Steve Coogan's extramarital affair was exposed in a 'dispassionate, sociopathic'sting by former News of the World showbiz reporter Rav Singh and former editor Andy Coulson, the comedian claimed today.
Coogan told the Leveson Inquiry that former British Press Awards showbiz reporter of the year Singh, who left the NoW in 2009 to join women's magazine Reveal, had first warned Coogan of an attempted "sting" in August 2002.
But he also alleged that two years later Singh orchestrated a second set up which resulted in the paper revealing his adulterous exploits.
Coogan said he received a call from Singh - who he considered a "casual friend" - when he was working at the NoW in August 2002. "He told me that I was about to be the subject of a sting," explained Coogan.
'I was about to receive a phone call which would come from Andy Coulson's [then deputy editor] office. There was a girl in Andy Coulson's office who was going to speak to me on the phone, the phone call would be recorded and she would try to entice me into talking about intimate details of her and my life.
'I was told by Rav Singh that Andy Coulson would be listening to the call and that I would have to be very, as it were, obfuscate [sic] when I had that phone call, without betraying the fact that I knew I was being set up so that I didn't land him in it for having tipped me off."
No story was published, but Coogan claimed he was the subject of a successful sting orchestrated by Singh two years later in April 2004.
'I was in a relationship that was breaking up because of an affair that I'd had, and he [Singh] called me and said, 'Look I want to help you'," he said.
'I begged him not to put in some of the more lurid details of the story, and he said if I confirmed certain aspects of the story in return he would guarantee that the more lurid details would be left out of the story.
'I confirmed certain details for him and he gave me his word that the more embarrassing part of the story which I knew would upset my then wife's family would be omitted."
He continued: 'After that my manager received a phone call from Andy Coulson saying that they'd recorded the whole phone call and they were going to put everything in the newspaper, and that Rav Singh giving me his word was just a ruse to get me to speak on the phone so they could record me – at the time I was in some distress – to record the whole phone call so they could cover themselves."
Coogan told the inquiry that the sting was 'not a malicious personal vendetta but a dispassionate, sociopathic act". 'It's like the mafia, it's just business,'he said.
Singh started his career on the Daily Star in 1996 before joining The Sun in 1998 and then the News of the World in 2000. During his eight-year stint at the Sunday tabloid, he had 52 front-page splashes.