Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 700 - 719)



  700. Mr Campbell-Savours has just referred me to the result of our inquiries into Mr Baldry where we said in subsection 21, "Mr Baldry failed to uphold the code of conduct when he provided a recommendation to the Lord Chancellor's Department that Mr Zaiwalla be awarded an honour without being open and declaring the loan that he had received 12 days previously. Complaint upheld." There the allegation was upheld.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I was not concerned with the allegation directly. What the press reported was Mr Milne's allegation, totally unconnected to Mr Baldry, which formed part of his allegation against Mr Baldry. That got reported in all the Commonwealth countries, that I was some sort of a crook or money lender.


  701. There was no criticism of you in this; the criticism was of Mr Baldry.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) You were very kind to write me a letter but I issued a press release and not a single newspaper in London or India carried it. I was so frustrated that I took professional advice and I was referred to Tim Bell through a common friend. I just could not do anything. Tim Bell wrote me a personal letter. I am prepared to show you, but it said, "I am sorry. This is the way of life. Nobody is interested in your side of the story." Even today, nobody has published the fact that in the Baldry case I was not the subject of criticism, to such an extent that the Indian High Commission has also blacklisted me, believing I was involved in corrupt dealings with Mr Baldry.[3]

Mr Williams

  702. It seems to show a marked lack of understanding on their part of the way this Committee works.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) That is so. I am not criticising the Committee.

  703. I did not assume you were. In the last week, attention has also been focused on you. I do not have it with me but in one of the recent letters you have written you do refer to the fact that you put up a marker but you do not exclude the possibility of a libel action.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Against The Sunday Telegraph, because they have alleged not only this complaint but a lot of other allegations which Mr Milne had made. For example, they said I had business dealings with Mr Baldry. I have never had business dealings with Mr Baldry. They said Mr Vaz used to refer cases to me in the BCCI matter. That is completely untrue. There was not a single referral from Mr Vaz ever to my firm. Why would he, because his wife is a practising lawyer.

Mr Bell

  704. Did Mr Vaz visit your old office in Chancery Lane from time to time?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Only for events.

  705. Not on that particular day when the two gentlemen came?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No.

  706. These two gentlemen were not known to you?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No.

  707. Did you do anything to check their credentials?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No.

  708. One does not normally hand over £1,000 to a total stranger.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I had a call before, so it was not a very large amount and I knew what the purpose was.

  709. With the absence of a receipt and the somewhat murky nature of the identity of the charity, the paper trail comes to an end in your office. That makes it rather difficult for the Commissioner and the Committee to know what went on then.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I have nothing further to add. As far as I know, the payments were not to Mr Vaz.


  710. How often did Mr Vaz come to your office or attend social events which you were at?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) As a relatively new practice, I used to throw events. Whenever there was an event, I would invite him and a lot of other people. He would have attended on a couple of occasions. I cannot put numbers on it.

  711. Quite frequently?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I would have liked him to, but I do not think it was that frequent.

  712. Half a dozen times a year?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No. About twice a year. I would throw a Christmas party every year. My firm even for the City was quite unique. Even today, it is the only law firm in the City of London started by a non-white Briton. As a matter of practice, I used to hold these events to get to know people and for others to know me.

  713. Have you discussed this inquiry with Mr Vaz since it started?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No.

  714. I understand you did talk with Mrs Vaz in the British Embassy in Lisbon last year. What did you talk about?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I talked about Mr Vaz's conduct concerning the employment tribunal.

  715. Not about this inquiry?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No, because our relations were rather cold. Relations were rather cold. To be accurate, the only time I may have—I talked to Mr Vaz; I left a message and he called back. I sent him a fax and he called back—was when Mr Milne got Chambers and Partners or some commercial law magazine to put out a story on this honours business, that I was a corrupt man. I wrote a letter to Mr Bindman and said, "You must take it up." Mr Vaz phoned me as I was driving. He said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I have made an application for an injunction in court. Why don't you do the same?" He said, "Will you give all your information to Mr Bindman?" I cannot remember whether I did or not, because we did not have very good relations at that particular period.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  716. Are you saying that you have neither corresponded with nor spoken to Ms Fernandez about this inquiry at any stage?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I cannot recollect.

  717. You cannot recollect?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I do not think I have.

  718. Might you have done?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Can I reflect on it? No, I have not written to her.

  719. Or spoken to Ms Fernandez on anything connected to this inquiry that we are doing?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No.

3   Note by witness: The current High Commissioner's son-in-law recently told me so. Back

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