The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

  • MR MAZHER MAHMOOD (on former oath).

  • Good morning, sir. Before I commence my questioning of Mr Mahmood, it perhaps would be sensible if I adduce by summary the evidence of Mr Greenslade, who has provided a witness statement and exhibits which are relevant to Mr Mahmood's evidence.

  • The witness statement is dated 17 December of last year, and it was provided to the Inquiry after Mr Mahmood gave evidence last year.

    Mr Greenslade tells us that in 1988 he was the managing editor, news, of the Sunday Times, the person in overall charge of the news gathering and news production department. He tells us that in December 1988 the paper received a complaint from a police officer about a story written by one of the reporting staff, Mr Mahmood, which had been published in the Sunday Times some months before. That story alleged that a chief inspector had been demoted to constable following a conviction for drink driving. The complaint was that the chief inspector had in fact been demoted only to the rank of inspector.

    Mr Greenslade asked his news editor, Michael Williams, to look into the complaint. Mr Williams had told him that Mr Mahmood had informed him that the error was due to a mistake by the news agency that had filed the original story. That's to say, the Devon News Agency. So Mr Greenslade asked Mr Williams to get in touch with the agency in order to ascertain how the mistake had been made.

    Mr Williams reported back that the agency had checked its transmission; it showed that its story had correctly stated that the demotion was to inspector, rather than constable. The agency sent a copy of its original to Mr Williams.

    Mr Williams then contacted the Sunday Times' computer room to ask for a copy of the file sent by Devon News. He noted that it says "constable" rather than "inspector", in contrast to the file which had been sent to him directly by the agency. During Mr Williams' conversation with the computer room operative, he was told that Mr Mahmood had recently visited the computer room, which was off limits to editorial staff.

    After checking once more with the Devon News, Mr Williams and Mr Greenslade suspected that Mr Mahmood may have tampered with the file. The matter was reported to Mr Peter Roberts, the managing editor, and he ordered the paper's systems editor, Mr Bryan Silcock, to investigate further. He ran an audit check to trace the origin of the file, and he wrote a report to Mr Roberts dated 17 December 1988, a copy of that report is attached.

    The report relates how Mr Mahmood had entered the computer room and, assisted by the systems operator, had retrieved versions of the agency file. Mr Silcock managed to find versions of the original report, that showed they had correctly stated the demotion was to inspector. The conclusion of Mr Silcock's report was that he could not see any explanation for the differences, except that the audit file was altered, and there could be no doubt that the reports from the Devon News Agency were correct.

    On receiving Mr Silcock's report, Mr Greenslade asked Mr Williams to question Mr Mahmood. He admitted going to the computer room, but denied having tampered with the file.

    Mr Greenslade did not have the power to fire a staff member, so he asked the editor, who was then Mr Andrew Neil, to convene a meeting of senior executives to discuss the case, and such a meeting was convened. Mr Roberts and Mr Greenslade explained the details of the case and were asked to make recommendations. They recommended dismissal. That recommendation was accepted and it was decided that Mr Roberts would inform Mr Mahmood.

    However, when they emerged from the meeting, they found that Mr Mahmood had already resigned. There were envelopes on Mr Greenslade's desk and Mr Williams'.

    In that event, no further action was taken. Mr Greenslade tells us that in his mind, Mr Mahmood had resigned to avoid the embarrassment of being officially dismissed.

    The exhibits are not only the report but also Mr Mahmood's letter of resignation.

  • Which says:

    "Because of the nature of my work, I am only able to operate with the absolute support and trust of my senior colleagues and lawyers, but now that my honesty and integrity as a journalist is in question, I feel that there is no longer a place for me on the paper."

  • Can I confirm that the cameras are off? Thank you.

  • Mr Mahmood, you've provided the Inquiry with a third witness statement. Are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • Dealing first with the circumstances in which you left the Sunday Times in 1988, you deal with those from paragraph 23 onwards in your most recent statement, and you tell us that you've considered your letter of resignation and the newspaper's internal report at the time and you accept the contents of the report now, as you did in 1988. You say that you did not challenge the report at the time, but chose to leave before you were disciplined because you would resign rather than be dismissed.

