Fake Sheikh, Beckhams, Red Mercury – Why did Scotland Yard Fail to Investigate Phone Hacking

A new piece on Mazher Mahmood and the News of the World by an occasional contributor, Joe Public

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?

What was known at the time but curiously unreported at the height of the scandal was that, back in 2004, Metropolitan Police’s anti terrorist squad (SO13) had in fact collaborated with News of the World. Why this matters is because Operation Caryatid operated by SO13 [anti terror squad] investigated News of the World phone hacking just 14 months later – which may go some way in explaining some of Davies’s questions.

This has come to light after the extraordinary downfall of yet another Murdoch reporter this week, this time the notorious Mazher Mahmood aka the Fake Sheikh. Mahmood had attempt to expose singer Tulisa Contostavlos as a drug dealer. It backfired spectacularly when the judge, Alistair McCreath threw the case out remarking “there were strong grounds for believing Mr Mahmood told me lies.” He added: “Secondly, there are also strong grounds for believing that the underlying purpose of these lies was to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence in this case by getting Mr Smith (witness) to change his account.”

Not only have those words left Mahmood facing a perjury charge but an embarrassed Scotland Yard and Crown Prosecution Service  having to investigate past and present Mahmood cases they themselves are complicit in.

The 2004 collaboration of Mazher Mahmood/News of the World/Met’s anti terror squad was a ‘Dirty Bomb’ sting which started when a witness known as Mr B contacting Mahmood after disappointment with the police who he had approached initially and concluded with the acquittal of City banker Dominic Martins, 45, businessman Abdurahman Kanyare, 53, and Roque Fernandes, 44, a security guard at Coutts, after spending two years on remand for allegedly conspiring to fund terrorism and conspiring to possess an article for terrorist purposes in a trial costing £1m.

After the trial a Met spokeswoman at the time was quoted as saying “police had launched an investigation after being tipped off by the newspaper. The fact that the defendants have been acquitted does not mean the case was not properly brought to court. The Crown Prosecution Service considered the evidence and decided there was a case to answer, and that decision was later confirmed by the trial judge.” Though this was somewhat contradicted later by Mazer Mahmood who told the Press Gazette in 2008 “the entire job I was basically working for Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism squad. I was registered as a participating informant; every single movement I made was on their orders. Quite often, as it came out in court, I didn’t agree with what they were doing, but I had to do it as I was working for them.”

Scotland Yard even went further and said “it would not rule out working with the paper again.”

PETER JUKES UPDATE: from Brown Moses Blog


The defendants were acquitted on July 25th 2006. Two weeks later, on August 8th 2006, NOTW’s Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were arrested. MET Specialist Operations (Counter Terrorism) were committing resources and collaborating with a protected NOTW journalist ‘Participating Informant’ investigation at the exact same time that MET Specialist Operations (Counter Terrorism) were investigating NOTW jeopardising national security by targeting the Royal Family?

So why did SO13 investigate phone hacking at the News of the World instead of handing the case over to others who can (especially if as claimed by SO13, they had far more serious terrorism plots to deal with). I’ll get to the Fake Sheikh, Scotland Yard and CPS collaboration, but first, the issue of phone hacking.

NotW royal editor, Clive Goodman, told the hacking trial that back in 2006, after his arrest in August of that year with PI Glenn Mulcaire, Andy Coulson had repeatedly told him he had insiders in the police. In fact, in September of that year DCI Keith Surtees met Rebekah Brooks at the RAC club in London to inform her that her phone had been hacked by Mulcaire and asked if she would like to prosecute. Unsurprisingly, Brooks declined.

As Davies noted after her trial “the question here is whether Surtees was instructed not simply to ask for her cooperation but also to give her a briefing about Caryatid’s progress and intentions.” Surtees did in fact reveal to her that they had 100 to 110 potential victims. Scotland Yard did not inform these victims – a breach of the Yard’s undertaking to the Crown Prosecution Service that officers would ensure “all potential victims” were informed. A News International lawyer emailed the editor Andy Coulson: “They (police) suggest that they were not widening the case to include other NoW people but would do so if they got direct evidence.”

DCS Surtees would later be cleared by IPCC of any wrongdoing in his meeting with Brooks. Subsequently to the Brooks meeting, Operation Caraytid was closed down by Scotland Yard with just 2 arrests and 8 victims. On what basis, the Yard has never been able to explain to the public. When Andrew Edis QC asked Brooks at her Old Bailey trial if she took this information back to News International, she told the court the police were only looking five to ten potential victims and that was all that was needed for the maximum sentence of Goodman and Mulcaire. When Edis pressed further: “You knew that from the time of speaking to DCI Surtees, that the whole truth had not emerged during the trial.” Brooks could only reply “I do not think I saw it like that.”

