AN UNDERCOVER reporter has told a court he wanted to “expose criminality” about an alleged drug deal involving Tulisa Contostavlos and it was “outrageous” to suggest he spiked the singer’s drink during one of their meetings.
Mazher Mahmood, dubbed the “fake sheikh”, posed as a wealthy film producer called Samir Khan when he met the former X Factor judge at a string of luxury hotels and restaurants, jurors have heard.
Giving evidence at London’s Southwark Crown Court, he denied “manipulating” the 26-year-old after he told her she was being considered for a leading role in a Slumdog Millionaire-type film tipped for Oscar glory alongside possible co-star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Contostavlos is on trial after allegedly boasting that she could “sort out” cocaine for Mr Mahmood and put the reporter in touch with her rapper friend Mike GLC who supplied the Class A drug.
She vehemently denies brokering the deal, which was exposed in the Sun on Sunday newspaper in June 2013.
Appearing in the witness box behind a screen to protect his identity, Mr Mahmood said he used “subterfuge” when he secretly recorded meetings with the ex-N-Dubz star as he attempted to establish whether she was involved in drugs.
“The motive here is in the public interest to expose criminality,” he said.
Under cross-examination, Mr Mahmood denied that the reason for the expose was to create a “sensational story”.
He said: “Of course, I’m a journalist and stories are what I do for a living. That’s not the reason I did it.”
Contostavlos’s barrister, Jeremy Dein QC said: “You misled her, didn’t you?”
Mr Mahmood replied: “You can’t mislead somebody into supplying cocaine.”
Mr Dein suggested that Mr Mahmood and his colleague “Nish” spiked Contostavlos’s drink when they met at London’s Metropolitan hotel on 10 May last year.
Mr Mahmood replied: “Absolutely outrageous.”
Mr Dein said: “You got her to incriminate herself.”
The witness replied: “I think that is nonsense.”
Referring to Mr Mahmood’s meeting with Contostavlos in Las Vegas in March last year, Mr Dein said: “This was only the beginning of your manipulation of Ms Contostavlos.”
The journalist replied: “I disagree.”
Sitting in the glass-walled dock, Contostavlos shook her head at times during Mr Mahmood’s evidence.
Mike GLC, whose real name is Michael Coombs, 36, pleaded guilty on Monday to supplying half an ounce (13.9g) of cocaine – which tests later showed was at 37 per cent purity – for £820.
Contostavlos, of Friern Barnet, north London, denies being concerned in brokering the drug deal.
Mr Dein asked Mr Mahmood whether his colleague Nish discussed a £3.5 million fee for the film role with Contostavlos. Shortly afterwards, Nish – which is not her real name – pretended she was on the phone to Hollywood star Cameron Diaz, the court heard.
Mr Mahmood, who was accused by Mr Dein of “lying to the jury” during parts of his evidence, denied that it was later suggested to Contostavlos that she may lose the part to Keira Knightley.
The singer was also said to have bragged that she used to be part of a gang who sold crack cocaine and that her ex-boyfriend was a cocaine dealer.
The trial continues.