The activities of Mazher Mahmood, aka the “Fake Sheikh”, have featured previously on Zelo Street, especially after he was caught lying over the attempted sting of singer Tulisa Contostavlos and the case collapsed. Maz went to jail for that one, and ever since, there has been a slowly mounting pile of evidence suggesting several of the convictions obtained through his stings were unsafe and should be set aside.
Worse for Maz were the estimated £800 million worth of civil claims likely to arise from his past pretence to being a journalist, rather than “a criminal with an NUJ card”. Watching all this unfold have been people like John Alford, whose potential ruin Maz and his pals were caught on camera laughing about, as a result of the sting which ended his acting career. For the Fake Sheikh’s crew, finishing a career was all a big game for them.
Well, the civil claims against Maz are getting into their stride right now, with one of the first beneficiaries being former England football manager Sven Goran Eriksson. We know this as the Mail has actually reported it - although in the Sport section. Their piece tells “Sven-Goran Eriksson has received a damages pay-out over the sting which he says was the reason for his five-year tenure as England manager ending”. And there is more.
“The 69-year said he had won a civil claim over undercover News of the World journalist Mazher Mahmood’s ‘Fake Sheikh’ sting on him in 2006. The Swede did not disclose the level of damages but told Sportsmail that the damages against Mahmood - who was jailed 12 months ago for perverting the course of justice - could not fully compensate him for the loss of ‘the best job you can have’”. The story was familiar to Maz watchers.
“Mahmood met Eriksson on a boat in Dubai in January 2006 and recorded him saying he would leave to manage Aston Villa if England won the World Cup in Germany later that year … The FA announced within weeks that he would leave his job after the 2006 World Cup … The former executive director of the FA, David Davies, said in his autobiography that the governing body’s chief executive Brian Barwick was determined to announce after the controversy that Eriksson would be parting company with England”.
Sven was positively restrained in his response to the Fake Sheikh sting: “We won the case but I lost my job. They did it to put me in big, big trouble before the World Cup. You have to respect the press. It’s good that they can write what they want to. But that made [me] sad and angry and I lost my job. It took a year but we won our case”.
Football watchers, who will have heard all the excuses advanced for the Murdochs, including all the money they have brought to the English game, may manage a wry smile at the same organisation setting out to deliberately hobble the national side in this way. Others will have already figured out that Eriksson’s settlement, if it had to take into account his loss of both earnings and marketability, will have been a big one.
And press reform campaigners will once again point out that Mazher Mahmood’s close relationship with the Police, along with his unprincipled dishonesty, is another compelling reason why Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry must be commenced without further delay.