In the BBC Panorama documentary TV program screened on 12th November 2014, Mazher Mahmood ‘the Fake Sheikh’ was exposed. He is an undercover, investigative journalist (of Pakistani origin), who likes to dress up as an Arab Sheikh, put on a foreign accent and set up many ‘stings’ involving Royalty, celebrities and sportsmen. Over the years many have been jailed as a result of his evidence.
In 2010 he was working for the ‘News of the World’, when he exposed the ‘spot fixing‘ scandal of the 3 Pakistani Test players. He now works for the ‘Sun on Sunday’, but is currently suspended.
Mazher Mahmood went to great unsuccessful legal lengths to stop the BBC documentary and his photographs being shown. Previously in trials only the Judge and jury were able to see him, as he wished to remain ‘undercover’.
The case which exposed him involved the English singer and TV celebrity, Tulisa Contostavlos. Like many of his other cases he offered Tulisa more fame and fortune by acting in a Hollywood blockbuster. He pretended to be a film producer and said he wanted her for a film role with Leonardo DiCaprio. He flew her abroad, supplied her with alcohol and then pressurised her into getting him some cocaine. This ‘entrapment’ is a tried and tested method for him, his ‘modus operandi’. The method has ruined the lives and careers of many people. However in Tulisa’s case he was caught out trying to alter another witness’s statement. On 21st July 2014, His Honour Judge McCreath, said Mazher Mahmood had manipulated and lied about the evidence. The Judge threw out the case. His reliability as a witness could not be trusted. The ‘Fake Sheikh’ had been exposed, the stinger was finally ‘stung’.
The English Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has already dropped 3 new cases that Mazher was due to be a witness in. They said that 25 previous cases involving Mazher, that resulted in convictions are being re-examined.
During the England v Pakistan test series, in August 2010, Mazher Mahmood posing as an Indian businessman had used the same techniques to entrap the Pakistani cricket players, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. He handed over money to the players’ ‘agent’ Mr.M. Majeed for the deliberate bowling of ‘no balls’. The players were banned and the case taken to court. In 2011 at the pre trial hearing in London, Amir and Majeed pleaded guilty to the charges. Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif were found guilty of accepting corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat. Butt received a 30 month sentence, Asif 12 months, Amir 6 months and agent Majeed 32 months.
Hopefully with the new turn of events this case will be re-examined too and taken to the Court of Appeal. If the deliberate, pressurised, targeting and entrapment of these Pakistani players didn’t happen would there have been any crime? We all as humans have weaknesses and make mistakes. But in legal terms who is the true criminal here? Would any crime have been committed if Mazher Mahmood was not on the scene, as a catalyst?
In 2010 the reputation of Pakistan cricket and the nation was damaged for ever as a result of this case. However if given the opportunity, I would strongly encourage Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, together with the Pakistan Cricket Board to launch an appeal against the evidence given by Mazher Mahmood. What is in the past is in the past however, it may help with the rehabilitation of the individuals involved. It may also assist in lightening the dark mark left on Pakistani cricket.
I am not disputing that ‘spot fixing’ didn’t happen within the Pakistan team, but was the English trial prosecution evidence of a reliable standard to convict the players to jail? Has there been a miscarriage of justice?