Operation Weeting found over 5,000 victims with half a dozen convicted – so far. However, in December 2012 DCS Keith Surtees made this extraordinary submission to the Leveson inquiry regarding the John Yates 2009 review into phone hacking 

 “On more than one occasion in meetings I attended in 2009, with AC John Yates and others advising him, I voiced my concern that the original investigation could and should be re-opened or re-examined and suggested either HMIC or another Force undertake such a task. I explained that the reasons for ending all activity in 2006, including the victim notification strategy, no longer existed in 2009. DCS Williams can confirm this as he was present, as can DCS Clive Timmons who was also present.”

He continued “Third, I set out my view on the possibility that the criminality extended beyond Mulcaire and Goodman. It was a view held jointly by DCS Williams and myself that the phone interception and other criminal conduct of Mulcaire and Goodman was not limited to them, and that the criminality extended further. This view is clearly expressed in the decision log of the Operation.” John Yates has never denied or replied to Surtees’s claims and the Met are refusing to hold an inquiry so the question remain; how can it justify both SO13 handling and outcome of operation Caryatid and and the absurd 8 hours it took John Yates in 2009   to review evidence Weeting need years to investigate?

There are also further questions for Scotland Yard, CPS and even the Attorney General in regards to the Fake Sheikh Mahmood. At the end 2006 “red mercury” trial, in which Met maintained the case was “properly brought to court” and was willing to work with NotW again, Sue Hemming, the CPS’s head of counter terrorism, said: “It was right to bring this case. We regarded the evidence as credible and the trial ran its full course.” Except, bizarrely, “red mercury” doesn’t even exist.

It gets worse. A key defence witness who had previously been hired as an agent provocateur by Mahmood to set up a plot involving a fake kidnapping of Victoria Beckham and her children had by now – out of guilt perhaps – turned on Mahmood. A Croatian parking attendant living in South London, Florim Gashi, claimed he and Mahmood had set up dozens of stories over the years. Three Scotland Yard officers went to visit Gashi in Dubrovnik, Croatia to ask him about his relationship with Mahmood in September 2005 and discovered he had played central roles in several Fake Sheikh stings.

Gashi told the court he and Mahmood had devised the Beckhams kidnap plot, picking up a gang of petty criminals and persuading them to discuss an abduction attempt. “Maz said I would get £10,000 and another £5,000 if they got prosecuted,” he added “I would get it if I could convince them to talk about the kidnap of Victoria Beckham and her children.”

It should be pointed out, Gashi has been convicted for dishonesty, and admitted that he lied in a police statement about the kidnap case. Nevertheless, the evidence was accepted. With this knowledge, both Scotland Yard and CPS for many years supported and worked closely with Mazher Mahmood and News of the World to bring his cases to court despite his questionable methods and alarming evidence given against him over the years. How ironic they are now both investigating Mahmood and reviewing his cases. Ironic too that when the Beckham s kidnap case collapsed because of the £10,000 payment to Gashi

In 2003, the judge Simon Smith responded by calling on the Attorney General to look into the affair, but nothing came of it. Instead, the Attorney General signed off the destructive “red mercury” case a year later.

Written and researched by Jo Public

8 thoughts on “Fake Sheikh, Beckhams, Red Mercury – Why did Scotland Yard Fail to Investigate Phone Hacking

  1. Pingback: How Rebekah Brooks withheld Beckham kidnap info hired criminals for the Fake Sheikh – Scotland Yard and CPS did nothing | Live Tweeting the hacking trial

  2. Pingback: The Fake Sheikh and Leveson – for referencce | Live Tweeting the hacking trial

  3. Pingback: Other dark arts at the News of the World – Fake Sheikh investigated by police just before Phone Hacking operation | Live Tweeting the hacking trial

  4. Pingback: Did Coulson’s News of the World Incite Others to Crime and cause Unsafe Convictions? | Live Tweeting the hacking trial

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  6. Pingback: bellingcat - Did Scotland Yard Cover-Up Beckham Kidnap Evidence So The Fake Sheikh Could Be Their Star Witness?

  7. Pingback: Did Scotland Yard Cover-Up Beckham Kidnap Evidence So The Fake Sheikh Could Be Their Star Witness? – Bellingcat | Inforrm's Blog

  8. Pingback: Did Scotland Yard Cover-Up Beckham Kidnap Evidence So The Fake Sheikh Could Be Their Star Witness? – Bellingcat | inforrms

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