Mazher Mahmood, dubbed the “fake sheikh”, posed as a wealthy film producer called Samir Khan when he met the former X Factor judge at a string of luxury hotels and restaurants, jurors have heard.
Giving evidence at London’s Southwark Crown Court, he denied “manipulating” the 26-year-old after he told her she was being considered for a leading role in a Slumdog Millionaire-type film tipped for Oscar glory alongside possible co-star Leonardo Di Caprio.
Contostavlos is on trial after allegedly boasting that she could “sort out” cocaine for Mahmood and put the reporter in touch with her rapper friend Mike GLC who supplied the drug.
She vehemently denies brokering the deal, which was exposed in The Sun on Sunday newspaper last June.
Appearing in the witness box behind a screen to protect his identity, Mahmood said he used “subterfuge” when he secretly recorded meetings with the former N-Dubz star as he attempted to establish whether she was involved in drugs.
“The motive here is in the public interest to expose criminality,” he said.
Under cross-examination, Mahmood denied that the reason for the expose was to create a “sensational story”.
He said: “Of course, I’m a journalist and stories are what I do for a living. That’s not the reason I did it.”
Contostavlos’s barrister Jeremy Dein said: “You misled her, didn’t you?”
Mahmood replied: “You can’t mislead somebody into supplying cocaine.”
Dein suggested Mahmood and his colleague “Nish” spiked Contostavlos’s drink when they met at London’s Metropolitan hotel on May 10 last year. Mahmood replied: “Absolutely outrageous.”
Dein said: “You got her to incriminate herself.”
The witness replied: “I think that is nonsense.”
Referring to Mahmood’s meeting with Contostavlos in Las Vegas in March last year, Dein said: “This was only the beginning of your manipulation of Ms Contostavlos.”
The journalist replied: “I disagree.”
The trial continues.