The ‘Fake Sheikh’: What Happened to Mazher Mahmood?

By Louie Fecou
Published: September 26, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
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Where is Mazher Mahmood Now
Mazher Mahmood (Credit - Evening Standard)

The Fake Sheikh and undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood shocked the world with famous sting operations that questioned the ethics of journalism in the UK. Press ethics and the nature of journalism are topics that are still carefully considered today. Certain very high-profile cases, such as the Leveson Inquiry in the UK, put the press in the spotlight, illuminating the lengths that journalists would go to to find stories for the press.

The Leveson Inquiry would look at phone hacking, which is used by reporters to gain access to the private voicemails of celebrities and use it against them in exclusive front-page stories.

Over one hundred and eighty-four witnesses and numerous written statements were involved. Perhaps the most egregious use of the practice was the hacking of a phone that had belonged to a murdered school-age girl in the UK.

Where is Mazher Mahmood, and what did he do?

The UK is no stranger to dubious efforts by reporters to find a story, and one of the most incredible incidents involved undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood, who would become known as the Fake Sheikh, as he would adopt this personality in an attempt to sting his subjects over a long period of time as a reporter for many Rupert Murdoch newspapers.

Eventually, the reporter would be brought to task for his various operations and receive a fifteen-month jail term for tampering with evidence in a case involving a singer called Tulisa Contostavlos. The reporter was fired by his employers at the UK tabloid press known as The News of the World.

Mahmood’s method of operation was often considered entrapment, and usually, his investigations would not be deemed to be in the public interest.

Mazher Mahmood Keeping himself under his hood from the press (Credit – The Telegraph)

The self-proclaimed King of Sting has managed to provide himself with a perfect disappearing act, as at the time of writing, it is not clear where he is. There have been numerous reports of him still being involved with reporting, and the deeper you dig, the more you find, but there is no official confirmation of his whereabouts or current position.

Why is Mazher Mahmood called The Fake Sheikh?

The reporter would adopt the persona of a Sheikh to get close to the people he would be researching for his stories. In the UK, he would be involved with politician George Galloway, actor John Alford, various members of the Royal Family, managers of football teams, and Tulisa Contostavlos, a singer and panelist on the X Factor talent show, among many others.

He was considered to be the king of tabloid press front pages; nobody was safe from his methods, and, of course, nobody knew who he was. In 2016, the case against Tulisa, involving the supply of cocaine, collapsed. The N Dubz singer was cleared of any wrongdoing, while the reporter was found guilty of tampering with evidence, leading to his imprisonment and eventual fall from grace.

At his trial, the judge would say:

“The motive was to preserve and enhance your reputation, you wanted another scalp and Ms. Contostavlos’ conviction would have achieved that.”

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