Posts Tagged ‘Chris Nichols’

THE STING IN THE SINGER’S TALE

August 29, 2014

STING IN THE SINGER'S TALE

THE FULL story behind the dramatic collapse of the trial of singer Tulisa Contostavlos — and the unscrupulous role of Sun on Sunday reporter Mazher Mahmood — has not been told.

During the trial in July it became clear that one of Mahmood’s associates, a driver called Alan Smith, changed his witness statement after a discussion with the reporter.

Mahmood had claimed, at an earlier hearing, that he hadn’t spoken to him.

Press Gang can now reveal that Smith has a criminal record.

And it’s not the first time he’s played a devious role in one of the undercover reporter’s stories.

The judge in the Tulisa Contostavlos case concluded Mahmood deliberately lied to the court.

The case was dismissed.

Mahmood has now been suspended by The Sun and the Metropolitan Police are investigating the allegation that he committed perjury.

But the extraordinary sequence of events which led to the singer walking free has not been revealed — even though reporters were well aware of it.

The case also calls into question the willingness of Scotland Yard to base criminal cases on the work of a journalist with a long history of perjury allegations.

Long before Tulisa Contostavlos was charged, the editor of this website wrote to the Metropolitan Police asking them to investigate Mahmood for perjury.

We pointed out that Mahmood had not only lied to the Leveson Inquiry about the number of convictions he’d secured but may also have lied about the issue in several of the criminal prosecutions he generated.

The Met did not reply.

This article tells the inside story of how one of Rupert Murdoch’s favourite reporters fell from grace …

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS The singer called Mazher Mahmood a liar as the case against her was sensationally dropped. Photo: PA

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS
THE SINGER speaking outside Southwark Crown Court after the charge that she had been involved in the supply of cocaine was sensationally dropped.  Photo: PA

♦♦♦

ON MAY 10 last year a gang practiced in the arts of entrapment prepared for another session with one of their victims.

The group had rented a suite at the 5 star Metropolitan Hotel just off Park Lane in the centre of London.

The target was the singer Tulisa Contostavlos.

She’d enjoyed a successful career with the hip hop band N’Dubz and had been a judge in the TV series The X Factor for two years running.

The man after her scalp was Mazher Mahmood.

In a controversial career spanning more than three decades, Mahmood had chalked up a reputation as one of the most dangerous adversaries in Fleet Street.

As the “Fake Sheik” he’d humiliated the rich and the powerful — including Prince Edward’s wife, the former Sophie Rhys-Jones, and the Duchess of Kent.

But he’d also seen famous celebrities and sportsmen gaoled after his elaborate stings.

This time it was to be a battle between the experienced Mahmood and a young woman from a broken family in North London.

The odds were stacked against the singer.

Tulisa Contostavlos was just 25.

At 50, Mahmood was twice her age.

She was the only child of musician parents who broke up when she was young.

She lived with her mother who had a long history of mental health problems.

STRAIGHT STALKING  Mazher Mahmood targeted the singer because she held out the promise of a "gold standard" sting — a huge story with criminal convictions at the end of it. Tulisa was young, beautiful and had taken her career in a successful hip hop band to a new level when she became an X Factor judge. But Mahmood also thought she was likely to be a cocaine user — one of the million or so British people who regularly use the drug with a heavy concentration in the entertainment business. She'd also played the part of an addict in a Channel 4 drama and came from a broken family. By early 2013 she'd made it plain she wanted a career in Hollywood — and was therefore ripe for a classic Mahmood sting.

STRAIGHT STALKING
MAZHER MAHMOOD targeted the singer because she held out the promise of a “gold standard” sting — a huge story with criminal convictions at the end of it. Tulisa was young, beautiful and had taken her career in a successful hip hop band to a new level when she became an X Factor judge. But Mahmood also thought she was likely to be a cocaine user — one of the million or so British people who regularly use the drug with a heavy concentration in the entertainment business. By early 2013 she’d made it plain she wanted a career in Hollywood — and was therefore ripe for a classic Mahmood sting …

In her autobiography Honest (2012) she revealed she’d self-harmed as a teenager.

She joined the hip hop band N’Dubz — named after the London district NW1 where she grew up — when she was 12.

The band had its first chart success in May 2007.

In November of that year — when she was 18 — she appeared in the Channel 4 programme Dubplate Drama.

She played a cocaine addict.

In 2011 and 2012 she was one of the judges on Simon Cowell’s The X Factor series.

In May 2012 her solo single “Young” went to No 1.

But a few months earlier her ex-boyfriend Justin Edwards posted online a sex video of the couple.

She took him to court and won damages against him.

By early 2013, she was disillusioned with the music business in Britain.

“I wanted to get out. I wanted to go into acting and piss off to America,” she said later.

She went to Los Angeles to audition for parts.

That’s where Mazher Mahmood and his gang targeted her.

He created a sting based on her public comment that she was a big fan of the actor Leonardo DiCaprio..

He pretended to be a Bollywood producer called Samir Khan and offered her a £3.5 million role in a movie starring alongside DiCaprio.

He flew her to Las Vegas in March 2013 and gave her and her entourage two suites at one of the city’s top hotels, the Venetian.

During her stay, she was given bodyguards and the best tables at nightclubs.

By the time the Las Vegas trip was over, she was convinced she was in line for a major movie that would transform her life.

“I was like a lost puppy,” she later recalled, “because I wanted it so badly to be true.”

♦♦♦

WHEN TULISA and her team arrived at the Metropolitan on May 10, Mahmood and his gang were ready.

The reporter and his entourage were armed with hidden cameras and microphones.

But the singer proved a tough nut to crack.

