Boris Johnson posed as a drug dealer in an elaborate sting that wouldn't go amiss in a Hollywood movie, it has been revealed.
When the London mayor was editor of The Spectator magazine, Boris - possibly the world's most unlikely-looking narcotics pusher - is said to have thought up a mischievous ruse to fool the News of the World (NOW) and its infamous “Fake Sheikh” reporter Mazher Mahmood.
The now-disgraced tabloid is said to have offered Spectator writer Lloyd Evans £5,000 to destroy the career of Boris in 1999, it has been sensationally revealed in a post to The Spectator's Coffee House blog.
Evans has described how he and Boris came up with a series of "implausible fables", including that Boris was a "pedlar of priceless antiquities," to expose “how the News of the World deals with the stories of the punters who approach it with bits and pieces of dirt”.
Evans described how Boris asked him to pretend to be a “stooge” and approach the paper with the grubby tale of drugs and dirt.
(1), to examine the claim of the News of the World that it acts only in the public interest, and (2), to tempt it with scandalous gossip whose exposure couldn’t conceivably lead to the moral improvement of society.
As a part of the sting, floppy-mopped Boris is said to have stashed a plastic bag of baking soda beneath a silver statuette in his office in an attempt to trick the red-top - and Evans sold him as a credible dealer because he "looked a bit manic."
The magazine's sketch writer and former theatre critic claims he was then met in a pub by a reporter called Nadia, who asked him to sign a contract saying he would be paid £5,000 for the story.
“Nadia wired me up and I phoned Boris, using my codename ‘David’,” Evans recounted. “As an opener I mentioned some poems I’d sent him (in real life I’m a poet). Did he want to publish them? He sounded lukewarm, as we’d agreed he should.
"Then I mentioned ‘Prince Charles’ and asked if he could give me a small package from ‘Charlie’. Fine, said Boris. Nadia liked this touch. ‘Prince Charlie,’ she said, ‘must be real Oxford talk?’ 'Yeah,’ I said.”
Scheming Boris, meanwhile, was “busy preparing” his role in the sting.
“[Boris] had a plastic bag of baking soda and was stuffing it underneath a statuette that graces the mantelpiece of his office,” Evans described.
“The inscription on the fine silver figurine reads: ‘To The Spectator. From The Townsfolk Of Aberdare. 1929’. The drugs would be produced with a flourish from beneath this official heirloom.”
Preparing to pounce on what they thought would be a soon-to-be-disgraced Boris, the NOW sent a blacked-out van full of cameras to The Spectator's offices. Nadia, posing as Evans' girlfriend, placed a hidden camera in her handbag and "Fake Sheikh" Mahmood was summoned.
Why all the fuss? Evans innocently asked? "Lots of people at the News of the World are really after Boris Johnson. He’s written some nasty things about us," Nadia replied.
But Evans was rumbled and the double-cross sting crumbled as Mahmood "mounted his moral high horse" and worked out what was going on.
Meeting Mahmood, Evans described how he was told: "This isn’t the way we work… Boris isn’t a drug dealer — in the normal sense. He doesn’t do it for a living; he doesn’t corrupt children. OK, dealers like that, yeah, we go after them — but not in this case. That’s entrapment. And entrapment is not the way we work."
The London Mayor's escapades emerged as Mahmood and his methods continue to be the subject of inquiries by Scotland Yard, the Crown Prosecution Service and his employers, News UK, who have suspended him from his job at The Sun on Sunday.
The actions of the undercover reporter have been described as "far more serious than phone hacking."