Duchess of York begins court proceedings against 'Fake Sheikh' over News of the World sting

Beatrice Ferguson, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and Eugenie Ferguson. Photo / Getty Images
Beatrice Ferguson, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and Eugenie Ferguson. Photo / Getty Images

The Duchess of York has begun legal proceedings for compensation over a newspaper sting orchestrated by the discredited 'Fake Sheikh' Mazher Mahmood, The Telegraph has learnt.

The Duchess was the subject of a front page story in the News of the World in 2010 which alleged that she offered to obtain access to her former husband the Duke of York in return for £500,000 (NZ$860,000).

A claim against Mahmood and the publisher News Corp was lodged by the Duchess's legal team at the Chancery Division of the High Court on April 29.

Sven-Göran Eriksson, the former England football manager, has also revealed plans to sue for compensation over a sting orchestrated by Mahmood in 2006.

The Duchess was filmed by Mahmood, who was posing as a businessman, asking for £500,000 to be wired to her HSBC bank account and saying: "That opens up everything you would ever wish for. I can open any door you want, and I will for you. Look after me and he'll look after you ... you'll get it back tenfold."

She apologised at the time for a "serious lapse in judgement" but now believes she has a case against Mahmood.

Sven-Goran Eriksson, the former England football manager, plans to sue for compensation over a newspaper sting orchestrated by the discredited 'Fake Sheikh' Mazher Mahmood.

An Old Bailey jury found Mahmood, whose career spanned the News of the World, The Sunday Times and the Sun on Sunday, guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice together with his former driver Alan Smith.

They had tampered with evidence relating to the prosecution of the pop singer Tulisa Contostavlos for supplying drugs, leading to the collapse of her trial in 2014.

Miss Contostavlos had been the subject of a front-page story by Mahmood after she arranged for a contact to sell cocaine to him, but she claimed she had been set up.

Eriksson, 68, met Mahmood, who was posing as a businessman, in January 2006 and asked him to take over Aston Villa FC, where he wanted to become manager once he had finished his job as England manager. He also said he would try to sign David Beckham, who was then at Real Madrid.

Later the same month the Football Association announced that Eriksson would be leaving the England job after that year's World Cup. Both the FA and Eriksson said at the time that the News of the World story had nothing to do with the decision.

Eriksson told Sky Sports News HQ: "That man was a disaster for my professional life. England was the biggest job of my life, and he took it away from me.

"I would probably have been sacked anyway if England didn't win the World Cup in 2006 - but in fact, I was sacked because of the Fake Sheikh; 90 per cent of what he said about me was lies.

"The newspaper apologised six months later, but it was too late by then - I'd lost the biggest job of my life, and my reputation was in tatters."

Eriksson, who is currently managing Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG, said that Mahmood, who will be sentenced on October 21, "should be in prison".

More than 25 subjects of Mahmood's stings have consulted the solicitor Mark Lewis, who also represented victims of phone-hacking, with a view to suing for compensation. Some went to prison, while others have said they lost their careers as a result of exposure by Mahmood.

Eriksson is among those being represented by Mr Lewis, whose client list is increasing almost by the hour. The Duchess is being represented by Paul Tweed, who also represented Miss Contostavlos when she issued her own civil proceedings against Mahmood. Mr Tweed said he could not discuss the Duchess's ongoing case.

Among those who have consulted Mr Lewis are John Alford, the former London's Burning star whose 1999 imprisonment for supplying drugs to Mahmood is currently under review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission; a former page 3 model called Emma Morgan, who was accused of dealing drugs; John Bryan, the former boyfriend of the Duchess of York, who claims Mahmood tried to set him up, and Murray Harkin, a former business partner of the Countess of Wessex.

Mr Lewis has suggested that claims against News Corp over Mahmood stings could "dwarf" the £330 million that the phone-hacking scandal cost the company.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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