Sun journalist Mazher Mahmood could face a “significant number” of civil claims from victims of his undercover stings after being found guilty of tampering with evidence in the trial of an X Factor judge, according to one media lawyer.
Mark Lewis, partner at Seddons solicitors, says he has been instructed by 18 people to pursue civil claims against Mahmood, known as the “Fake Sheikh”.
He said some of them were convicted of crimes more than 20 years ago that they argued at the time came about as a result of false evidence.
“We anticipate the total sums involved could easily reach £800m, with some awards dwarfing those seen in the phone hacking scandal,” he said.
“Over the last 25 years, innumerable lives have been ruined by the dishonest actions of Mazher Mahmood. People have lost their livelihoods, their homes and relationships, with some spending time in prison.
“When the public used to read ‘Fake Sheikh’ articles in British newspapers, they would know there was a criminal at the heart of the story.
“Until now, readers didn’t realise that the criminal was the ‘Fake Sheikh’ himself.
The pair plotted to change Smith’s statement to police that claimed singer Tulisa Contostavlos had a “negative” attitude towards drugs.
Mahmood published a story in the Sun on Sunday alleging she had helped sell him £800 of cocaine as part of an elaborate sting in which he posed as a film producer offering her a lucrative movie role.
Contostavlos was later arrested and charged with being concerned in the supply of class A drugs. The trial collapsed when Mahmood was accused of lying in court by the trial judge.
Mahmood has been suspended from the Sun since the collapse of the trial.
A News UK spokesperson said: “We are disappointed by the news that Mazher Mahmood has been convicted. We do not have further comment at this time.”
Evan Harris, joint executive director for the Hacked Off Campaign, said Mahmood’s guilty verdict “underscores” the need for Leveson Two and that he was aware of “other very serious allegations” against Mahmood “which are likely to now surface”.
He said: “The implications of this verdict are far-reaching.
“Many of those who were convicted or accused of criminal offences on the basis of Mazher Mahmood “sting” stories published by News of the World working with the Met Police are appealing their convictions, or considering other legal action…
“It must be remembered that Mahmood and his bosses, who included Rebekah Brooks, gave evidence at the first part of the Leveson Inquiry – evidence which this verdict now calls into question.
“This verdict underscores yet again the need for the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, which was postponed pending criminal trials like this, to proceed as planned in order to explore the extent of corporate cover-ups in the press industry and any corrupt links between journalists like Mahmood, his newspapers and the police.”
Picture: PA Wire