Sun Reporter Denies Entrapping Singer Tulisa into Drug Deal
A reporter has denied trying to entrap the former N-Dubz singer and TV star Tulisa Contostavlos into a cocaine deal by posing as a Bollywood film producer interested in casting her.
During a sometimes testy cross-examination at Southwark crown court on Thursday, Mazher Mahmood, who made his name at the News of the World and now works for the Sun, said he never tried to entice Contostavlos into a drugs deal. “The job was to establish whether she was doing drugs or not,” he said. “If she wasn’t then that was fine. Move on.”
Mahmood also vehemently rejected the idea that he had spiked the former X Factor judge’s drinks during a meal so as to make her more likely to offer him drugs.
This was “complete and utter nonsense”, Mahmood told Contostavlos’s defence counsel, Jeremy Dein QC, adding: “I did not spike her drink. It is a criminal act.”
Mahmood was speaking from behind a screen to shield his face from the court. Contostavlos chose to sit in the far corner of the glassed dock so as to be able to look at him.
The court has been told that the 26-year-old singer offered to help Mahmood, who was playing the role of a wealthy film-maker, obtain cocaine following meetings in Las Vegas and London in which he said she could be cast in a Slumdog Millionaire-style epic.
The prosecution alleges that Contostavlos put Mahmood in touch with a rapper friend who supplied more than £800 of cocaine, a deal then revealed on the front page of the Sun. While the friend, Michael Coombs, known as Mike GLC, has admitted supplying the drug Contostavlos denies brokering any deal.
Questioning Mahmood in sometimes argumentative exchanges, which saw the judge, Alistair McCreath, intervene repeatedly, Dein put it to the journalist that he had entrapped Contostavlos by implying that obtaining the “bad girl” role was partly based on her genuinely being a hard-living type.
This was nonsense, the reporter answered: “If you want someone to play a drug dealer, you don’t get a drug dealer to play it,” he said. “It’s called acting.”
Mahmood agreed that the way he gained access to Contostavlos – flying her and her agent first class to Las Vegas for meetings, and then taking them out for a luxury meal in London – involved some necessary subterfuge and dishonesty.
However, he denied that this amounted to manipulation: “No. You can’t manipulate someone into supplying cocaine if they don’t do it.”
Mahmood said that while Dein characterised the operation as “no expense spared”, it actually ran to a strict budget. When Contostavlos wanted to stay an extra night at the luxury Las Vegas hotel, he told the court, his editors vetoed it. He said: “The office said she’s taking the piss here. Boot her out. Get rid of her.”
A subsequent meal at London’s Metropolitan Hotel saw the group spend £173 on drink, a receipt showed.
The jury was played a tape recording of Mahmood ordering shots, for Contostavlos and others. Dein said: “The plan from the beginning was to get Ms Contostavlos very heavily under the influence of alcohol.”
Mahmood replied: “We had absolutely no intention of getting Ms Contostavlos drunk and she was not drunk.”
Contostavlos, of Friern Barnet, north London, denies helping an undercover reporter to obtain 0.5oz (13.9g) of the class-A drug for £860.
The trial continues.