Throughout the long, six-hour session — and the constant flow of alcohol — she kept a cool head.

She clearly didn’t take drugs.

TABLES TURNED  ON THE journey home from a six hour session where she was plied with drink by Mazher Mahmood's gang, the singer made it clear she disapproved of drugs. It was a statement that was to save her from a criminal conviction — and dramatically turn the tables on her accuser. Mahmood is now being investigated for perjury ... a far more serious offence than the one she was charged with. Photo: PA

TABLES TURNED
ON THE journey home from a six hour session where she was plied with drink by Mazher Mahmood’s gang, the singer made it clear she disapproved of drugs. It was a statement that was to help save her from a criminal conviction — and dramatically turn the tables on her accuser. Mahmood is now being investigated for perjury … a far more serious offence than the one she was charged with.  Photo: PA

She was also discreet.

She was careful not to badmouth the famous people she knew — like Simon Cowell, the man behind X Factor.

Mahmood had brought up the subject of “celebrity prostitution”.

When it was suggested that she go to Mahmood’s bedroom, she refused.

She was going to land the part on the basis of her acting ability alone.

But Mahmood had a trick up his sleeve.

He didn’t believe in formal auditions, he said.

He preferred “social auditioning” and urged her to demonstrate that she could play the character of a young London druggie in order to get the part.

She played the part, pretending to be a member of a drug gang in her past.

Mahmood said he was coming back to London later that month and planning a night out for his friends at a strip club.

Could she help set up the evening?

Still in character, she said it would be no problem.

At the end of the evening, Mahmood’s driver took the singer and her team home.

The driver was a long-standing associate of Mahmood’s called Alan Smith.

During the journey Tulisa and her associates talked about the evening.

The singer said that a member of her family had a drug problem — and that she personally disapproved of them.

At this point she was revealing her real views on drugs …

♦♦♦

ON MAY 21 Tulisa spoke to Mazher Mahmood on the phone about the proposed evening at the night club.

He challenged her to prove her street credentials by giving him the name of a cocaine dealer.

She didn’t know any — but thought that her rapper friend Michael Coombs might pretend to be one.

He’d acted alongside her in the Channel 4 programme Dubplate Drama back in 2007 — Coombs had played the dealer to her character.

She thought he’d be able to string the producer along.

On May 22 Mahmood rang Coombs who agreed to supply cocaine.

At a meeting at the Dorchester in the early hours of the next day, Coombs sold the reporter just under half an ounce — 13.9 grams — of cocaine for £820.

MICHAEL COOMBS The 36-year-old rapper friend of Tulisa C, known as Mike GLC, pleaded guilty to selling Mazher Mahmood 13.9 grams of cocaine for £860. The case against him was also dropped when the judge realised that Mahmood had lied under oath. Photo: PA

MICHAEL COOMBS
THE RAPPER friend of Tulisa C, known as Mike GLC, pleaded guilty to selling Mazher Mahmood 13.9 grams of cocaine for £820. The case against him was also dropped when the judge realised that Mahmood had lied under oath.    Photo: PA

Coombs made it clear to Mahmood that he was only supplying the drugs as a favour to Tulisa.

The exchange was filmed.

On June 2 the Sun on Sunday “World Exclusive” front page proclaimed “Tulisa’s Cocaine Deal Shame”.

She was arrested two days later.

By the time the trial began on July 14 this year, the omens were not good for the singer.

Mike Coombs pleaded guilty to supplying the drug — and was likely to face a prison sentence.

The singer pleaded not guilty to being involved in the supply of cocaine.

Her defence team had earlier failed to have the case struck out.

Her barrister said that the offer of a £3.5 million role in a film alongside DiCaprio was an “exceptional inducement”.

He also argued that the evidence Mahmood supplied was invalid because it broke the Police and Criminal Evidence Act — it was tainted by the amounts of alcohol the singer had consumed.

Judge Alistair McCreath rejected both applications.

He also refused to allow the defence to introduce details of other criminal cases involving Mahmood which had collapsed.

And he would not allow the defence to bring evidence of Mahmood’s bad character.

The defence team were still confident that they had a strong defence.

But Tulisa later said she was 100 per cent certain she was going to be convicted:

“I was preparing for prison.”

♦♦♦ 

BUT A miracle was about to happen.

When Mahmood handed over the sting material to the police, there was nothing from the driver Alan Smith.

The defence had a hunch that his vehicle had been bugged on the night he took her home from the Metropolitan.

A few weeks before the trial, the defence insisted police take a statement from him.

On June 23 a detective constable rang Smith and took notes of the conversation.

Smith told the detective that the subject of drugs came up and Tulisa had been very negative about them.

The detective prepared a statement and rang Smith to check it.

Tulisa_-_The_Sun_-_02.06.13__1__.jpg(2000660001.310.0FEF6)

He made sure that the driver understood his obligations as a potential witness.

Smith said he was happy with the statement and would sign it.

The detective emailed the statement.

The next day, Smith rang the detective.

He said he was no longer sure it was the singer who had made the comment — it might have been another woman in the car.

The statement was changed and Smith signed it.

The next day, June 25, both statements were provided to the defence.

Here, they thought, was a ray of hope.

Smith’s initial statement gave credibility to the singer’s story that she was only playing a part when she was talking to Mahmood.

On June 27 — three days after Smith signed his changed statement — Mazher Mahmood was giving evidence under oath at a pre-trial hearing.

He was questioned by Tulisa’s barrister Jeremy Dein, QC about Alan Smith’s comment.

First, he was asked if the conversation between Alan Smith and the singer had been recorded.

“No”, answered Mahmood.

