Fake Sheikh goes to jail as victims line up with £800m of claims

Mazher Mahmood, the self-styled 'Fake Sheikh' undercover journalist, has been jailed for tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos.

Unmasked: Fake Sheikh Mazher Mahmood has been jailed for tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos.

Following a two-week trial at the Old Bailey, a jury found the 53-year-old “King of the Sting” and his driver Alan Smith, 67, guilty of plotting to pervert the course of justice.

Judge Gerald Gordon jailed Mahmood for 15 months, saying that while he accepted he had done “some good work” in his long career, there could be no justification for what he had done and custody was inevitable.

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He handed Smith 12 months suspended for two years, saying he had been motivated in part by “misguided loyalty”.

Unmasked: Fake Sheikh Mazher Mahmood has been jailed for tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos.

As Mahmood was jailed, someone in the public gallery shouted “your turn now Mazher” to the journalist, who claims to have helped in the convictions of 100 criminals during his 25 years of investigative reporting for the News of The World and, after its demise, the Sun on Sunday.

Following the guilty verdicts last month, it was announced that 18 civil claims were being launched against Mahmood, which could total some £800 million.

Media lawyer Mark Lewis said the claims would “dwarf” those brought following the phone-hacking scandal.

Actor John Alford, the former star of London’s Burning, whose life was devastated by one of Mahmood’s stings, has called for action against unscrupulous journalists to “cleanse this stain on our democracy once and for all”.

Unmasked: Fake Sheikh Mazher Mahmood has been jailed for tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos.

Mr Alford, 44, claimed Mahmood was “a manipulator of evidence” and “a serial perjurer”.

He said: “No-one is above the law and no-one should be given carte blanche to create crimes and destroy evidence.

“There is a clear pattern of evidence, manipulation in all our cases, hours of taped evidence was missing.

“All these tapes were in Mazher Mahmood’s sole possession. There are many more questions to be answered and more justice to be served.

“It’s taken over 20 years for some of us but finally a judge and a jury of our peers has woken up to Mazher Mahmood’s lies.”

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has confirmed it is reviewing six cases involving people who were convicted following involvement with Mahmood, including Mr Alford’s.

The actor fell foul to a similar cocaine string as Tulisa Contostavlos at the Savoy Hotel in 1997 and was found guilty following a trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court despite insisting he was set up, shattering his budding career.