The British Pakistani undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood – known as the “Fake Sheikh” – has been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Mahmood, known for his sting operations for the News of the World and the Sun, has been charged along with Alan Smith, a witness in the collapsed trial of the singer Tulisa Contostavlos.
In announcing the charges, Nick Vamos, deputy head of special crime at the CPS, said the men were being charged “after a full file of evidence was submitted by the Metropolitan police on 5 June this year”.
He said: “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.”
Mahmood and Smith are due to appear at Westminster magistrates court on 30 October.
In a statement issued through his lawyer, Mahmood said: “I am deeply disappointed that, after a totally unjustified delay, the Crown Prosecution Service have today informed me that they have decided to charge me with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
“I deny the offence. I will vigorously contest it at court. In the meantime I have nothing further to say.”
The charges followed a police investigation launched after the collapse of a trial in July 2014 involving Contostavlos.
She had been charged after a Sun on Sunday article in June 2013 by Mahmood in which he alleged that she had helped to obtain cocaine at his request.
The Metropolitan police passed a file to the CPS in early June this year after an investigation into Mahmood’s actions during the trial.
WHO IS THE FAKE SHEIKH?
Mahmood hails from one of the most influential dynasties in Pakistan.
His father Sultan and mother Shamim were both journalists in Pakistan before migrating to Britain in 1960. Sultan Mahmood, who passed away in 2005, was the founder of ‘Mashriq’, the UK’s first Urdu-language newspaper.
Mahmood senior was also a regular contributor to some of Pakistan’s biggest newspapers.
Mazher Mahmood, 52, worked variously for the Sunday People, the News of the World and the Sunday Times as an investigative reporter, building a reputation for uncovering a myriad array of controversies whilst posing as a sheikh from the Gulf region.
Among his most notable stings are a slew of sports-related stories, including his 1999 expose of Newcastle United bosses Freddy Shepherd and Douglas Hall who were filmed mocking the club’s fans and making derogatory comments about women; the exposing of footballer John Fashanu for match fixing as well as a 2010 operation in which World Snooker Champion John Higgins agreed to fix matches.
In 2010, Mahmood posed as a cricket bookie to trap Pakistani cricketers Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt to commit spot-fixing during Pakistan’s tour of England.
Other operations however, have come under attack, including one in which the now-defunct News of the World was criticized for reporting a story about an international terror plot which, according to judges at the Old Bailey, had “little credibility”, as well as one during which Mahmood attempted to trap the politician George Galloway into making anti-semitic statements.