“But did you subsequently ask or find out, discuss with Mr Smith anything that was said in the car?

The answer was again “No”.

“Because I just want to see whether you were aware of this.”

“Mr Smith made a statement to the police saying that in the car Ms Contostavlos was talking about drugs and saying that a member of her family had a drug problem and she disapproved of drugs.”

“All I want to know from you is whether you discussed that with Mr Smith at any stage?”

The answer from Mahmood was clear and emphatic:

“No.”

Mahmood’s answers intrigued the defence team.

Lawyers from Hickman Rose, who represented the singer, began to make inquiries about Alan Smith.

They quickly discovered he’d been a long-term member of Mahmood’s team.

And he had a criminal record.

He’s also been involved in some of the reporter’s stories.

In May 1997, while he was Investigations Editor at the News of the World, Mahmood published an exposé of  a centre in Hayes where the courts sent prisoners to do community service.

One of the people he exposed was an unemployed chauffeur called Alan Graham who was photographed sleeping in the back of a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit.

The caption read “Snooze a Naughty Boy?”

What Mahmood did not tell News of the World readers was that Graham was actually one of his drivers, Alan Smith.

Mahmood calls him “Smithy” and describes him as a “bald-headed burly” and said he was a “wide boy”.

The Rolls Royce had been hired by the paper.

Smith had been sentenced to 100 hours community service by Uxbridge magistrates for fraud.

Mahmood later said that Smith had been included in the article under an alias to disguise the fact that he was the informant for the story …

♦♦♦

THE WEEK before the trial opened, the defence asked the Crown Prosecution Service to bring Alan Smith to the court as a potential witness.

On July 16, the third day of the trial, Smith was interviewed by defence solicitors in the presence of a Metropolitan Police detective.

This took place while Mahmood was on the stand, giving evidence for the prosecution.

BEN ROSE The lawyer headed the legal team representing Tulisa Contostavlos. They suspected

BEN ROSE
THE LAWYER headed the legal team representing Tulisa Contostavlos. Solicitors suspected there was something fishy about the evidence given by Mazher Mahmood’s driver … Photo: Hickman Rose

Smith confirmed that the original version of his statement stated that the subject of drugs had come up.

The singer had been very negative about them.

But he’d become unhappy about the statement.

He told the defence he’d sent a copy of the initial statement to Mahmood and then spoke to him about what he should do.

He said that Mahmood told him that, if he was unhappy with his statement, he should ring the police and change it.

The defence team were stunned.

Mahmood had said, on oath on June 27, that he hadn’t discussed anything with Smith.

Now the driver was saying the exact opposite.

One of the two men was lying…

♦♦♦

THE NEXT day, Thursday, was the fourth day of the trial.

It was to be a day of high drama.

Mazher Mahmood was back in the witness-box to be cross-examined by defence QC Jeremy Dein.

Overnight, Mahmood had learned what Smith had told the defence — and realised he now faced a serious dilemma.

Once again, Dein asked him if he’d discussed with Smith what was said in the car.

Mahmood now changed his story.

He admitted he had talked to the driver two weeks earlier.

He said that Smith had rung him and said he wasn’t happy with his statement.

Mahmood told the court Smith had emailed the statement and the two men then had a conversation about it.

Mahmood told him that he should ring the police and change it if he was not sure Tulisa had made the remark.

Dein put it to Mahmood that he had lied when he gave evidence at the earlier hearing.

“I disagree with you,” was Mahmood’s answer.

The barrister put it to him that it was he, Mahmood, who had persuaded Smith to change his statement.

“I did not,” replied Mahmood.

Mahmood added that the change made no difference.

Smith, he said, was sensitive about drugs because his son had recently died of a drugs overdose.

After Mahmood left the box, Judge Alistair McCreath sent the jury out.

He then addressed both the prosecution and the defence.

He made it clear that he felt Mahmood had told a “knowing lie” when he gave evidence on June 27.

And that he did so, in his opinion, to conceal “improper conduct”: he had interfered with evidence that would have been to Tulisa’s advantage.

In circumstances where a key witness was guilty of “gross misconduct”, he added, it would be an abuse for the state to rely on him.

It would also compromise judicial integrity — “it would be on the court’s conscience,” he said.

He then adjourned the court.

Throughout these proceedings, the press gallery was packed.

Reporters cannot report what’s said when the jury is out but the judge’s comments would have made it clear that Mahmood’s earlier dramatic climb-down was not only sensational — it now threatened the entire case.

Yet not a word of what had happened was reported by that evening’s radio and television news.

The next morning, the press were also silent.

The Daily Mail, for example, led with the story that one of Tulisa’s aides told Mahmood that he believed Simon Cowell was gay.

The defence team were disappointed.

They’d hoped press reports of the sensational developments might generate other material helpful to their case.

♦♦♦

FRIDAY WAS the fifth day of the trial.

By now it was clear that the judge was proposing to reopen the abuse application he had turned down the previous month.

The prosecution, though, were unable to get advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about contesting it.

So the matter was left to the following Monday.

By then, the CPS had thrown in the towel and made no objection to the judge re-opening the defence application to stop the proceedings.

Judge McCreath not only halted the trial — he also dismissed the case against Michael Coombs, who had already pleaded guilty to supplying the cocaine.

He said that if he had thrown out the case earlier, Coombs would not have had to stand trial.

In his judgment, McCreath was scathing about Mahmood’s evidence about Alan Smith’s statements:

“When he gave evidence last week, he was asked questions on the same topic and gave answers which were entirely inconsistent with his earlier evidence.”

“And it certainly appears that the contact he had with Mr Smith was not unconnected with a fundamental change in the evidence which it was anticipated Mr Smith was going to give.”

“He was, as you will have understood, expected to be able to give evidence supportive of Ms Contostavlos — that she told him she disapproves of hard drugs.”

RUPERT MURDOCH THE BILLIONAIRE media tycoon has always had a soft spot for Mazher Mahmood. Is he now beginning to wonder if the "Fake Sheikh" has outlived his usefulness? Photo: PA

RUPERT MURDOCH
THE BILLIONAIRE media tycoon has always had a soft spot for Mazher Mahmood…    Photo: PA

“But after his conversation with Mr Mahmood, he had changed his mind.”

“It should not be forgotten that Mr Mahmood is

– the sole progenitor of this case

– the sole investigator

– the sole prosecution witness

– a man who has exercised his journalistic privilege to create a situation where the identities of others involved in the investigation are unknown to the defence (or the prosecution or even to me)

– someone who appears to have gone to considerable lengths to get Ms Contostavlos to agree to involve herself in criminal conduct, certainly to far greater lengths that would have been regarded as appropriate had he been a police investigator.”

He concluded:

 “there are strong grounds for believing that Mr Mahmood told me lies when he gave evidence to me on June 27”.

And he added:

“there are also strong grounds for believing that the underlying purpose of these lies was to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence in this case by getting Mr Smith to change his account.”

He ended by saying, ominously for Mahmood:

“My view of the evidence cannot bind any other court which may (or may not) be called on to consider this matter in a different context.”

The fall-out from the collapse of the case was instant.

The Sun suspended Mahmood until an “immediate internal investigation” was complete.

The paper issued a statement:

“We are very disappointed with this outcome, but do believe the original investigation was conducted within the bounds of the law and the industry’s code.”

But it added:

The Sun, of course, takes the judge’s remarks very seriously.”

A spokesman for The Sun told us this week Mahmood remains suspended and that “the internal investigation is ongoing.”

“I will not divulge further details of an internal investigation.”

He added that Alan Smith “worked on an ad-hoc basis with Mr Mahmood.”

The Met said:

” … the Metropolitan Police Service have been able to consider the judgment issued by the trial Judge along with other material supplied by the Prosecution Counsel …”.

“As a consequence of the information supplied officers from Specialist Crime and Operations are now investigating whether any of the matters highlighted amount to the commission of any criminal offences.”

The CPS said it “has no investigative powers and therefore any criminal investigations following the conclusion of this case are a matter for the Metropolitan Police Service.”

On September 30 lawyers for Tulisa Contostavlos will be in court for a hearing to determine if the Sun on Sunday should pay her legal costs.

They have still not decided if she will sue the newspaper.

♦♦♦

THE COLLAPSE of the trial raises many questions.

There’s no doubt the Metropolitan Police had no choice but to investigate when presented with clear evidence that Michael Coombs had sold drugs to Mahmood.

But the force was well aware that Mahmood, throughout his career, has come in for sustained criticism about his methods, some of it from judges.

They should have subjected his evidence to a forensic investigation of their own.

It should have been the force that interviewed Alan Smith and not have left it to the defence to force them to do it.

If Smith had not been interviewed, it’s possible Tulisa Contostavlos would now have a criminal record.

NEW SCOTLAND YARD When Press Gang editor wrote and asked the force to investigate  allegations that Mazher Mahmood may have committed perjury in many of the cases where he gave evidence, there was no reply. Photo: Rebecca Television

NEW SCOTLAND YARD
IN 2012 Press Gang editor Paddy French wrote and asked the force to investigate allegations that Mazher Mahmood may have committed perjury in many of the cases where he gave evidence. There was no reply.                    Photo: Rebecca Television

The force can’t say it wasn’t warned about the possibility of Mahmood committing perjury.

InNovember 2012 the editor of this website, Paddy French, wrote to Sue Akers, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, asking her to investigate allegations that Mahmood was a serial perjurer.

The letter cited the claim he made to the Leveson Inquiry, under oath, that he had more than 250 criminal convictions to his credit while he was Investigations Editor at the News of the World.

This was untrue.

Paddy French and researcher Chris Nichols had examined the News of the World throughout Mahmood’s career — and could find reports of only 70 convictions.

The full story is contained in the article The Life And Times Of A Serial Perjurer.

In the wake of this investigation, the Leveson Inquiry put the allegation to Mahmood.

What was then called News International called in the lawfirm Linklaters to carry out a proper audit.

In a subsequent statement to Leveson, Mahmood admitted that Linklaters could only find 94.

The letter also drew attention to the case against the London’s Burning actor John Alford who was gaoled in 1999 for supplying cocaine to Mahmood.

“In the September 2000 judgment refusing the actor known as John Alford leave to appeal against a nine month sentence for supplying cocaine to Mazher Mahmood’s undercover team in 1999, the court noted that Mahmood claimed 89 SCPs [successful criminal prosecutions”.

At that point, French and Nichols had found only 28.

The letter concluded by asking the Met “to examine Mr Mahmood’s testimony in all the court cases he gave evidence in to see if he has potentially committed perjury …”

A press officer told us Akers had retired and “the letter has been forwarded to deputy assistant commissioner Steve Kavanagh for consideration.”

“You will be contacted in due course.”

Kavanagh never replied.

♦♦♦

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FAKE CONVICTIONS

August 29, 2014
FAKE CONVICTIONS

THE COLLAPSE of the Tulisa Contostavlos trial in July is the latest scandal to hit Rupert Murdoch’s prize investigative reporter Mazher Mahmood.

The case against the singer-turned-entertainer was thrown out when the judge said Mahmood — also known as the “Fake Sheik” — lied when he gave evidence to the court.

Now the Metropolitan Police is considering possible perjury charges against the Sun on Sunday reporter.

Lies have been a staple part of Mahmood’s amoral newspaper career — and Press Gang has been at the heart of exposing many of them.

Here we republish an article which first appeared in April 2012.

It tells the story of an unscrupulous journalist who will do anything — including committing perjury in the witness box — to get ahead.

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS THE SINGER"S trial collapsed in July after the judge found that mazher Mahmood had lied under oath.  Photo: PA                                                              THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood was caught lying in the witness box ...    Photo: PA

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood was caught lying in the witness box … Photo: PA

♦♦♦

ONE OF the few people to come out of the News of the World hacking scandal with his reputation intact was Investigations Editor Mazher Mahmood.

After the gaoling of royal correspondent Clive Goodman and private eye Glenn Mulcaire in 2007, Mahmood was held up as a beacon of the real News of the World.

In 2008 the Murdoch-owned HarperCollins published Confessions of a Fake Sheik in which Mahmood claimed:

“To date I have been responsible for more than 230 successful criminal prosecutions.”

When he made a statement for the Leveson Inquiry in 2011 the figure has risen to 253.

But when Press Gang challenged Mahmood to provide the evidence to substantiate the claim his employers News International refused to provide a list.

We carried out our own investigaton and went through every article Mazher Mahmood had written for the News of the World.

There was only evidence to support 70.

And we found evidence Mazher Mahmood may have protected a relative who was involved in a fake passport racket …

THE MAN WITH NO FACE One of the few photographs of Mazher Mahmood, taken many years ago. The former Investigations Editor of the News of the World has claimed that publishing his picture would endanger his life.

THE MAN WITH NO FACE
ONE OF the few photographs of Mazher Mahmood, taken many years ago. The former Investigations Editor of the News of the World claims that publishing his picture would endanger his life …

♦♦♦

WHEN FORMER News of the World Investigations Editor Mazher Mahmood appeared before Lord Leveson in December 2011, he was allowed a special concession.

Leveson ordered that the television cameras be turned off.

“For good reason,” he said, “this evidence is being heard in circumstances that, although the witness’ account will be given orally, it will not be screened visually … to the public.”

“I make that order having regard to all the circumstances of the case.”

Leveson never explained what the “good reason” was but it’s likely the judge accepted Mahmood’s claim that showing his face would endanger his life.

Five years earlier, however, another judge had come to a different conclusion.

It happened as a result of a Mazher Mahmood undercover sting involving the MP George Galloway.

Posing as the Fake Sheik, Mahmood had dinner with Galloway at the Dorchester Hotel in London in March 2006.

GEORGE GALLOWAY The MP was one of the few victims of Mazher Mahmood's "Fake Sheikh" stings to see through the disguise. He posted photographs of Mahmood on the internet.

GEORGE GALLOWAY
THE MP was one of the few victims of Mazher Mahmood’s Fake Sheik stings to see through the disguise. He posted photographs of Mahmood on the internet.   Photo: PA

Galloway believes Mahmood was trying to entice him into illegally accepting campaign contributions from foreign donors.

“After dessert”, Mahmood says in his book Confessions of a Fake Sheik, “Galloway enjoyed a coffee and posed for a picture with myself and my minder Jaws …”

Jaws — a giant of a man with a “full deck of gold teeth with diamonds embedded” — was actually Mahmood Qureshi, Mazher Mahmood’s second cousin.

Galloway later remembered a section about Mazher Mahmood in Andrew Marr’s book My Trade which contained a description of Jaws.

Galloway went public — and threatened to publish phototgraphs of Mazher Mahmood on his Respect Party website.

The News of the World were awarded a temporary injunction preventing the posting of the images.

But the following day Judge Mitting decided to lift the injunction.

The judge was not impressed by the argument that publication of Mahmood’s image might be useful to targets out for revenge.

“For photographs of Mr Mahmood to be of any use to such people they would have to have a whole package of further information,” the judge noted, “not least information as to his whereabouts and habits.”

“Armed with such information, the photographs might be of some assistance, but one would have expected anybody who had got that information also to have been able to obtain at a mimimum a description — more likely a photograph — of Mr Mahmood to permit them to inflict whatever harm it was that they might have in mind.”

Judge Mitting concluded:

“I am satisfied that the true purpose of this application is not protection of Mr Mahmood’s life and physical integrity but the protection of his earning capacity and position as an investigative journalist and his utility to his employers in that respect.”

♦♦♦

LORD LEVESON’S decision to switch off the cameras inevitably increased the mystique surrounding one of Rupert Murdoch’s star reporters — if his life was under threat, it suggested his journalism must be important.

In his sworn statement to the Inquiry, Mahmood claimed his journalism at the News of the World had led to the successful prosecution of 253 people.

When he gave oral evidence in December 2012, he said this figure was already old hat.

“It’s incorrect, actually,” he said on oath.

“The total has gone up to 261, and as we sit here at the moment, at Southwark Crown Court, two more women are being sentenced as a result of my work.”

So he was claiming a grand total of 263 convictions.

When Press Gang examined the News of the World for the period Mazher Mahmood worked there, we could only find evidence of 70 convictions (see the Appendix for the full list).

In his statement to the Leveson Inquiry Mahmood said:

“… ethics should be of paramount importance in all fields of journalism because in my view a large part of investigative journalism is to expose moral-wrongdoing … ”

The Leveson Inquiry was to examine Mahmood’s own moral compass in some detail.

When he gave evidence to the Inquiry in December last year, Mahmood was asked by barrister David Barr about the reasons why he left the Sunday Times back in 1988.

“Is it right that you left the Sunday Times under something of a cloud …?”

“We had a disagreement,” replied Mahmood, “Correct.”

This interpretation of the crisis that unfolded at the Sunday Times in December 1988 angered Roy Greenslade who had been the managing editor of the paper at the time.

He compiled a witness statement and a series of exhibits and submitted them to the Leveson team.

Greenslade told how, in 1988, he had received a complaint from a police officer about a story Mazher Mahmood had written the previous week.

The story was about a chief inspector in Plymouth who had been convicted of drink driving after an accident.

ROY GREENSLADE The former Sunday Times executive — now professor of journalism at City University London — revealed that Mazher Mahmood resigned from the paper in 1988 minutes before he was to be sacked for dishonesty.

ROY GREENSLADE
THE FORMER Sunday Times executive — now professor of journalism at City University, London — revealed that Mazher Mahmood resigned from the paper in 1988 minutes before he was to be sacked for dishonesty.   Photo: Roy Greenslade

Mahmood wrote that the officer had been demoted to the rank of constable.

In fact, the demotion was only to inspector.

The Sunday Times apologised for the error the following week.

When he was challenged about the mistake, Mahmood claimed that it was the fault of the Devon News Agency which had sent a report of the court case to the Sunday Times.

The news agency were contacted — they insisted their original version had the correct demotion.

The Sunday Times computer room was asked to retrieve the version the agency had sent.

This showed the demotion was to constable.

But in the course of this inquiry, a computer operator mentioned that Mazher Mahmood had recently visited the room.

A more detailed investigation began.

It uncovered an earlier version of the news agency story — the demotion to inspector was correctly reported.

Mahmood admitted going to the computer room but denied tampering with the computer record.

A meeting of senior executives chaired by editor Andrew Neil took place.

It was decided he would be fired.

After the meeting, Greenslade found a letter of resignation from Mahmood on his desk.

“Because of the nature of my work,” Mahmood wrote, “I am only able to operate with the absolute support and trust of my senior colleagues and lawyers, but now that my honesty and integrity is in question, I feel there is no longer a place on the paper.”

After Greenslade’s devastating witness statement, Lord Leveson called Mahmood back before him in January 2013.

David Barr now questioned Mahmood again:

“Tampering with the computer file in order to pass the mistake from yourself to the Devon News Agency was wrong, wasn’t it”

“Absolutely,” admitted Mahmood.

“Look, I was a young reporter,” he added, “and I’d had a series of run-ins with Mr Greenslade while at the paper, and, you know, I’d made a mistake.”

“I acknowledge that, and rather than incur the wrath of an executive I didn’t get on with, I foolishly thought the best way would be to cover my mistake.”

“It was the wrong thing to do, and I resigned.”

Roy Greenslade does not remember having a bad working relationship with Mahmood.

♦♦♦

WHEN THE News of the World closed in July 2011, Mahmood was without a paper for a couple of weeks.

But at the end of August he re-joined the Sunday Times.

Editor John Witherow was asked if he had any concerns about taking on the man who had been caught lying to the paper in 1988.

“Clearly, we checked him out very carefully and needed reassurances that he was not involved in any way with the phone hacking, which he assured us he wasn’t, and independently we were assured he wasn’t.”

“As far as I am aware, the police have no interest in him, so that was very important before we took him on.”

Witherow was happy to have a man of Mahmood’s undercover skills on his staff:

“He has an exemplary record on these sorts of stories.”

“He has instigated, I think, about 250 prosecutions of people, for exposing criminality.”

“Yes, we were concerned but I think he is a remarkable operator in that form of journalism.”

We asked Witherow if he had checked to see if Mazher Mahmood’s claims about the number of convictions stacked up.

He didn’t reply.

WASEEM MAHMOOD, OBE Mazher Mahmood's early career was built on betraying his family including his brother Waseem. At a family dinner, he revealed that some of his brother's colleagues at BBC Birmingham were moonlighting. When Mazher Mahmood exposed the practice, Waseem was forced to resign. When

WASEEM MAHMOOD, OBE
Waseem Mahmood is Mazher’s brother. He was a successful BBC producer in Birmingham in the 1980s — until his brother wrote an exposé of moonlighting at the Pebble Mill studios based on gossip around the Mahmood family dinner table. Waseem Mahmood says: “With only ‘an unnamed BBC insider’ identified as the source for the revelations, I tendered my resignation the day after the article appeared, and when my mother refused to admonish my brother, claiming that it was a good story and that ‘he was only doing his job’, I packed up my wife and children and left the family home, never to return.” Waseem was forced to go abroad to rebuild his shattered career but succeeded — he was awarded an OBE in the 2005 News Years Honours List for his media work in countries affected by war. Photo: Waseem Mahmood

♦♦♦

WHEN MAZHER Mahmood started work at the News of the World in December 1991, he was one of many investigative reporters on the paper.

Under editor Patsy Chapman, he was just another member of the team.

When Piers Morgan took over in January 1994, it’s clear that he didn’t think much of Mahmood.

Readers of his 2005 book The Insider will not find the name Mazher Mahmood in the index.

The feeling was mutual — there’s no mention of Piers Morgan in the index of Mahmood’s 2008 Confessions of a Fake Sheik.

It was not until Phil Hall took over from Morgan in August 1995 that Mahmood’s star began to rise.

Hall made him Investigations Editor and, in March 1996, the paper made a major claim for the success of Mahmood’s articles.

The piece followed the conviction of a solicitor gaoled for six months for living off immoral earnings after an undercover operation.

The conviction, claimed the News of the World, “brings the total of villains successfully prosecuted after being exposed in our pages by Mazher to a staggering EIGHTY in four years.”

But, up to that point, the Press Gang analysis of the News of the World had only carried stories about 13 named people who’d been convicted.

With the mention of a further five unnamed people, the maximum number of successful prosecutions was 18.

♦♦♦

IN THE course of our research, we found an extraordinary story which Mazher Mahmood had published in September 1996.

On the face of it, it was a typical Mahmood operation: he infiltrated a gang run by a Bradford hairdresser who were running a fake passport racket.

The hairdresser was buying genuine passports from British Asians and then amending them so that illegal immigrants could enter the country.

Mahmood posed as one of these buyers and successfully entered the UK via a Eurostar train from Paris.

What made this article unusual was that the man buying the genuine passports was “a local thug called Mehmood, known as Jaws because he has gold teeth studded with diamonds.”

Although the article calls him “Mehmood” and doesn’t give his last name, the description is uncannily similar to the one Mazher Mahmood gives for the Jaws that later became his bodyguard.

This undercover operation could easily have netted three successful criminal prosecutions for Mahmood — yet there is no evidence that he went to the police.

In our recorded delivery letter sent to Mazher Mahmood in March 2012, we asked him if the Jaws in the article was the man who became his bodyguard.

He didn’t reply.

Jaws is one of the key supporting actors in the Mazher Mahmood story.

Until he was paralysed in a car crash in 2006, he had been Mahmood’s bodyguard for several years.

In his book Confessions of a Fake Sheik, published in 2008, Mahmood says: “Jaws was huge, and spent every day at the gym, so was a powerful looking man as well.”

“He was from Bradford and had spent his early adult life committing a number of petty crimes in and around the area.”

“He’d gone to see a fortune teller who told him that a long-lost relative would change his life, so he flew out to Pakistan and spent all his money trying to find a relative who’d do that, speaking in his Yorkshire accent as he went; but found no one to help so returned home”.

“He saw my name in the paper and called me, and I did — change his life, that is.”

“He joined me, working as my bodyguard, and with his size and those teeth he was an unforgettable sight.”

“He was a great man to have standing next to you, intimidating and forceful when needed.”

But three years earlier Jaws, alias Mahmood Qureshi, had given a different version of their relationship.

"JAWS" Mahmmod Quereshi — known as Jaws for his diamond-studded gold teeth — is a key figure in the Mazher Mahmood story. A former criminal, he became a minder and a fixer for Mazher Mahmood.

“JAWS”
Mahmmod Quereshi — known as Jaws for his diamond-studded gold teeth — is a key figure in the Mazher Mahmood story. A former criminal, he became a minder and a fixer for Mazher Mahmood.

He was appearing in a libel action brought by one of the gang Mazher Mahmood had accused of trying to kidnap Victoria Beckham.

Jaws had been part of the undercover team infiltrating the so-called gang.

He was accused of inciting gang members.

While he was on the stand, in April 2005, Jaws changed his evidence.

At first, he’d insisted that he hadn’t been asked by Mazher Mahmood to “initiate conversation about the kidnap”.

But later he admitted that Mazher Mahmood had asked him to do so.

David Price, acting for the gang member, seized on the change of evidence.

He accused Jaws of trying to protect Mahmood in his earlier testimony — claiming that Mahmood had given Jaws “a chance in life” after a life of crime with employment at the News of the World.

“You are trying to protect your cousin,” said Price, “because he gave you a chance in life”.

Jaws replied:

“How did he give me a chance? He did not give me a chance. How?”

Price then went through Jaws’ criminal career — stretching back to 1982 before finally ending in 1999.

“You owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Mahmood and that explains why you lied to the court this morning, that’s what I’m suggesting. Do you want to comment on that?”

“No, I do not want to comment, there’s no comment on that,” replied Qureshi.

“I did not lie. I got it wrong.”

Later, Jaws explained that his entire earnings from his involvement in various News of the World stories was “less than £10,000 … perhaps near £5,000.”

♦♦♦

BY THE time Rebekah Brooks took over the editorship in May 2000, the News of the World was claiming 103 convictions for Mazher Mahmood’s investigations.

This is at odds with the Press Gang analysis at that point: 32 named individuals with another nine who were unnamed.

By the time she left to edit The Sun in January 2003, the News of the World claimed Mazher Mahmood’s convictions stood at 119 compared with our tally of 32 named defendants with a further nine unnamed.

Brooks was replaced by Andy Coulson who lasted four years until he resigned in January 2007 after the paper’s Royal Correspondent Clive Goodman was gaoled for hacking royal phones.

Under his leadership, Mazher Mahmood’s claimed convictions had jumped to 145 but the Press Gang version only showed 62 defendants successfully prosecuted (17 of them unnamed).

Colin Myler replaced Coulson — who went on to become David Cameron’s Director of Communications.

Myler was responsible for the biggest single leap in the claimant count of any News of the World editor — in April 2007 Mazher Mahmood’s total suddenly rocketed to 204 convictions.

Mazher Mahmood claims a high moral purpose: catching criminals, revealing "moral wrong-doing" and exposing hypocrisy. There's no doubt he's caught some serious criminals — including child abusers and would-be murderers — but the bulk of his journalism reveals a different picture. A third of his stories are about sex — over a quarter target celebrities or royalty. A substantial proportion of the people in his stories are originally from the Asian sub-continent. One of the ironies about Mahmood — the child of immigrant parents from Pakistan — is that he spent an enormous amount of his time in the ethnic  communities of Britain looking for people he can expose. This fed into a News of the World agenda that painted Britain as an "open house" for foreign scroungers, cheats and criminals.

THE News of the World claimed a high moral purpose for Mazher Mahmood’s work: catching criminals, revealing “moral wrong-doing” and exposing hypocrisy. There’s no doubt he caught a couple of serious criminals — including child abusers and would-be murderers — but the bulk of his journalism reveals a different picture. A third of his stories are about sex — over a quarter target celebrities or royalty. A substantial proportion of the people in his stories are originally from the Asian sub-continent. One of the ironies about Mahmood — the child of immigrant parents from Pakistan — is that he spent an enormous amount of his time in the ethnic communities of Britain looking for people to expose. This fed into a News of the World agenda that painted Britain as an “open house” for foreign scroungers, cheats and criminals.

This figure arrived out of the blue — the paper had carried reports of only two convictions since the paper’s previous claim of 145.

One possible explanation for the jump was a sting operation which Mazher Mahmood organised in May 2006 to catch illegal immigrants.

Pretending that he wanted people to work, he collected 70 people — and had them driven to the Colnbrook Detention Centre near Heathrow.

Police had already been tipped off and 66 were arrested and detained.

Press Gang asked the Home Office what happened to these people.

They were not able to tell us.

There is no doubt that they could all have been prosecuted for staying in Britain illegally.

But, if that is the case, then it is surprising that the News of the World didn’t report the fact.

There is another way of dealing with illegal immigrants — “administrative removal”.

This is where the immigrant agrees to go back home voluntarily.

This system is fast and cheap and avoids the courts.

Press Gang did not include these people — we considered that, if they had been prosecuted, the News of the World would have reported the fact.

By the time the paper closed in July 2011 it was claiming more than 250 successful criminal prosecutions.

Press Gang could find evidence of only 70 — with 18 of those unnamed.

♦♦♦

APPENDIX: The Successful Criminal Proesecutions of Mazher Mahmood

THE METHODOLOGY followed in preparing the following list of convictions was that all articles written by or featuring Mazher Mahmood were examined.

Between December 1991 and December 1995, physical copies of the News of the World were viewed on microfilm.

From January 1996 to July 2011, all News of the World articles on the Newsbank electronic database were analysed.

The research was carried out by Chris Nichols and Paddy French and took place at the British Library, Colindale, London.

The names of 52 individuals reported to have been convicted (including one where the name was with-held to protect a victim) are listed.

18 convictions where the names are not given are identified separately.

The date of the article where the conviction is reported, if available, is given.

In all cases, the article refers to the conviction and not the original exposé.

1991 No convictions reported.

1992 No convictions reported.

1993 6 convictions reported:
4 July: Terry Valvona & Rosemary Iredale
5 Sept: Norman Wardell
12 Dec: Syed Rizvi, Parghat Heer, Fahim Iqbal

1994 No convictions reported.

1995 9 convictions reported (including 5 unnamed):
17 Sept: Shafique & Salim Mumtaz, Iqbal Raja, Ghulam Murtaza and 5 other unnamed individuals

1996 4 convictions reported:
17 March: Gordon Brown, Paul Garlick
24 March: Stephen Harvey
8 September: Kim Lisles

1997 7 convictions reported (including 3 unnamed):
10 Aug: Mohinder Singh
17 Aug: Bruce Allen, Jonathan Pickering and three others, unnamed
21 Dec: Brenda Tonnesson

1998 2 convictions reported:
14 June: Iqbal Master
20 Dec: Clifford Davies

1999 4 convictions reported:
9 May: John Alford 26 Sept: Earl Hardwicke, Stefan Thwaites
17 Oct: disc jockey Johnnie Walker

2000 7 convictions were reported:
20 Feb: Dr Manohar Rangwani
28 May: Mohammed Khan
13 Aug: Mohammed Yousif
1 Oct: Gary Harris, David Weir, Barry Dickenson Undated: Ishmail Pirbhai [not reported in 2000 but cited in final News of the World issue in July 2011]

2001 No convictions reported.

2002 3 convictions reported (including I unnamed):
2 June: Shaheen Begolli
29 Sept: Antonio Russo + 1 unnamed)

2003 5 convictions reported:
6 July: Joseph Rivas, Luzum Balliu
14 Sept: Neil Montgomery
28 Sept: David Cheney, Sultan Merchant

FINAL EDITION The successful criminal prosecutions of Mazher Mahmood were plastered all over the final issue of the paper in July 2011. They were bogus ...

FINAL EDITION
THE News of the World was often confused about its claims for the success of Mazher Mahmood. In March 1996, for example, the paper said the number of successful prosecutions was 80 in four years. By December 1997 it was claiming a total of 88 in three years… Often it couldn’t even make its mind up about what it was actually talkng about. In February 2004 it was boasting of 127 people “behind bars” — an absurd claim when many defendants were fined, given suspended sentences or ordered to do community service.

2004 2 convictions reported:
15 Feb: San Keung Yau, Keith Blasdale

2005 3 convictions reported:
30 Jan: Niki Dimitrov
10 April: Agha Mohammed, Besnik Qema

2006 11 convictions reported (including 9 unnamed):
23 July: Paul Singh, Adeola Magbagebeola and 9 others, unnamed.

2007 3 convictions reported:
8 April: Rani & Joginder Kashyap
22 April: Name withheld to protect daughter [but counted as named for the purposes of this survey].

2008 2 convictions reported:
26 Oct: Mohammed Kutubuddin
Undated: Gary Pennant [not reported in 2008 but cited in final News of the World edition in July 2011]

2009 No convictions reported.

2010 2 convictions reported:
24 Jan: Suresh Kumar, Baldev Sidhu

2011 No convictions reported.
The News of the World closed in July 2011.

♦♦♦

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