    You say you regret your actions in 1988 when you were a very junior reporter, keen to impress. You say you realise that you'd acted improperly and that this would be unacceptable at the newspaper. Is that right?

  • At that time, you were 25 years old, weren't you?

  • 24 years old, and you'd been practising as a journalist since your teens?

  • Tampering with the computer file in order to pass the mistake from yourself to the Devon News Agency was wrong, wasn't it?

  • Absolutely. Look, I was a young reporter and I'd had a series of run-ins with Mr Greenslade while at the paper, and, you know, I'd made a mistake, I acknowledge that, and rather an incur the wrath of an executive I didn't get on with, I foolishly thought the best way would be to cover my mistake. It was the wrong thing to do, and I resigned.

    Having said that, it was a quarter of a decade ago --

  • It was actually 23 years ago, wasn't it?

  • But my concern is what you said to me, which wasn't 23 years ago, or indeed much more than 23 days ago, and I think we could just look at that, please.

  • Indeed we will, because -- and just before we do, you say "mistake"; we are talking about an act of dishonesty, aren't we?

  • When I asked you about it, the transcript starts on page 3 and runs over to page 4.

  • Sorry, what tab is that?

  • Tab 13, I'm told. Right at the back.

  • If you look on page 4, line 11, my question which I was putting was:

    "Is it right that you left the Sunday Times under something of a cloud the first time around?"

    And you replied:

    "We had a disagreement; correct."

  • Absolutely. I was acknowledging that I did leave under a cloud and hinting at the disagreement -- you didn't ask any supplementary questions and, you know, it wasn't a highlight of my career, obviously, it's not something that I elaborated on, you know.

  • Can we explore, first of all, whether or not there was in fact a disagreement, because your current witness statement, your third witness statement, says that you accept the contents of the report now, as you did in 1988.

  • Absolutely. What I was referring to by "disagreement" was that I had a disagreement with Mr Greenslade, who didn't like the way that I worked, you know, didn't like -- I felt he didn't like me, and ever since has displayed obsessive hostility towards me. There were a number of run-ins I had with him. There were disagreements over several stories.

  • We'll come to that in a moment, but isn't the position that your answer to me was disingenuous because the true position was that you had left the Sunday Times because you had committed an act of dishonesty --

  • -- which you were ashamed of, ashamed of then and now?

  • I accept that very much so. I accept that. But the background to it is that I had a history of disagreements with one executive on the paper. As you noted my resignation letter, I was referring to other stories as well where I'd been questioned, you know, so it was an ongoing thing. But that was the final straw. And I acknowledge it was wrong, I was young, I was naive, it was a foolish thing to do, I acknowledge that.

  • You say you were young and naive. You'd been working as a journalist for several years?

  • What you did was plainly wrong, wasn't it?

  • I acknowledge that. I acknowledge that, absolutely, but you know there was intense pressure at the time. It was a tough time, my first with the Sunday Times.

  • There has been some recent writing on this issue, and there's an article which has been brought to the Inquiry's attention in the British Journalism Review. The article was published in December of last year by Mr Michael Williams and has a slightly unseemly title of "I've seen the future and it's crap."

  • If we turn to page 39 of that article --

  • What tab? Which tab is that?

  • Tab 12, I'm told. It's right at the very back of my bundle.

  • Mr Williams says towards the bottom of that page:

    "At the very least there was a great deal of reckless risk-taking -- not exactly discouraged by the News International corporate ethos. I summarily dismissed a reporter who was caught trying to cover his mistakes by offering a financial bribe to the staff in a newspaper computer room to falsify his copy (something he has never subsequently denied). Shortly afterwards he went seamlessly on to a senior job at our sister paper, the News of the World, where his 'scoops' were celebrated. This autumn he was rehired by the Sunday Times as an 'undercover reporter'. All corporate memory of scandal had been erased."

    There's no doubt, is there, that Mr Williams is referring in that article to you?

  • Absolutely, and it's a completely untrue allegation, and can I also point out Mr Williams himself left the Sunday Times under somewhat of a cloud. I don't know the precise details, but his employment was terminated in 1994 and I think the reasons are shrouded in secrecy because of some deal he struck through his solicitor Schillings.

    But that allegation is completely untrue and even Mr Greenslade, who is known to be very critical of my work, yesterday in his blog said that was news to him. He found it surprising. It's simply untrue.

  • I want to be specific. We know from the documents that Professor Greenslade has provided, and which you have not disputed, that you resigned before being dismissed, but the specific allegation there is there was an offer of a financial bribe to staff in the computer room to falsify copy. Is that true?

  • That's completely untrue. I did not bribe anybody.

  • Just before we leave that page, do you recognise how he describes working at the newspaper further up the sheet:

    "Take the story to breaking point and then ratchet it back a notch. Unfortunately many journalists at Wapping conveniently forgot about the last bit, as they got carried away in the Wild West atmosphere."

  • No, I don't recognise that at all. I mean, the Sunday Times is very, very strict, they're very thorough, as they are now. It's just completely untrue.

  • I want to now move to your relationship with Professor Greenslade, as he now is, back in the 1980s when you were working on the Sunday Times. You say that there were several disagreements. The Inquiry has been provided with information which suggests that Professor Greenslade doesn't accept that. He can't recall any disagreements.

  • Might you be mistaken in your recollection?

  • No, definitely not mistaken. This is a man who has written articles saying "Why I'm out to nail Mazher Mahmood". I think his agenda is very clear. He didn't like me then, doesn't like me now.

  • It's certainly right to say that Professor Greenslade has published a number of articles critical of some of your work. It's also right, though, that he has on other occasions praised your work, isn't it?

  • Right. I don't know what the proportion is, but the majority of his work is very critical.

  • He praised your work in exposing the Pakistani cricket match-fixing, didn't he?

  • Yes, he did. Hard not to, to be honest.

  • And your expose involving the Duchess of York?

  • I don't know whether he praised that or not.

  • Can we move now to the evidence which you gave about the Turcu case? We learnt at the end of your oral evidence that there had been an appeal against the judgment which you had exhibited to your second witness statement, and that the appeal had been compromised. There was no mention of the appeal in your witness statement, was there?

  • Well, if you look at my second witness statement, in paragraph 22, I think it was, I think I hinted at it. In fact, it's something that should be heard. I think it's something that the Inquiry should hear about, because it illustrates how ludicrous the conditional fee arrangement is. It's ludicrous.

    Alin Turcu is a man that we said was involved in the Beckham kidnap plot. Transpired that in fact it's not Alin Turcu at all. That was a name he'd stolen. His real name is Bogdan Maris, a name that he'd taken from somebody he'd met in prison while in Romania. So in a sense we'd libelled an imposter.

    He then takes us to court for libel on a conditional fee basis. During the trial he was not in touch, I understand, with his barrister, David Price, and we win, Lord Justice Eady ruled that there definitely was a plot, and we won. Despite the fact we won, it cost us so much money, it was an absolutely fortune despite having won. I think Mr Justice Eady said at the time that the position of the News of the World was wholly unenviable, which indeed it was.

    Following that, one of the informants on that story had turned against me and the paper and, encouraged by Mr Greenslade -- Mr Greenslade introduced him to David Price and he then made a statement and eventually an appeal was launched.

    I was told that purely on the grounds of cost -- you know, it made economic sense not to pursue this, easier to give Bogdan Maris or Turcu or whatever his name was, better to pay him off than go back into court and incur costs yet again.

  • I want to explore some of that reply a step at a time. Can we start first of all with paragraph 22 of your second witness statement.

  • Where is that in the bundle?

  • It should be in the original bundle.

  • And it's on the screen.

  • Sure. You say:

    "In a related libel trial [this is related to the Victoria Beckham kidnap story] (brought by a member of the gang who had been reported to have been involved in the discussions -- the newspaper apologised to him) Mr Justice Eady said ..."

    I'm going to read on in a moment, but before I do that, that's the apology you're referring to in your third witness statement?

  • That's right, that we apologised to him, so obviously it follows that we had settled with him in some way.

  • Does it, Mr Mahmood? Because in the judgment at first instance, although the judgment was for News International, News International had not won every factual dispute, had it? In particular, the judge had not found that there was a gang, only a loose association of criminals prepared to take whatever opportunities presented themselves?

  • Right, but we won the libel action.

  • And so what apology were you there referring to? Was it a --

  • This was following the appeal that we thought we don't want to go ahead with this appeal, we don't want to go back to court and incur further costs, so the newspaper apologised to Turcu or Bogdan Maris. I was only told about it after it happened, actually.

  • It's singularly unclear in your witness statement, isn't it, that there was an appeal, that there was a great deal of fresh evidence on the appeal and the appeal was compromised?

  • Paragraph 22 was under the subheading "Fabrication" and what I was referring to there was that allegations of fabrication of stories was simply not true, and this was -- this case was illustrating that, that Mr Justice Eady had ruled that our evidence was valid, having gone through every tape of every conversation. So it was in that context I mentioned it.

    But as I say, it's something that I should have mentioned, because I feel it's something the Inquiry should be aware of, that you can get petty criminals like Bogdan Maris or Alin Turcu and they walk away with money, despite being villains.

  • Let's explore what the appeal involved. As you've pointed out a moment ago, at the first trial the claimant did not give evidence?

  • He was not in touch with his brief.

  • It's right, isn't it, that part of the appeal involved the service of a witness statement from Mr Turcu and assertions by Mr Turcu that he was going to come and attend any retrial of the matter?

  • Right. The first time I've seen these documents have been recently. I was not privy to these. It was all dealt with by our legal department. I was only told about the apology afterwards and it was explained to me that it wasn't viable on commercial grounds. Perhaps these are questions best addressed to our legal team.

  • Well, you've seen the documents now?

  • So I think you can answer the questions on the basis of what you've seen --

  • We can go through them if you wish, but I can put them --

  • -- more quickly.

  • In addition to Mr Turcu's witness statement, there was also a statement from Mr Gashi, wasn't there?

  • That's correct. As I said, Mr Greenslade had put Mr Gashi in touch with David Price.

  • And Mr Gashi's witness statement, the substance of it was that the whole story had been a set-up?

  • That's right. Mr Gashi is -- made numerous allegations, but clearly his statement doesn't tally with the findings of Mr Justice Eady, and the background to Gashi is that he was an informant of mine, provided information, and was always vetted by myself and always found to be accurate at the time.

    I fell out with him after he was deported as an illegal immigrant, and he turned against me because he felt that I should in some way have assisted him in gaining stay in this country. He said, "Look, I've helped you, you have connections with the Home Office, you should have helped me stay in this country."

    So having landed back in Albania, he turned against me and made phone calls to Mr Greenslade. Mr Greenslade -- made a series of allegations. Greenslade advised him to talk to police. He also put him in touch with Mr Price. So that's the background to Gashi.

  • Mr Gashi also alleged, didn't he, that not only was the story a set-up, but also it was a set-up at your instigation?

  • It doesn't -- as I say, Mr Justice Eady went through all the evidence, and I think it's very clear, his conclusion is very clear. So Mr Gashi is lying.

  • But the point is, Mr Mahmood, that Mr Justice Eady didn't have Mr Gashi's evidence, did he? This was fresh evidence that the appellant wished to use.

  • No, but Mr Justice Eady had access to every single tape.

  • Mr Gashi went so far, didn't he, as to allege that there was no plot?

  • As I say, Mr Gashi has -- since his deportation has made a variety of bizarre and ludicrous allegations.

  • In addition to the statement --

  • And that, I think that during the cricket trial he approached them, spoke to police, police disregarded him, said that he was unreliable, he was mentally unstable, he's attempted suicide twice, so they didn't regard him as a credible witness.

  • Could you please listen to the question: in addition to the statements of Mr Turcu and Mr Gashi, the appellant also served for the purposes of the appeal three statements about the gun which had featured in films that had been taken covertly, including a statement from Mr Turcu's old employer saying that one of its employees had said the gun had been supplied by the employee to Mr Gashi, but was not a real gun; it was a replica.

  • I've seen that, but what's the evidence that that was the gun that was on the video?

  • And there was a statement from the man who supplied the gun to Mr Gashi confirming that and saying, having seen the film, that he thought it was the same gun.

  • Mr Barr, these guys involved in the Beckham kidnap plot were serious Eastern Bloc criminals, they were jailed for other offences. These were serious villains. For them to obtain a weapon was not a big deal. The assertion that it had to be a gun supplied by Gashi, that simply doesn't hold any water.

  • You say it's an assertion that doesn't hold any water. Do you have any personal knowledge of who supplied the gun or not?

  • But we are aware that one of the members of the gang had a weapon, we're certainly aware of that, and our evidence showed that. Where it came from, I don't know.

  • The third witness on that subject was the girlfriend of the owner of the gun, who said that she had hidden the gun.

  • Sorry, she was the girlfriend of who? Of Gashi, I think.

  • We can look that up.

  • No, it was Gashi's girlfriend.

  • Gashi's girlfriend said -- Dominique Maurice(?), yes, you're right, said that she had hidden the gun.

  • She would say whatever Gashi told her to say. As I say, you're going off on a tangent here, the gun thing. We saw a gun on the video, one of the gang had a gun. For Gashi to claim that it was his gun, it was a replica, you know, it's a matter for him.

  • It's quite important, isn't it, because Mr Gashi is saying it was all a set-up which he had instigated, and he was the person who had provided the replica gun; that's an important fact, isn't it?

  • Not at all. As I say, Mr Justice Eady went through every single tape, scanned -- I mean, the police went through all our tapes first of all, the CPS went through all our tapes and all our evidence, the police were satisfied with our evidence, the CPS was satisfied with our evidence when they brought charges and Mr Justice Eady was satisfied with the evidence. So, you know, the only person now, after having turned against me, Mr Gashi's making his allegations, he's the only one that says that the evidence isn't up to scratch. Everybody else seems to think it is.

  • Wasn't the true position that in addition to whatever concerns there might have been about legal costs, the evidential landscape had changed dramatically by the time that the appeal was compromised, and that there was evidence from a number of witnesses which was adverse to the News International case and which News International was poorly placed to challenge?

  • I don't think that was the case and that's not how our legal team presented it to me. Mr Gashi would be shown to be discredited in seconds if he appeared in court. I think in one court case -- he even turned up in a court case to do with a story about red mercury where he stood in the witness box and admitted that he'd lied, made up a false allegation about me. When he was challenged why he had lied, he said, "Look, I don't know."

    So on the basis of Gashi, it's a bit unfair to criticise that story. In essence you're saying the police got it wrong, CPS got it wrong, Mr Justice Eady got it wrong but Gashi's right. That's essentially what you're saying to me.

  • I'm not concerned about the story in itself. That's part of, if you like, legal history. I'm concerned with the custom, practice and ethics of the press, and I'd like your help on this: Mr Gashi was your informant. He provided you, as I understand what you've said, with much useful information, which had led to investigations which you'd conducted.

  • And you'd relied upon him for the purpose of your work?

  • Well, relied on him in that he provided tips. We would investigate each tip, independently gather evidence. We get tips from all kinds of people.

  • Yes, but in particular you'd relied upon him for tips and for information over some time?

  • And each tip that he presented we vetted thoroughly.

  • Just bear with me, please. I will get there. However dishonest he might be, he was now saying, in a statement which was going to be put before the court, that you'd put him up to this particular story. That's what he was saying.

  • Are you telling me that nobody discussed that with you or warned you about it or told you about it at all? So that you had no knowledge of this?

  • I can't recall that, but what I can recall is that he was also encouraged by Mr Greenslade to speak to police and I was called in and interviewed by police over a whole range of allegations that he'd made, and each of them were later proved to be false, so --

  • -- we knew that the man's a liar.

  • -- you misunderstand my point, Mr Mahmood. I am concerned to know whether your newspaper, who clearly knew about all this, they were seeing the papers, raised with you issues or put into train measures arising out of the fact that this man who provided you with tips was now alleging that you'd set him up to it. There was no such discussion with you?

  • I can't recall. I can't recall a specific discussion.

