While News Corp. lawyers have censored the BBC broadcasting a Panorama exposure of their notorious undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood for a week, there will be far more worrying questions regarding corporate governance at News Corp – parent company of News UK – despite assurances post Leveson from the company; “News Corp’s Board of Directors and management are committed to strong corporate governance and sound business practices.”
Birmingham born Mazher Mahmood currently suspended by his employers Sun on Sunday and under investigation by Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service after the judge in the Tulisa Contostavlos trial told him; [There were] “strong grounds for believing Mr Mahmood told me lies” about his dealings with the driver, Alan Smith, the judge said. 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 to change his account.”
The driver, Alan Smith, wasn’t an actual driver, but part of Mahmood’s team. And according to Press Gang. He is one of a number of employees (past and present) with a criminal record that have been employed by News International/News UK.
In evidence given by Mazher Mahmood for a libel hearing against News Group Newspapers (News of the World) in 2005, he admitted hiring criminals as part of his team “since they were less likely to arouse suspicions” – he was referring to his second cousin Mahmood Qureshi aka “Jaws”, [because he had gold teeth]. Astonishingly, this wasn’t picked up. Not by the hearing itself or the then News of the World editor Andy Coulson [who’s currently serving an eighteen month sentence for charges related to phone hacking].
Except, Mahmood wasn’t referring to a time when Coulson was the editor, but Rebekah Brooks.
Questions will be raised how Brooks and Coulson allowed it to happen and what steps they took to prevent it from happening – it has continued under current Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton. There’s no question of either Brooks or Coulson not knowing, this was a libel case brought against possibly Mahmood’s highest profile sting – albeit an embarrassing failure – the Victoria Beckham “sting” that never was. In fact, Brooks knew details of the kidnap plot itself – she withheld the target was Beckham from the police because according to Mahmood himself; “she wanted to keep the matter a secret for as long as possible and thus not spoil the story she was planning to publish.” Amazingly, to which Met’s DI Ian Horrocks -[in charge of the case] agreed.
Florim Gashi was hired by Mahmood for many years during both Brooks’s and Coulson’s time in the editor’s office at News of the World including the Beckham kidnap plot as an agent provocateur. Evidence was given to the Leveson inquiry from a damaging statement Gashi gave the police in 2005 which has been used in my other cases involving Mahmood which included claims Mahmood enticed Gashi to provide a gun for the Beckham kidnap plot “as it would make a dramatic photograph and make the “gang” seem dangerous.”
In it he said; “I did not meet any lawyer from the News of the World. I just dealt with Maz.” Gashi is a reformed character now, but had a criminal record at the time of employment with News of the World.
One of Gashi’s biggest regret from his time working for Mahmood according to his statement, was the “sting” that landed Albanian Besnik Qema a four-and-half years sentence for drug dealing cocaine before it was quashed on appeal (the defence using Gashi’s statement) in 2010 – only AFTER Qema had served his sentence. Far from being a drug dealer, he was even too scared to carry the drugs to the meeting – he asked a friend to drop it off for him at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane where he met News of the World.
Gashi had honey trapped Qema on a internet site for by Albanian expats posing as female named Aurora offering a lucrative job to work for a wealthy Arab family as a security guard and that his chances of getting the job would improve if he could supply the family with cocaine. Aurora arranged a meeting with “family member” Mohammed, who of course was Mahmood, and Qema was truly stung. Mahmood had not disclosed to the court at the subsequent Qema trial that Gashi was his source.
By now, Gashi was an unreliable witness having already been paid £10,000 for a previous Mahmood “sting” [Beckham kidnapp], and Mahmood knew that too. At Qema’s quashing hearing, Mr Bowen QC for Qema told the hearing Mr Mahmood knew there was little or no prospect Mr Qema being brough to or convicted after a “fair and impartial trial” because he was aware that the crucial evidence on which the prosecution would be based, was that of Gashi, who’s evidence could not be relied on by the prosecution; and because he know Mr Qema had been entrapped and that if the circumstances of the entrapment had been known, it was unlikely that prosecution would be brought.
Andy Coulson was the editor of News of the World in 2005 during the jailing of Besnik Qema. But Rebekah Brooks was CEO of News International when the conviction was overturned.
At the Leveson inquiry, in a written statement, Mahmood was asked;
“How do you understand the system of corporate governance to work at your newspaper where you are employed with particular emphasis on system to ensure lawful, professional and ethical conduct?”
Mahmood replied with the following;
“Any information that I receive that could form the bases of a potential investigation was routinely discussed with the News Editor, the in-house solicitor [Tom Crone] and often with the Editor. Each investigation was vetted and assessed in terms of public interest, PCC Editors’ Code of Practice [the “PCC Code”], logistics and costings before I was given approval to proceed. All payments to informants and freelance staff were approved and handled by the news desk which passed the requests for payment on the Managing Editor’s office [Stuart Kuttner] for approval. During the course of any investigation I undertook, I’d remain in constant touch with the news desk and seek regular legal advice from the in-house solicitor or his assistants as the investigation proceeded to ensure that my actions were within the bounds of the law.”
This post originally appeared on the Bellingcat website and is reproduced with permission and thanks