Mazher Mahmood, the “fake sheikh” investigative reporter, yesterday described from a screened witness box how he posed as an Indian film producer to ensnare former X Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos in an alleged plot to supply cocaine.
A jury heard how the former News of the World undercover journalist, renowned for the range of aliases he deploys to win the confidence of his targets, persuaded the 26-year-old singer he was a jet-setting movie mogul with the connections to get her a part in a film co-starring with Leonardo Di Caprio.
Ms Contostavlos is alleged to have boasted that she could arrange for “white sweets” or cocaine to be supplied for a night out she was arranging for Mr Mahmood, who was going by the name Samir Khan, at an East London strip club.
Prosecutors claim she put Mr Mahmood in touch with a friend, rapper Mike GLC, whose real name is Michael Coombs, who supplied the cocaine at a suite hired by the reporter, working for The Sun on Sunday, at London’s five-star Dorchester Hotel.
Coombs, 36, earlier this week pleaded guilty to supplying half an ounce (13.9g) of cocaine - at 37 per cent purity - for £860 in a late night deal which led to a front page story last May accusing Ms Contostavlos of brokering drug sales. The singer denies a charge of helping Mr Mahmood to procure a Class A drug.
In keeping with his desire to keep his appearance known to as few people as possible, the reporter only entered the witness box at Southwark Crown Court after the room had been cleared to allow him to arrive incognito.
The former News of the World journalist has spent more than 20 years posing in different guises to secure tabloid scoops on Cabinet ministers’ love affairs and plots by criminal gangs. His nickname derives from his penchant for posing as a Arabic prince to dupe some targets.
Jurors heard that Mr Mahmood had presented himself as a “big shot” producer staying in Cannes for the French resort’s film festival who then flew to visit Contostavlos with a colleague in Las Vegas and then London’s Metropolitan hotel last year.
He told the court: “We claimed to be from India and we wanted to make an international film with a substantial budget and we wanted to befriend Tulisa Contostavlos.”
The reporter said it was the former N-Dubz star who volunteered the topic of drugs during their meeting at the Metropolitan on 10 May. He said: “She brought it up with words to the effect that she would go home tonight and have a drink and she might have cannabis to go to sleep.”
Prosecutors allege that Ms Contostavlos, who had been trying to launch an acting career, was keen get into the “good books” of Samir Khan and bragged that she had in her youth been part of a gang which sold crack cocaine.
The court heard that later during the Metropolitan meeting she had once more raised the subject of drugs and spoken of being able to get “white sweets”.
Asked what he understood Ms Contostavlos to mean by the term, Mr Mahmood said: “That she could supply me with cocaine, no problem.”
The court heard that when Mr Mahmood arranged to fly from France for the night out at a strip club run by an ex-boyfriend of Ms Contostavlos there were phone calls between him and the singer in which she undertook to arrange a cocaine purchase.
On 22 May, she texted the journalist, writing: “Let me know wen u land so I can sort u out! Love Tulisa xxx.”
The case continues.