London : A veteran undercover reporter of a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid who became infamous as the ‘Fake Sheikh’ after he posed as a Saudi millionaire for sting operations was charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice over the drugs trial of a British pop star.

  Mazher Mahmood, a Pakistani-origin reporter for ‘Sun on Sunday’ tabloid, was alleged to have “misled” the court during the collapsed drugs trial of singer Tulisa Contostavlos at Southwark Crown Court in July last year.

 He was charged alongside Alan Smith, who was his driver.  Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) spokesperson Nick Vamos said: “After carefully considering all of the evidence the CPS has decided

that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to charge both men.

  “This decision comes after it was alleged that Mr Smith agreed with Mr Mahmood to change his statement to police as part of a trial in July 2014, and that Mr Mahmood then misled the court.”

 Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa had gone on trial charged with supplying a Class A drug, which she denied, after it was alleged she had brokered a cocaine deal.

It had featured in a ‘Sun on Sunday’ story in June 2013, following an investigation by Mahmood.

  A judge threw out the case and following the collapse of the trial, Mahmood was suspended by his newspaper group.

In a statement issued by his lawyers, Mahmood said: “I am deeply disappointed that, after a totally unjustified delay, the Crown Prosecution Service have today informed me that they have decided to charge me with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

 “I deny the offence. I will vigorously contest it at court. In the meantime I have nothing further to say.”

 Mahmood has spent 25 years as an undercover reporter, in which time he claims to have helped put more than 100 criminals behind bars. He and Smith will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on October 30.

Aditi Khanna     

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