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Monday 15 September 2014

Fake Sheikh – The Net Closes

Roy Greenslade, in his blog at the deeply subversive Guardian, brings more bad news today for Mazher Mahmood, more usually known as the Fake Sheikh: he notes that “The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped a case against a doctor and a pharmacist because it relied on evidence provided by Mazher Mahmood”. Maz is finding that his name doesn’t engender confidence these days.
He ain't smiling now

Greenslade continues “He wrote a Sunday Times article in September 2012 about the two men - Dr Majeed Ridha and Murtaza Gulamhusein - in which it was claimed they had risked women's lives by illegally selling abortion pills. They were arrested, but the CPS told Southwark crown court 10 days ago, on 5 September, that it would offer no evidence against them”.

The Fake Sheikh is already suspended from his last berth, the Sunday edition of the Murdoch Sun, after the collapse of the Tulisa Contostavlos drugs trial. That came down to the judge believing Mahmood had lied to him, and that “the underlying purpose of these lies was to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence”. It was not the only Fake Sheikh trial to collapse.

The allegation that there had been a plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham was found to be largely false, and the trial collapsed after it was found that a key witness was “unreliable. His lack of reliability was not unconnected to his having received £10,000 from Mahmood for his role. There was no conspiracy, no intent to kidnap. The BBC’s Nick Higham explained this to readers.

A witness who has been offered money may be tempted to exaggerate their evidence to justify their fee - or hold something back for publication later. Either way the witness becomes unreliable”. The judge referred the affair to the Attorney General “to consider the temptations that money being offered in return for stories concerning celebrities give rise to”.

And there could be worse to come for Mahmood: consider the headlineHow Rebekah Brooks Withheld Beckham Kidnap Info, Hired Criminals for the Fake Sheikh, and Scotland Yard and the CPS Did Nothing” from Peter Jukes’ contributor Joe Public at Bellingcat. There had been considerable concern about Mahmood’s modus operandi, as seen in Chris Brace’s post, also for Bellingcat.

On top of all that, there are cases like that of actor and singer John Alford, whose career was destroyed by one of the Fake Sheikh’s stings: trashed just to give the now-defunct Screws an edge in the Sunday tabloid marketplace. There is much for Police and lawyers to consider here: Mahmood has, it seems, not been so much an exceptional journalist, as just another very naughty boy.

Mazher Mahmood’s past may be about to catch up with him. Good thing, too.

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