Bad news for the Murdoch clan’s UK newspapers with the star reporter Mazher Mahmood (aka The Fake Sheikh) convicted in London overnight of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. It is a conviction, which if sustained on appeal, could result in dozens more cases being re-examined to see whether Mahmood’s involvement tainted the evidence and the eventual verdict. There will also be a series of huge damages claims against him and possibly News Corp UK. Five years after the News of the World phone-hacking scandal fell upon the Murdochs and their media empire, another round of potentially damaging legal actions could be about to hit the clan and their now-divided empire.

Mahmood was charged with tampering with evidence in the collapsed trial of UK pop singer, Tulisa Contostavlos, and along with Alan Smith, his driver, convicted after three days of deliberations by an Old Bailey jury.

Mahmood’s employer News UK, which owns the Sun, the newspaper for which Mahmood was working at the time of the story about claimed drug use by Contostavlos, said it was “disappointed by the news” of his conviction. Mahmood has previously worked for the News of the World up until it was closed over the phone-hacking scandal. He also worked for the Sunday Times.

The fallout from the case might continue. Mark Lewis, a media lawyer at Seddons Solicitors (and a major figure in obtaining damages for people whose phones were hacked by News Corp journalists at the News of the World) , said he had been instructed by 18 people to pursue civil claims against Mahmood. “We anticipate the total sums involved could easily reach 800m [pounds], with some awards dwarfing those seen in the phone-hacking scandal,” Lewis said in a statement.– Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

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