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Tulisa may sue Fake Sheikh over Sun drugs sting

By | Published on Thursday 13 November 2014


One time N-Dubber and ‘X-Factor’ darling Tulisa Contostavlos has told the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ that she is considering suing the Sun On Sunday over the tabloid’s controversial sting that led to her being prosecuted for involvement in a drug deal.

The BBC last night aired a twice-postponed edition of its current affairs show focusing on the tactics of investigative journalist Mazher Mahmood, who was behind countless high profile scoops during a long career at the News Of The World and its successor the Sun On Sunday.

As previously reported, Mahmood ran a story accusing Contostavlos of arranging the supply of half an ounce of cocaine via a friend. The singer argued she was set up by Mahmood who, in his infamous ‘Fake Sheikh’ guise, told her he could get her a multi-million dollar role in a Hollywood movie alongside Leonardo DiCaprio playing a “bad girl”.

After the movie deal had been put on the table, Mahmood put pressure on Contostavlos to get him cocaine and she – keen to score the career-changing acting gig – introduced him to her friend Michael Coombs, aka rapper Mike GLC, who supplied the drug.

It was an almost identical sting to others pursued by Mahmood and targeting models and actors in years gone by, perhaps most notably one time ‘Grange Hill’ and ‘London’s Burning’ actor John Alford, who went to prison and saw his career destroyed after similarly supplying a small amount of drugs to Mahmood. Hidden camera footage from three such stings, including that involving Contostavlos, was shown on the ‘Panorama’ expose. In the Alford videos the journalist is seemingly seen gleefully predicting that his piece would destroy the actor’s life.

Mahmood tried to block the airing of the BBC programme on the basis that the inclusion of recent footage that showed his face would put him and his family at risk of attack from criminals he had helped to jail. The BBC argued that there was no safety risk and that the journalist was just worried that having his cover blown would make it harder to play the Fake Sheik routine in the future. And, given the allegations, the Beeb argued there was a case for showing people what the journalist looked like.

Mahmood has also disputed most of the allegations in the programme, arguing that they come from people whose wrong-doings he exposed, or ex-colleagues with axes to grind.

Though – while there may be countless Mahmood investigations where genuine crimes were revealed and sent to court – it remains true that the ‘scandals’ he exposed involving Alford and Contostavlos took the form of, “if you promise ambitious young celebrities world fame and millions of dollars, they might help you to get a small quantity of an illegal drug that is pretty run of the mill in the entertainment industry”. Which is hardly a news story it seems worth destroying careers for.

Contostavlos, of course, fought back in both legal and PR terms. The criminal case against her collapsed when Mahmood was accused of lying and meddling with evidence in relation to a conversation his driver overheard in which the singer discussed having seen first hand the negative impact of drugs, adding that she was therefore anti-drugs-culture, a sentiment that ran contrary to the journalist’s narrative.

Mahmood has since been suspended by The Sun – a newspaper franchise already under fire for its tactics, not least by its association with the phone-hack-happy News Of The World – while he awaits to see if he will be charged in relation to his conduct in the Contostavlos trial. Civil litigation from the singer herself could also follow.

The ‘Panorama’ programme is currently available on the iPlayer. Whatever you think about Tulisa, Alford and his other accusers, it’s fair to say Mahmood doesn’t come out of it very well.