Evidence from Mr Kapasi
132. On 24 March 2000 I telephoned Mr Kapasi
(Annex 131) to thank him for his letter of 21 March denying any
involvement in making payments to Mr Vaz; to inform him that I
had received evidence of his saying something quite different
on another occasion; and to give him an opportunity to revise
his original statement, if he wished to do so.
133. Mr Kapasi wrote to me on 28 March (Annex
132) to tell me: "I stand by every word of my letter of 21
March. It is factually accurate and completely correct".
134. On 29 March I received from The Sunday
Telegraph transcripts of two taped conversations between journalists
from the newspaper and Mr Kapasi. These consisted of:
the transcript of the complete tape
of which I had heard extracts at my meeting with Mr Hastings and
Mr Syal on 17 March 2000
a transcript of a series of subsequent
telephone conversations between Mr Syal and Mr Kapasi which took
place on 18 March 2000.
135. According to the second of those transcripts
(Annex 4), Mr Syal sought confirmation from Mr Kapasi of the factual
basis of an article Mr Syal hoped to write for The Sunday Telegraph
about alleged payments to Mr Vaz in connection with the acquisition
of land for a complex of religious buildings in Leicester. Mr
Kapasi appeared to show some knowledge of the background to the
events put to him by Mr Syal, but was plainly reluctant to make
any public statement and attempted to dissuade Mr Syal from writing
a story for the newspapereven unattributably. As Mr Kapasi
put it: "I would deny anything that I told you before. I
need to discuss this with my colleagues".
136. In a further conversation later the same
day (18 March), Mr Syal put it to Mr Kapasi that he already faced
similar questions as part of my investigation of the complaints
against Mr Vaz:
|"RS||She's written to you and asked you to respond; are you going to lie?
|JK||Well, I'll have to make that decision later, but you see, as I said, I don't want to get involved at all in any of this".
137. On 12 April I wrote to Mr Kapasi (Annex 133) to ask him
to comment on a specific piece of evidence at apparent variance
with his earlier denial of having ever made payments to Mr Vaz.
The evidence in question was the letter of 22 April 1994 from
Sir Peter Soulsby to the then Town Clerk of Leicester,
the following extract from which I quoted in my letter to Mr Kapasi:
"This morning I [ie Sir Peter] telephoned Mr Jaffer Kapasi
of the Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat, who confirmed that he had been asked
repeatedly for a 'campaign contribution' ".
138. Mr Kapasi replied on 3 May (Annex 134) asking me to let
him have a copy of the full letter from Sir Peter from which I
had quoted the extract in my letter of 12 April.
139. In a letter dated 5 May (Annex 135) I informed Mr Kapasi
that I was not at liberty to do this, but I assured Mr Kapasi
that the rest of the letter did not refer directly to him.
140. I wrote again to Mr Kapasi on 15 May to remind him that
I had not received a reply to my letter of 5 May and to tell him
that I had seen an article in The Sunday Times of 14 May
2000 in which it was claimed that he had made comments on tape
during the preceding week relating to matters which were the subject
of my investigation. I accordingly invited Mr Kapasi to come to
see me to give me his account in person. I offered a choice of
three dates for this purpose23, 24 or 25 May.
141. On 16 May, at my request, The Sunday Times sent
me a transcript of the conversation with Mr Kapasi referred to
in the article of 14 May, followed a few days later by a second
transcript of a subsequent conversation with Mr Kapasi.
142. In the first conversation, which took place on 11 May
2000, Mr Kapasi confirmed that he had made payments to Mr Vaz.
When Mr Kapasi was pressed to give more details the exchanges
proceeded as follows (Annex 5):
||... You paid some money in cheques. To him. Mr Keith Vaz. And do you know roughly, remember roughly, when the dates were? Very roughly?
|JK ||I paid in 1992... 1996...
|DL||How many cheques?|
|JK ||Three cheques|
|DL||Three cheques. Totalling how much money roughly?
|JK ||Quite a few hundred pounds, but...
|DL||Was it four figures sir?
|JK ||Not in total, no.
|DL||But you'd say it was about six or seven hundred pounds?
|JK ||Maybe a little bit more.
|DL||Eight hundred pounds?
|DL||Nine hundred pounds?
|JK ||More... I mean...
|DL||More than nine hundred pounds... A thousand pounds?
|JK||You know that he... because... I mean that I... he took it [inaudible] a receipt for me...
|DL||You've got the receipts, yes? It's a donation is it? To him?
|JK ||Well... to his party's...
|DL||A donation to the Labour Party. But why would you make the cheque out to him?
|JK ||That's a good question.
||Did he ask you to make the cheque out to him?
|JK ||No... no... ".
143. Later in the conversation, when Mr Kapasi was asked about
the purpose of the three cheques to which he had referred, the
following passages ensued:
|"DL||Why did you make the donation to him? Why anyone?
|JK ||One, I think, was to a charity he set up... Sahara or whatever.
|DL||One was to his charity? A cheque to his charity? But the other two were to Mr Vaz, yes?
|DL||There were three cheques. And you say more than eight or nine hundred pounds altogether? More than a thousand pounds in fact? Whatfifteen hundred?
|JK ||Er... fifteen hundred... yes.
|DL||He [Mr Vaz] was trying to do what? What was he trying to do?
|JK ||Well, trying to influence the council.
|DL||On the planning application?
|JK ||Well yes...|
|DL||But on the planning application.
|JK ||You see, when we met him he said: 'Look, what I can do is write a letter of support'.
|DL ||But he did write a letter of support.
|JK ||Er... I don't think he did.
|GW||So he'd certainly offered to do it?
|DL ||He's offered to write a letter of support for the planning application?
|DL||He offered to do it, and then you gave him some money. When did you give him the money?
|JK ||There's no receipt. You see, this thing has been going on since 1988..."
144. Mr Kapasi went on to explain that of the three cheques
two had been drawn on his personal account and the remaining one
on the account of the local Dawoodi community, of which Mr Kapasi
is a leading member.
145. In the second transcript (Annex 6), which related to
a conversation recorded a day later (12 May), Mr Kapasi was asked
how the three cheques were delivered:
|"DL||Did you give them [the cheques] to him in the... where did you give them to him? Where were you when you gave him the cheques? Did you post them to him, or did you give them to him in person?
|JK ||I posted them to him.
|DL ||You posted them to him? I see. Because I thought you said yesterdayand I couldn't rememberthat you'd actually given them to him in person?
|JK ||I think it happened about three times. I remember now. I'm trying to remember now. I think, once, I think it was posted...
|DL||Once it was posted?
|JK ||I think I may have given it to him personally.
|DL ||Can you remember where? Was that in the Town Hall?
|JK ||No, no, no.|
|DL ||In your office?|
|JK ||No, no... sorry. Some public function somewhere.
|DL ||At a public function? Right. And the two cheques were made to him personally, and one was to the charity, yes?
|JK ||That's right."
146. When, however, it became clear later in the conversation
that The Sunday Times was intending to publish a story
about alleged payments by him to Mr Vaz, Mr Kapasi said to the
journalists (as he had to The Sunday Telegraph previously)
that he was unwilling to make any statement on the record:
|"JK ||As I said, I don't want to get involved. The conversation we had was totally informal.
|DL ... ||The fact is that you gave Mr Vaz £1,500... about £1,500.
|JK ||Well, I would deny that anyway, but there we are...
|DL ||You can't deny it because you told it to us.
|DL ||Why would you deny that?
|JK ||Because I don't want to get involved. That's why.
|DL ||Right, but it won't do you any good to deny it, because I mean it's a fact isn't it?
|JK ||Well... [laughs]... that's it. I mean he's given me the receipts and so on.
|DL ||He's given you the receipts, so you can't deny it.
|JK ||Well, that's up to him... I trusted you to respect that.
|DL||Well no. The truth is the truththat's the problem... Hello?"
|[The call ends]||
147. On 17 May Mr Kapasi wrote to me (Annex 136) to say that
he had no recollection of any conversation with Sir Peter Soulsby
about an alleged request from Mr Vaz "for a campaign contribution",
and he indicated that he was taking legal advice about Sir Peter's
letter of 22 April 1994 to the then Town Clerk of Leicester. Mr
Kapasi repeated that the only payment he had made which in any
way related to Mr Vaz was a donation to the Sahara Trust charity,
of which Mr Vaz was a trustee.
148. Mr Kapasi telephoned me later that day (17 May) and arranged
to see me on 25 May (Annex 136). He said he could not fix the
exact time for a meeting on that date until he had checked the
availability of his solicitor and that he would let me know when
he had done so. When Mr Kapasi failed to come back to me, my office
tried to contact him, without success. I therefore wrote to him
again on 19 May to ask him for confirmation of the arrangements
for our meeting. On 23 May my office received a letter from Finers
Stephens Innocent (Mr Kapasi's solicitors) saying that Mr Kapasi
would "not be able to attend any proposed meeting" (Annex
149. I telephoned Mr Kapasi on 24 May to seek an explanation
for his apparent change of mind. Mr Kapasi told me that the letter
from his solicitor referred only to the proposed meeting on 25
May and that its cancellation was due to the unavailability of
his solicitor on that date. He added that he was still trying
to arrange to see me. We agreed on 7 June as a possible date,
subject to the agreement of Mr Kapasi's solicitor. On the same
day (24 May), I subsequently received a telephone call from Mr
Mark Stephens of Finers Stephens Innocent to say that he would
be away until 12 June but would contact me before 14 June, either
to tell me that he was advising Mr Kapasi not to attend a meeting
with me or to arrange a suitable date and time. Since I felt that
I was not receiving the necessary co-operation from Mr Kapasi
I reported the position to the Standards and Privileges Committee.
150. There then followed a series of further telephone calls
and correspondence involving myself, Mr Kapasi and Finers Stephens
a letter, dated 25 May (Annex 138), from me to
Mr Kapasi repeating my request for a meeting and setting out the
a letter, dated 1 June (Annex 139), to me from Finers
Stephens Innocent, confirming that they would let me know by 14
June whether or not they would advise Mr Kapasi to attend a meeting
a letter, dated 9 June (Annex 140), to me from Finers
Stephens Innocent asking whether I had met Sir Peter Soulsby,
before, as they put it, "he made the complaint which you
are currently investigating";
a letter dated 14 June (Annex 141), from me to Finers
Stephens Innocent proposing four possible dates and times for
a meeting with Mr Kapasi.
a letter, dated 15 June (Annex 142), to me from Finers
Stephens Innocent saying that they were still not in a position
to give me a decision on whether Mr Kapasi would come to see me
and asking whether I knew Sir Peter Soulsby;
a letter, dated 21 June (Annex 147), from me to Mr
Kapasi informing him that the Standards and Privileges Committee
had, at a meeting the previous day, decided that it wished him
to assist my inquiry;
explaining that Sir Peter's sole motive in mentioning Mr Kapasi
to me was to ensure that I had a full and accurate account of
matters relevant to the complaint against Mr Vaz; and pointing
out that I had still not heard from his solicitors about our proposed
a letter, dated 21 June (Annex 148), to me from Finers
Stephens Innocent asking me to correspond directly with them;
repeating their earlier question about Sir Peter Soulsby, and
in particular what they described as his "motive in seeking
to involve our client in this matter"; but not making any
comment or suggestion regarding my proposed meeting with Mr Kapasi;
a letter, dated 21 June (Annex 149), from me to Finers
Stephens Innocent stating that the only outstanding issue was
the fixing of a date for a meeting with Mr Kapasi; pointing out
that I had already dealt with the question about Sir Peter Soulsby;
and making clear that it was necessary for me, in the absence
of any agreed date for a meeting, to communicate directly with
Mr Kapasi, who, as a witness in my inquiry, had a personal responsibility
a letter, dated 26 June (Annex 150), from me to Finers
Stephens Innocent reminding them that a week had passed since
the Chairman of the Committee had written to Mr Kapasi,
asking for a response by 27 June;
a letter, dated 26 June (Annex 151), to me from Finers
Stephens Innocent, indicating that Mr Kapasi was reluctant to
meet me because of what they claimed was an undisclosed interest
on my part "in relation to Sir Peter Soulsby from past dealings
with him", and enclosing a copy of a statutory declaration
by Mr Kapasi, dated 25 May 2000, setting out his position";
a letter, dated 27 June (Annex 151A), from Finers
Stephens Innocent to the Chairman of the Committee casting doubt
on the independence of the inquiry process and repeating the reference
to my alleged undisclosed interest in relation to Sir Peter Soulsby;
a letter, dated 27 June (Annex 152), from me to Finers
Stephens Innocent informing them that my only connection with
Sir Peter Soulsby was that we were at that time both members of
the Audit Commissiona matter of public record; and indicating
that, whilst I was "most willing" to see Mr Kapasi,
I might at some point conclude that I should make a report to
the Committee on the basis of the evidence I had been able to
obtain thus far, even if that did not include Mr Kapasi's;
a letter, dated 27 June (Annex 153A), to me from
Finers Stephens Innocent referring to the alleged disclosure of
my "interests with Sir Peter Soulsby" and indicating
