LONDON - Rupert Murdoch's British tabloid The Sun suspended an investigative reporter nicknamed the "Fake Sheikh" on Monday after a pop star's drugs trial collapsed amid allegations that the journalist had lied in court.
The trial of singer Tulisa Contostavlos, who had been accused of offering to procure cocaine for reporter Mazher Mahmood, was dismissed by a judge at Southwark Crown Court in London. Mahmood rose to prominence for his work at News of The World, the weekly tabloid that Murdoch shut down in 2011 following revelations of phone hacking, and moved to its sister paper The Sun after its closure.
Contostavlos, 26, called on police to investigate the "horrific and disgusting entrapment" by the reporter, whose use of false identities to investigate well-known UK figures earned him the "Fake Sheikh" nickname.
Mahmood's story on cricket-spot fixing in 2011 led to the convictions of three Pakistan players for their involvement in the betting scam.He had also posed as a wealthy film producer offering former talent show judge Contostavlos a major role in a Bollywood film.
The pair had several meetings at luxury hotels and restaurants, which were secretly recorded by Mahmood, and he claimed that the singer had boasted of being able to supply him with cocaine during one of these meetings.
But judge Alistair McCreath told the jury on Monday that the case "cannot go any further" because there were "strong grounds to believe" Mahmood had "lied" at a hearing before the trial started.
The prosecution of the singer's co-defendant, who had already pleaded guilty to supplying cocaine, has also been dismissed.
The Sun said the reporter has been suspended pending its own investigation.
A spokesman said: "We are very disappointed with this outcome, but do believe the original investigation was conducted within the bounds of the law and the industry's Code. This was demonstrated by the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) decision to prosecute.
"The Sun, of course, takes the judge's remarks very seriously. Mr Mahmood has been suspended pending an immediate internal investigation."
Murdoch's British newspapers have faced a series of setbacks in recent years.
Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was jailed for 18 months on July 4 for his role in the phone-hacking scandal.
The hacking scandal prompted a major judge-led inquiry on the reform of Britain's notoriously raucous press.