  • Because one might think that however much one dismisses this man -- and I'm not here to support Mr Gashi at all -- a newspaper would be concerned to find itself in this position and would want to put into place measures to protect itself, not least because, quite right, you say Mr Justice Eady saw the tapes, but he only saw the tapes that he got, and the risk is that you are then put into a difficult position, and I'm sure you can't have been pleased to be interviewed by the police. That's itself a concerning position. So I'm just interested to know what your view is about the fact that nothing seems to have been discussed with you, nothing seems to have been put into place to ensure your position was protected.

  • I don't quite follow what you mean by nothing was put in place. I mean, what do you mean should have been put in place?

  • I'm surprised that you weren't told immediately about this statement, not merely so that you could say it's rubbish, or whatever view you took about it --

  • -- but also so that you could think how you could protect yourself in the future if tipsters were going to do this to you.

  • No, I'm sure it was mentioned. I cannot recall. It's the nature of my work that we are dealing with these kinds of criminals. You know, it's inevitable we have to deal with these unreliable people.

  • Could I express some concern, Mr Mahmood, that you can't recall what I would have thought, speaking for myself, would be quite an important discussion for your protection, which wasn't that long ago in history.

  • I can certainly recall having a conversation with Tom Crone about allegations he'd made to the police. I can recall that.

  • Terribly sorry. Mr Mahmood, perhaps I could help you with that. Could you turn to tab 10 of the bundle.

  • You should have there a statement of yours. Do you have it?

  • It was one of the exhibits to the statement that you filed late on Monday of this week. A statement of yours, it's made for the purposes of the appeal, you can see that from the heading?

  • And it says at paragraph 2:

    "I have recently [it's dated 4 July 2006] read the witness statement relied upon by the appellant given by Florim Gashi dated 21 September 2005. The purpose of this statement is to answer various allegations raised by Mr Gashi in his statement. This is intended to be a brief statement in response, and if this appeal progresses any further, as the appellant wishes, then I can produce a fuller statement in due course if required."

    Then your statement goes on to rebut the various allegations in the main and to accept one or two of them.

  • Having drawn your attention to that document, it's right, isn't it, that your earlier evidence that you knew nothing about this appeal until after it had been settled --

  • No, I didn't know that we'd --

  • -- must have been wrong?

  • No, it's not wrong. I didn't know that we'd settled. I had no idea that we'd settled. Thanks for alerting me to this. It clearly was discussed with me because I've written a statement of response to the allegations that you made so I think that answers that question but I was certainly not aware that we'd settled and I still don't know what the amount of the settlement was or what the terms of the settlement were.

  • I would like to know how it is that you're telling us on Wednesday morning that you didn't know about the appeal until after it had settled when --

  • No, what I'm saying about the appeal --

  • -- your exhibit on Monday makes clear that you did.

  • As I said to you, I was unaware of the terms of the settlement or they'd reached a settlement. I was told about that afterwards. Clearly I was aware of the fact there was an appeal.

  • You appreciate that I'm not concerned with the facts of the case, that's merely the background. I'm concerned about a slightly different point, about discussions arising out of the fact that one of your tipsters had said all this very damaging material or statements about you.

    Anyway, I've understood what you have said.

  • Can we go back to paragraph 22 of your original witness statement, Mr Mahmood, your second statement. This may need to be brought to the screen again. It's the paragraph we looked at a moment ago. I've read the introductory sentence already. The quotation of Mr Justice Eady says:

    "'Mr Mahmood may be hard bitten and cynical, but I found no support for the proposition that he had made the whole thing up.'

    "He also said:

    "'There was clearly a plan to kidnap Victoria Beckham, however desultory some of the discussions may have been' and 'It is clear that real crimes were regularly discussed ... There is no reliable way to determine that the Beckham discussions are to be distinguished from the others as not real.'"

    Then you go to to say:

    "I think this answers the criticisms that I had in some way concocted the story, that there was no truth in it, or that I had exaggerated it ..."

    So it's plain, isn't it, that one of the reasons why you included that quotation in your witness statement was because you wanted to draw attention to Mr Justice Eady's finding that there was clearly a plan to kidnap Victoria Beckham?

  • That's right. As I said, it was under the subheading "Fabrication".

  • Absolutely, no, I agree.

