Will ‘Fake Sheikh’ give details of 261 convictions?
An investigative journalist has written to the Leveson inquiry questioning the claim by Mazher Mahmood that his work for the News of the World led to 261 criminal convictions. Click here for more.
Mahmood, also known as the “fake sheikh”, has an extraordinary record. Many of his investigations during his 20 years on the paper led to crooks going to jail. One of his most famous coups was last year when the Pakistani test cricketers Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif were jailed for their part in a notorious match-fixing scandal.
But Paddy French, himself a long-standing investigative journalist, queries Mahmood’s numbers. French has gone back through editions of the News of the World between 1991, when Mahmood joined the staff, and 2011, when the paper closed, and he says he can find “at most 70 criminal convictions.”
French has some record in such matters and is familiar with the problems of turning a successful journalistic expose into a criminal conviction. As editor of the magazine Rebecca, his work on corruption in the Welsh local government in the 1970s is thought to have contributed to the conviction of several crooked councillors.
Paddy French of Rebecca Television wrote to the Leveson inquiry:
“I am writing to let you know that RebeccaTelevision.Com will publish an article tonight which casts doubt on the sworn testimony of Mahzer Mahmood to the Leveson inquiry to the effect that 253 successful criminal prosecutions resulted from his work at the News of the World.
“Rebecca has examined every article written by, or featuring, Mazher Mahmood in this period and the maximum number of successful criminal prosecutions is 68. We will submit a formal statement with the evidence we have collected at a later date. In these circumstances would like to ask Lord Leveson to recall Mazher Mahmood to substantiate his claims.”
Mazher Mahmood gave the 253 “successful criminal convictions” figure in a witness statement to Leveson on 14 October last year. By the time he gave oral evidence to the inquiry, on 12 December, the figure had risen to 261, and Mahmood added that: “as we sit here at the moment, at Southwark Crown Court two more women are being sentenced as a result of my work.”
But Mazher Mahmood has so far not provided a breakdown of his 261 convictions. Presumably he keeps a detailed list – otherwise how can he be so sure of the number? Despite requests from Paddy French, and from me, he has not responded directly.
A News International spokeswoman has assured me that Mahmood sticks by his figure, and explained that many of the Mahmood convictions have never been published in the paper.
I understand that a large part of Mahmood 261 figure comprises illegal immigrants who were arrested en masse and deported.
I should stress that Mahmood has won numerous awards for his work. His investigations for News of the World have led to the imprisonment of paedophiles, drug smugglers, blackmailers, forgers, people traffickers, and even a GP who hired him as a “hitman” to murder his mistress.
Even to have secured the conviction of 70 people is an incredible record, and probably couldn’t be matched by any living British journalist.
I think it’s pretty unlikely that Leveson will haul Mahmood back to explain his numbers, as Paddy French has requested.
But it’s time, surely, for Mazher Mahmood to clear up any misunderstanding about his figure, and publish his full list of 261 names.
Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelLCrick