LONDON — Britain’s notorious “fake sheikh” has been found guilty of trying to pervert the course of justice in a development that may put the brakes on a prominent journalistic career.
Reporter Mazher Mahmood, known as a master of journalistic “sting” operations often based on posing as a Middle Eastern tycoon, was convicted at the Old Bailey courthouse Wednesday along with his driver Alan Smith.
The 53-year-old reporter was found guilty of tampering with evidence in the collapsed drug trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos and now faces possible jail time.
The case against her was dismissed in 2014. It had been based on an elaborate sting operation Mahmood conducted for the Sun newspaper.
In the sting, Mahmood posed as a successful film producer and discussed a movie role for the singer in which she would share screen time with A-list star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Prosecutors said he and Smith, 67, suppressed and manipulated evidence during the trial. Contostavlos said after the charges against her were dismissed that she had been the victim of “a horrific and disgusting entrapment.”
Detective Constable Jim Morrison said the case is “a reminder that perverting the course of justice is a very serious offense that goes to heart of our justice system. We will always take action where statements or other evidence has been tampered with.”
The case has wider implications, as Mahmood has figured in the prosecutions of pedophiles, arms dealers and in the embarrassment of public figures, including Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, who is married to Prince Edward, youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Crown Prosecution Service is reviewing 25 past convictions linked to Mahmood and has dropped active criminal cases in which Mahmood was to be a witness.
He also faces a number of civil cases that have been filed against him.
Mahmood and Smith are set to be sentenced on Oct. 21.