UK

BBC Panorama Cancels Mazher Mahmood 'Fake Sheikh' Documentary With Minutes Until Broadcast

10/11/2014 20:35 GMT | Updated 10/11/2014 22:59 GMT

The BBC has cancelled its plans to air a controversial expose of "fake sheikh" Mazher Mahmood on Monday's Panorama, because of new legal information, just minutes before it was due to broadcast.

The programme was taken off air, despite a ruling in the Court of Appeal not to grant Mahmood an injunction over the screening.

"The BBC had intended to broadcast Panorama, Fake Sheikh: Exposed tonight following the Court of Appeal’s decision earlier today to allow the BBC to broadcast images of Mazher Mahmood. Shortly before transmission Mr Mahmood’s lawyers submitted new information relating to one of the cases in the programme which, as a responsible broadcaster, the BBC needs to evaluate," a spokesman for the corporation told HuffPost.

"Once this has been done we will broadcast Fake Sheikh: Exposed, including recent footage of Mr Mahmood, as planned."

mazher mahmood

One of Mahmood's stings - on Sven-Göran Eriksson

Lawyers reacting to the news on social media have questioned whether the "new information" should, in fact, have been brought before the court hearing that took place on Monday afternoon, when Mahmood lost a final legal challenge.

The challenge was over the High Court's refusal to grant an injunction preventing the programme showing recent images of the "Fake Sheikh".

Mahmood has exposed numerous alleged crimes and wrongdoings, often by posing as a sheik, targeting royals, sports stars, politicians and celebrities in stings over 30 years.

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But he has also had accused of entrapping and provoking his targets, such as X-Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos whose drugs trial earlier this year was dropped after the judge accused Mahmood of lying. Mahmood has been suspended from The Sun since the case collapsed in July.

The Panorama programme, which was scheduled to be shown at 8.30pm Monday night was intending to show images of Mahmood and reveal details of his identity, after his lawyers failed to win a high court injunction to prevent images taken after 2006 that are not already in the public domain being shown.

tulisa

Tulisa's case was thrown out after a 'fake sheik' sting

His lawyers argued that his family’s safety would be put at risk if his identity became widely known.

The attorney general had even intervened to ask if it could be pushed back while it is decided whether Mahmood will be charged with an offence over the Contostavlos case, where he pretended to be a film producer and allegedly caught the pop star organsing a £800 cocaine deal.

But the judge decided this wasn't relevant to the injunction, and that there was no reason to restrict the BBC’s freedom of speech or editorial discretion.

He also said that Mahmood failed to provide evidence that exposure of his identity would endanger him or his family.

Mahmood worked for the News Of The World for more than 20 years, and now works for the defunct newspaper's successor The Sun On Sunday.

He claims to have help to secure more than 90 convictions in his 30-year career.

He was behind the expose of Sarah Ferguson, the duchess of York, who was allegedly selling access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew, the revelation of match-fixing in cricket matches during Pakistan's 2010 tour of England.

He has broken many stories on politicians' indiscretions, such as the secret love child of environment Minister Tim Yeo and the affair of minister David Mellor, who then resigned.

He also posed as a businessman and reported England's then football manager Sven-Göran Eriksson as saying he would leave the team for £15 million.

The description of the Panorama episode had read: "Panorama's John Sweeney speaks to some of his highest profile targets and the men who helped him expose them. They allege that the Fake Sheikh was the real crook, using sophisticated entrapment and even creating crimes and fabricating evidence."

Instead, the Panorama investigation which was broadcast was "The Girl Who Vanished", looking at the case of missing Blackpool girl Charlene Downes.