Mazher Mahmood, a British maverick journalist, was a man of mystery who had operated several sting operations to expose some wealthy, influential, and corrupt members of society. The Fake Sheikh, released on Amazon, is a three-part docu-series that revolves around the man’s journey from gaining immense popularity for his controversial yet effective journalism to his imprisonment for tampering with evidence leading to his eventual downfall. A very flawed and shrewd character was Mazher Mahmood. Knowing his story makes us wonder what went wrong inside his head, which led him to break his commitment to honest and truthful journalism.
Who Was Mazher Mahmood?
Mazher Mahmood started his journey by working in a tabloid press. He contributed stories to newspapers like “News of the World” and “The Sunday Times”. One of his associates and close friends was Paul Samarai, with whom he joined forces to conduct a sting operation, exposing the wealthy and influential Dr. Rangwani’s evil deeds. When Rangwani approached Paul to discuss his desire to kill his mistress, Mazher took the lead and disguised himself as a contract killer to set up a meeting with Rangwani. During this meeting, Maz secretly recorded his words about assigning him the murder of his mistress, which was a powerful piece of evidence to file against him. Dr. Rangwani did not get the slightest hint of the trap and was subsequently arrested. Thanks to Mazher, the News of the World was able to cover a major story.
Maz felt he’d discovered a new talent, and no one else could have done it better than him. Although this tactic was not really appreciated or talked about in journalism, it was quite appreciated in his initial years due to its positive impact on society. During his formative years, Maz impersonated the Sheikh of Dubai and lured many influential people into his trap. Notorious cases he worked on included exposing an underworld gang for plotting the kidnapping of Victoria Beckham and the attempt by the father of Slumdog Millionaire child actress Rubina Ali to sell his daughter. In each case, he resorted to deception, but the end result was always good because his journalism, however debatable, managed to save someone’s life. But the question is, did Maz really want to help people, or did he not really care about people and instead focused more on just coming up with a story?
From the initial years of his life, his ambitions were sky-high. His ultimate goal was to gain recognition and become the first South Asian journalist brave enough to carry out this strategic investigative journalism. He knew how to think outside the box, which was something that set him apart. Whether his methods were good or bad, people appreciated the end results of his work. He proved himself many times and eventually received awards like “Reporter of the Year,” “Scoop of the Year,” and many more. However, even though he achieved the fame he always craved, he never let his appearance be broadcast. Even during his interviews, he never faced the camera because revealing his face would have finished his career.
Desperation was always on Maz’s mind. His desperation is a big factor that really makes us think about the true intentions behind his journalistic tactics. He could manipulate people close to him in various ways to get them to do what he wanted. He was very aware of how to influence someone and make them act. A prime example of this is his relationship with his former partner, Zee, who fell head over heels for this mysterious man. They looked like a happy couple in the photos, as Zee was the only one with whom Maz used to take pictures. He even enlisted her help in his sting operations, making her his partner in crime. But, surprisingly, after a certain period of time, he chose to walk away from the relationship when Zee started questioning his strategy.
Although Zee was heartbroken, she didn’t stop admiring Mahmood for his courage in carrying out these treacherous operations for the good cause. However, it showed that Mahmood actually lacked empathy and was not a reliable person to connect with. His lack of empathy was evident when he went to great lengths to bring up the stories of undocumented migrant workers. Just to gain fame and to get closer to his role model, Rupert Murdoch, he put the lives of these migrants at risk, ignoring their struggles on foreign soil. This is how his true face was gradually revealed through one controversial story after another.
Where is Maz Mahmood now?
In this Amazon documentary series, we hear a journalist from the News of the World say that Mahmood was a man with very low self-esteem, which at one point turns out to be true. Perhaps Mahmood never felt satisfied with the jobs he did, and having a South Asian background, he had some insecurities and feelings of exclusion, which pushed him to become more desperate and cross boundaries. Finally, in 2014, Mahmood’s career took a dark turn from which he could not revive it. He tried the same strategic sting operation, under the guise of a sheikh, with pop singer Tulisa Contostavlos, just in the same way he exposed the drug abuse of Emma Morgan, a Page 3 model. He attempted to destroy Tulisa’s reputation by portraying her as a drug addict. However, Tulisa didn’t back down and sit quietly, like Emma. She filed a lawsuit against Mahmood and claimed that he had tampered with the video footage only to force his statement.
As Mahmood’s trial began, even his driver provided a testimony against him, which corroborated Tulisa’s claim that some evidence was really tampered with just to form a story. Mahmood lost the case and hid his face from the media. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison, but after his release, he dropped out of the public eye. He is now a free man, but he is probably working as a freelancer now. We still don’t know what exactly Mahmood is pursuing now, but it seems that he will not be able to return to journalism, and the strategies he applied to kickstart his career will not be re-accepted or revived.