that they would be taking Mr Kapasi's instructions "as to
whether or not he feels that the proceedings are thus far so tainted
that he should not deal with you";
a letter, dated 27 June (Annex 154), from the Chairman
of the Committee to Finers Stephens Innocent pointing out that
it had been I who had approached Sir Peter after being informed
that he might have relevant information in connection with my
investigation of complaints against Mr Vaz; that "no question
of improper influence" arose from our overlapping membership
of the Audit Commission; and pointing out that whilst I was willing,
if necessary, to travel to Leicester to meet Mr Kapasi, I could
not, in fairness to Mr Vaz, indefinitely hold up my report the
a letter, dated 28 June (Annex 155), from me to Finers
Stephens Innocent noting their inaccurate comment about "my
interests" in relation to Sir Peter; emphasising that my
sole purpose in wishing to see Mr Kapasi was to give him the opportunity
to comment on the evidence provided by other witnesses; and again
pointing out that, whether or not Mr Kapasi agreed to meet me,
the Committee might exercise its power to summon him to give evidence
when it considered my memorandum;
a letter, dated 30 June (Annex 156), from Finers
Stephens Innocent to me maintaining that they could not advise
Mr Kapasi whether to attend a meeting with me until they had received
transcripts and tapes of the conversations between Mr Kapasi and
The Sunday Times reported in the newspaper on 14 May 2000;
a letter, dated 3 July (Annex 157), from me to Finers
Stephens Innocent saying that I had nothing further to add to
my previous letters concerning Sir Peter and informing them that
I was required by the Committee to report the latest position
to them the following day (4 July);
a letter, dated 3 July (Annex 157A), to me from Finers
Stephens Innocent repeating their view that there remained matters
outstanding from our previous correspondence.
151. Having considered the implications of this series of
exchanges, I wrote on 11 July to Finers Stephens Innocent (Annex
158), reminding them that I had been seeking to arrange a meeting
with Mr Kapasi since 17 May; and that, since he appeared unwilling
to meet me, I needed, in order to bring my inquiry to a conclusion,
to put to him for his comments certain information, in particular
what other witnesses believed Mr Kapasi to have said about payments
to Mr Vaz.
152. The information I enclosed with my letter of 11 July
was as follows:
(i) a copy of the letter of 22 April 1994 written by Sir
Peter Soulsby to Mr Arthur Price-Jones, the then Town Clerk of
(ii) extracts from the transcript of my interview with Sir
Peter Soulsby on 23 March 2000
(iii) extracts from the transcripts of the tape-recorded interviews
of Mr Kapasi by The Sunday Times on 11 and 12 May 2000
(iv) extracts from the transcripts of the tape-recorded interviews
of Mr Kapasi by The Sunday Telegraph on 3 March 2000.
153. In my letter of 11 July I also asked for Mr Kapasi's
explanation for the discrepancies between his taped interviews
with the two newspapers and his statutory declaration of 25 May
154. The statutory declaration by Mr Kapasi contained the
falsely claims that I have made payments to Keith Vaz MP."
"I clarified the position when Mr Leppard
subsequently telephoned me on my mobile phone on Friday 12 May
2000 during the week of publication of the article and stated,
as is the case, that I have never made payments of any kind to
Mr Vaz MP, nor has he ever asked me to do so."
"The article falsely states that I wanted Mr K Vaz to influence
the thinking of the Council on the proposal to give the planning
approval to build on a site at Manor Farm, Hamilton."
"I confirm that the contents of this statement are true."
155. On 21 July, Finers Stephens Innocent wrote to me (Annex
159) to say that Mr Kapasi was "unable to comment on the
veracity" of the transcript of his conversation with Mr Leppard
of The Sunday Times; they added that Mr Kapasi was "not
a public figure well versed in dealing with the media" and
that he had told the journalists "what they wanted to hear"
in order "to make them go away."
156. Attached to the same letter was a second statutory declaration
by Mr Kapasi, dated 21 July 2000, in which he re-confirmed the
contents of the first declaration, denying that he had made payments
of any kind to Mr Vaz, save for the donation to the Sahara Trust.
See paragraph 116. The
batch of transcripts supplied to me by The Sunday Telegraph
also included recordings of conversations between the newspaper
and Mr Zaiwalla and Mr B S Attwal (see paragraphs 88 and
251). The original tapes on which the transcripts were based
were later supplied to me. Back
See paragraphs 122, 127, 128.. Back
I was subsequently provided by The Sunday Times with the
original tapes from which these transcripts were taken. Back
Mr David Leppard Back
Mr Gareth Walsh. Back
This decision was also communicated to Mr Kapasi in a separate
letter from the Chairman of the Committee. Back
This was the letter referred to in footnote 42. Back
See paragraph 154. Back
was sent to me by Finers Stephens Innocent on 26 June (see
A reference to an article in The Sunday Times on 14 May
Mr David Leppard, a journalist on The Sunday Times. Back