The 'Fake Sheikh' Mazher Mahmood’s extraordinary career

He will be hoping that he doesn’t have to swap his “rags”, as he calls them, for the type of prison clothing worn by those put behind bars

Perhaps now Mazher Mahmood will be forced to hang up his Dishdasha robes and retire the “Fake Sheikh” disguise on which he has built his reputation over the past 30 years.

He will be hoping that he doesn’t have to swap his “rags”, as he calls them, for the type of prison clothing worn by those put behind bars by his unique brand of investigative journalism.

The number of these scalps is unclear. He told the Leveson inquiry he had brought about more than 250 criminal convictions but an internal investigation ordered by the Sunday Times, where he then worked, found only 94. Mahmood was found to have been “disingenuous” in the evidence he gave to Leveson surrounding his earlier departure from the Sunday Times in 1988 as a result of an act of dishonesty.

Not for the first time, Mahmood bounced back from the setback. In October 2012, he was made a star reporter on the Sun on Sunday, the paper that replaced the News of the World – where he made his reputation as an undercover reporter. At the NotW he exposed drug dealers and fake passport scams. He embarrassed royals and stars of sports and entertainment for their dubious lifestyle choices.

 

But he also had his reverses.

One of the most sensational was the 2006 collapse of the “Red Mercury” trial, which was based on a Mahmood sting and the allegation that the three defendants were planning to supply terrorists with radioactive bomb-making material. It made a splash story in 2004. Stephen Solley QC, representing one of the defendants, claimed there was a “huge danger of accepting Mr Mahmood’s word in respect of any matter”.

The acquittal came months after George Galloway had denounced the reporter as an “agent provocateur” and a “disgrace to journalism” after the politician was invited to dinner at London’s Dorchester Hotel. The MP, who claimed the journalist posed as a Muslim businessman and made anti-Semitic comments, released a photograph of Mahmood in an attempt to blow his disguise.

At the News of the World, Mahmood was regarded as a scoop machine, claiming some 500 exclusives and named Reporter of the Year at the 1998 British Press Awards for an undercover expose of the views of the owners of Newcastle United.

Mazher Mahmood’s front-page exclusive on 2 June 2013 led to the court case Mazher Mahmood’s front-page exclusive on 2 June 2013 led to the court case But in 2003 his sensational front page story on a supposed international plot to kidnap the children of David and Victoria Beckham was exposed as a myth. Once again an expensive public prosecution collapsed, this time as the main witness Florim Gashi was found to have been paid £10,000 by the paper.

Birmingham-born Mahmood, now 50, has claimed that journalism was in his “blood”, as the son of Sultan Mahmood, founder of the first national Urdu paper in Britain.

His methods have been questioned many times in the past but finally he is under suspension by his employer, News UK, which has always stood by him.

He first donned Arab robes in 1984 to entice prostitutes in Birmingham. He has been dressing up ever since.

Six years ago, ahead of writing his autobiography Confessions of a Fake Sheikh, he boasted of the reliability of his ruse. “When you’ve got a man in ‘rags’ and the manager of a hotel bowing it’s a great effect,” he told Press Gazette, describing his support network of minders and limousines. “It’s very plausible. There’s such a big cast involved.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy