409. The evidence of Mr Milne and Mr Brown that
Mr Vaz received from Mr Zaiwalla payments in cash of £1,000
or £2,000 during 1993 or 1994 is inconclusive, given, in
particular, its contradictory nature and its lack of corroboration.
410. In the response paper (paragraph 13) Mr
Vaz's solicitor, Mr Bindman, invites me to go further and to conclude
instead that there is "no credible evidence" of any
such payments. He points, in particular, to Mr Zaiwalla's letter
of 10 July 2000 which, according to Mr Bindman, states that a
thorough search of Mr Zaiwalla's records revealed no evidence
of any payments to Mr Vaz other than those specifically mentioned
in this memorandum.
411. I cannot accept Mr Bindman's proposition.
In view of the fact that at different points of my inquiry relevant
information was retrieved from Mr Zaiwalla's records after I had
previously been assured that an exhaustive search had drawn a
blank, I am unwilling to conclude with the certainty demanded
by Mr Bindman that no evidence of payments by Mr Zaiwalla
to Mr Vaz exists.
412. It is probable that Mr Zaiwalla made a donation
of £1,000 to an Asian charity nominated by Mr Vaz. But, regrettably,
I have not been provided by either Mr Vaz or Mr Zaiwalla with
any information which would have enabled me to verify this with
the charity concerned.
413. In paragraph 14 of the response paper Mr
Bindman says that "there is not the slightest reason why
Mr Vaz should have any knowledge of the circumstances of any payment
which was not to him or for his benefit."
414. But Mr Zaiwalla is sure that the payment
was for a purposea charitydirectly connected in
his mind with Mr Vaz (indeed proposed by him). For his part, Mr
Vaz has accepted that he probably was the source of the suggested
recipient of the donation. Moreover, it is clear from Mr Zaiwalla's
oral evidence to me that, contrary to Mr Bindman's assertion,
Mr Zaiwalla handed the cash to two people he assumed, on the basis
of a telephone call made to him by Mr Vaz, to be either acting
with Mr Vaz's authority or to be representing the charity, having
been put in touch with him (Mr Zaiwalla) by Mr Vaz.
415. I therefore remain surprised that neither
Mr Zaiwalla nor Mr Vaz (but particularly the latter, as the subject
of the complaint), have been able to produce any evidence which
would have enabled me to track down the charity concerned.
416. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that
Mr Vaz benefited personally from this payment.
417. In paragraph 12 of his response paper Mr
Vaz's solicitor describes as incorrect my statement in paragraph
70 of this memorandum that Mr Vaz initially declined my offer
to comment on Mr Brown's account.
418. I disagree. The sequence of events is as
in his letter of 16 February 2000
to me (containing his initial response to Mr Milne's complaint,
which mentioned Mr Brown only briefly) Mr Vaz denied knowing "anyone
called Brown in connection with Mr Zaiwalla";
I wrote to Mr Vaz on 22 February 2000
to give him an opportunity to comment on Mr Brown's detailed statement
in his letter of 16 February which Mr Vaz had not previously seen;
in a letter dated 29 February 2000 Mr
Vaz told me he had nothing to add to his letter of 16 January;
in a letter dated 13 March 2000 Mr Vaz
responded to Mr Brown's specific allegations.
419. This shows clearly that when first sent
by me a copy of Mr Brown's statement of l6 February, Mr Vaz made
no substantive response but referred me back to his earlier letter,
which was written before he knew the gist of Mr Brown's allegations.