hadn’t told the truth at the Leveson Inquiry.
The fourth piece Withering Heights looks at the Fake Sheik’s work at the Sunday Times.
One of his major stories was obtained by one of his team allegedly sleeping with a dentist to persuade him to commit a crime.
Part 5 examines the Met’s Operation Silverhawk investigation into Mahmood’s false testimony in the Tulisa Contostavlos case.
Called No 10 Silent on “Fake Sheik” Intervention, the piece examines the government’s involvement in Mahmood’s bid to stop last November’s Panorama exposé.
It also asks why the Metropolitan Police refuses to widen the inquiry to include all the cases in which Mahmood gave evidence.
The investigation into Mahmood continues …