  • -- the additional allegation that you'd fabricated it?

  • If we look at paragraph 8 of your third statement --

  • -- which says:

    "I had also thought and still think that the fact of the appeal and settlement did not change the effect of the words in the judgment which I quoted in my second statement. The words of Mr Justice Eady which I quoted were about an additional point that had arisen in the proceedings, which was an attack on my character, suggesting that I knew that this story was false and that I had picked on vulnerable asylum seekers."

    The point is, Mr Mahmood, not only was the quote relevant to the fabrication issue, the appeal was also relevant to the question of whether or not there was a plot at all, wasn't it?

  • And so this is really no excuse at all, is it, for not mentioning the appeal more fully in your second witness statement?

  • As I say, it's an oversight and it's an issue that I would want aired because it's an issue that I'm concerned about, how people like this can go to court and walk away with money purely on economic grounds. It's an issue that I'm concerned about.

  • Can we move now to what you tell us about the PCC. You tell us that there was an investigation by the PCC into the payments which had been made by the News of the World to Mr Gashi.

  • It's right, isn't it, that the PCC found in the News of the World's favour?

  • And it did that because it interpreted the PCC code in relation to payments to witnesses as only applying once charges were laid?

  • And not in accordance with the wider meaning of legal proceedings, which is applied in contempt of court cases.

  • The third matter which I'd like to ask you about today, Mr Mahmood, is your use of Florim Gashi after the Beckham kidnap plot.

  • It is right, isn't it, that you continued to use Mr Gashi to provide you with tips for stories after the Beckham plot?

  • Even though he was regarded by the police as an unreliable witness?

  • Most of the people I deal with would be regarded as unreliable witnesses. I've had front page splashes from crack addicts. A story I did about a footballer's father who was running a crack den in Nottingham, that came from a crack addict who even stole my tape recorder. We deal with unreliable people all the time but it's information that's important, that we vet and check thoroughly. So it can't be said that because Gashi had been described as unreliable by police that we thought he was unreliable.

  • It does put at risk, though, doesn't it, the potential integrity of your investigations if you're relying upon a man whose credibility issues were as significant as Mr Gashi's?

  • As I said, we get stories from crack addicts, prostitutes, all kinds of sources. Our job is to test the tip that they're providing, gather information, and only if our lawyers are satisfied does it appear in the paper.

  • You tell us at paragraph 19 that Mr Gashi made allegations about you in the red mercury trial and then in the cricket match-fixing trial, a matter which you touched upon a little earlier in your evidence. You also say that in the red mercury trial, he admitted in court that he had made false accusations about you and withdrew them. Which allegations are you saying he withdrew?

  • I can't recall that. I did ask our lawyers to try and get a transcript of the case, but they've not been able to do that in time, but I do recall being told by our legal team that he'd stood up in court and admitted that he'd lied and was not -- unable to explain why he'd lied.

  • You tell us that when you joined the Sunday Times last year the editor asked you to confirm that you no longer used Mr Gashi nor would you in the future use Mr Gashi and you gave him that assurance?

  • Absolutely. This is a man who's made allegations against me to the police, so it wouldn't even -- the question doesn't even arise, really.

  • We fell out after he was deported so I've not spoken to him or dealt with him since. In fact, he was ringing me up threatening me from Albania.

  • Did the Sunday Times require any other conditions on the way in which you conducted your investigations when they employed you last year?

  • Thank you. Those were all my questions.

  • Is there a risk that if you use an informant who you know to be unreliable as the basis to start investigation, that you're then really embarking upon what is little more than a fishing expedition?

  • No, it's not true at all. I mean, with Gashi, I mean at the time all the information that he'd provided me was accurate. I didn't regard him as an unreliable witness, even after the Beckham case. I believed and still do that the information he provided at the time was correct. But the nature the work is, as I explained, that you have to deal with people who are simply unreliable, untrustworthy. You have to.

  • I understand the point. And I also understand your point about conditional fee agreements, but its place in this discussion we will have to think about.

    All right, thank you very much. I will rise.

  • (A short break)

  • The next witness is Mr Robert Crow, please.

  • Can I confirm that the audio and visual are back on? Thank you.