Andy Coulson‘s News of the World sent a man to jail after luring him to sell them drugs he was terrified of carrying by promising him a job. He was sentenced to four years in prison before his conviction – after he’d already served his time.
In a case which has hardly received any publicity, according to high court documents, Albanian Besnik Qema was asked to supply News of the World cocaine and a passport on a promise of job as security for a wealthy Arab family.
The High Court documents detail how in January 2005, Mazher Mahmood had asked Florim Gashi, a contact of his who he had used in previous “set-up” stings to find someone who could be implicated in a story he or the News of the World wanted to run about false passports, drugs and guns. Gashi then adopted the identity of a female called Aurora and through an internet chat room used by expatriate Albanians established contact with Qema.
Over the past two years my “regular contributor” has written on all things Leveson, phone hacking, and police corruption, with much of their work gathered on the Brown Moses Blog – Hackgate Files. Now they’ve come to Bellingcat to continue their work, beginning with a look at Mazher Mahmood (aka the Fake Sheikh) and the Metropolitan Police.
Miskiw, Mahmood and the MET
In January 2004, a journalist from the News of the World (NOTW) was interviewed by MET police on suspected criminality resulting from Operation Motorman. It was GREG MISKIW.
Yet just a few weeks later, MET police were enthusiastically commiting to a £1million+ collaboration with the NOTW on a newspaper ‘sting’. This time the journalist was MISKIW’S investigations desk close colleague – MAZHER MAHMOOD.
Neil Wallis has just responded to these new charges:
I’m devastated that more than 3 years after my initial arrest, this swingeing indiscriminate charge had been brought against me. My family and I have already paid a huge price for the police’s very public attention. Perhaps it is inevitable that after being such an outspoken critic of the collateral damage and pain caused by this needlessly vindictive and enormously costly investigation, the ire has been turned on me for something that occurred at NI of which I knew nothing and which I have always said was wrong Regrettably, legal reporting restrictions prevent me commenting further on this sad day.
Eariler from from the CPS
On December 2013, the Metropolitan Police Service submitted evidence for charging advice to the CPS in relation to Operation Pinetree, an investigation into an alleged conspiracy to hack phone messages by journalists at the News of the World. Additional evidence in the case was provided in June 2014. The file asked for charging advice on eight suspects; all were formerly employed at the News of the World. On 16 July 2014, the CPS announced that six of those individuals would face no further action whilst the evidence in relation to two further suspects remained under review. That review has now concluded.
Scotland Yard investigated Fake Sheikh Mazher Mahmood 9 YEARS AGO – in 2005 just four months before they initiated a phone hacking case into his newspaper. Like operation Caryatid, there isn’t a trace of a follow up or outcome despite the evidence that triggered the investigation being accepted in TWO courts. Instead, just 8 months after opening the investigation, the Yard publicly declared; “it would not rule out working with the paper again” after the collapse of a trial both Met and NotW brought to court together.
These events started when in 2004 when the Met Police [SO13] joined forces with News of the World on a fake sheikh sting “Red Mercury -Dirty Bomb”. Both the Met and Mahmood have confirmed working together since, as Mahmood told the Press Gazette; “the entire job I was basically working for Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism squad”.
A year earlier, another fake sheikh story: a Victoria Beckham kidnap plot case was thrown out by the Crown Prosecution Service before the trial started because the main prosecution witness had been paid £10,000 by Mahmood.
Several places have commented on things that Mazher Mahmood said in front of the Leveson Inquiry, but he was mentioned quite a bit more than that. In light of the collapse of the Tulisa Contostavlos trial it’s time we ran across all the other mentions in the evidence, some positive, some not so positive. Most of these are slightly large, and have to be to provide a level of context. The numbers at the beginning of paragraphs are the line numbers where individual questions or responses start, other line numbers have been deleted for space and readability reasons. I haven’t included his own evidence, as that is easy enough to find on the website. Here and here
In what echoes the 24 hour delay it took for News of the World to inform police of their Milly Dowler hacked messages, Rebekah Brooks withheld information from the police in regards to an alleged Victoria Beckham kidnap plot in 2002. She “wanted to keep the matter a secret for as long as possible and thus not spoil the story she was planning to publish” according to Mazher Mahmood‘s evidence in court papers from a libel case against News Group Newspapers in 2005.
“Our man Maz collars crook Number 105,” NOTW headline cited of all the number of investigations that led to conviction.
— Peter Jukes (@peterjukes) February 20, 2014
In the aftermath of the phone hacking trial, the Guardian’s Nick Davies, who played a pivotal in exposing the News of the World scandal, still had unanswered questions. This time, not for News UK (formerly News International), but the Metropolitan Police who having sat on the evidence in 2006 and refused to reopen it in 2009 finally managed do their job in 2011. Davies reported:
“Lord Justice Leveson concluded that the Caryatid team had made mistakes in handling victims of the hacking and had failed to follow leads to other perpetrators but had acted in good faith, primarily because officers had to deal with far more serious crime involving terrorist plots to commit mass murder. That conclusion is clearly well-founded. Specifically, there is no evidence that any Caryatid officer showed any fear or favour towards News International.”
He went on “however, the objective fact is that Scotland Yard’s conduct enabled News International’s coverup to succeed. Here, there are two key questions. Why was the hacking inquiry not passed to another squad to be completed? And was that decision in any way influenced by a desire to placate Murdoch’s company?“