Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Annex ii78

Letter to Mr Keith Vaz MP from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

As I said when I wrote to you on 11 October I am writing to you to give you an opportunity to respond to questions which are outstanding or to provide some clarification. May I begin by reminding you again that I have never received a letter from you dated 6 August. Please send me a copy.

May I first answer your letters of 9 and 15 October 2001. The numbers refer to your numbered paragraphs.

92,93 Miss Eggington's alleged contact with your mother, Mrs Vaz Senior

I am concerned to hear from your letter of 9 October 2001 that your mother may have had an unwanted telephone call from someone purporting to be acting on my behalf and that she believed the caller to be Miss Eggington. I am making enquiries about this matter and I am also pursuing the complaints made by Miss Eggington and Mrs Gresty.

Please would you provide the following details for me.

    (a)  The time and date the call was received.

    (b)  What was said during the call by both parties. In particular, what specific remarks by the caller to your mother led her to believe that the caller was Miss Eggington and that she was speaking on my behalf?

    (c)  The time and date your mother informed you of the call and what she said to you about it.

    (d)  Did either you or your mother make any note or other record of these conversations (ie that between the caller and your mother and that between your mother and you)? If so, please may I have a copy?

    (e)  When and to whom in the police service you reported the call. Please provide a telephone number.

    (f)  Whether you have asked for the call to be traced and if so the results of the trace. If you have not asked for a trace I would be grateful if you would do so and let me know the result.

I hope your mother is soon discharged from hospital.

Other points raised in your letter of 9 October 2001

94.  I have informed you that journalists have provided information to this inquiry and I have put to you for comment any such information which I consider relevant once I have satisfied myself by checking such information with others.

95.  I cannot comment on inaccurate headlines to articles in newspapers nor on allegations of corruption to which they refer. I suggest you make enquiries of the journalists concerned if you feel it necessary.

96.  I have replied to the points you made in your paragraphs 34 and 89 in my letters of 27 September and 11 October.

97.  Any information concerning the University of Bournemouth should be sent to Mr Noel Richardson, The Registrar, Bournemouth University, Studland House, 12 Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3NA (tel. ***) who tells me he will be happy to provide you with the background to the case in question should you need it.

Your letter of 15 October 2001

98.   With reference to your letter of 15 October 2001 I have not overlooked your questions at 87 and 31. As I am sure you will understand I provide no information to any party involved in an inquiry while the inquiry is in progress. When I provide you with a copy of my draft memorandum for comment and correction any relevant interview with any person will be detailed and dated.

I now turn to the matters on which I need further information or on which you may wish to comment.

A.  Employment in the Leicester Law Centre

I understand your view that Mr Robathan's complaint is now out of time. I have explained the Committee's view on complaints which concern matters which are more than seven years old. It will be for the Committee to decide whether they pursue this matter in the light of the information I provide to them.

I would therefore be grateful if you would give me the following information, as previously requested:

—  On what date did your employment with the law centre formally cease and, if different, what was the date up to which you were paid?

B.  Property

(a)   You say in relation to Vanburgh Court:

    "I have no personal knowledge of who was registered there when I was not in occupation, but I confirm that I received no rent. I continued to use this property as a second home."

I am having difficulty in understanding this answer.

Could you please tell me:

    (i)   whether the people registered to vote at your Vanburgh Court address were living there with your authority; if so, what was the basis of the arrangement and how can you maintain that you do not know who they are?

    (ii)   if the people concerned were not living at your Vanburgh Court address with your authority, on whose authority were they there and what was the basis of the arrangement?

    (iii)  how frequently did you use the Vanburgh Court address as a second home and how did this fit in with its occupation by the other people registered to vote there?

    (iv)  did you receive any benefit of any kind in lieu of rent from any of the people registered at the Vanburgh Court address?

(b)   So far as the transfer of Vanburgh Court to your mother is concerned:

    (i)   what was the purpose and legal effect of the transfer?

    (ii)   what is meant by 'beneficial owner' and what was your own legal status in relation to the property a) before and b) after the transfer?

    (iii)  what determined the precise timing of the transfer?

(c)   You may feel that the cumulative effect of your individual answers deals with this point, but nevertheless could you please confirm for the record that you have now provided me with complete information about all your property interests, in the UK or elsewhere, during the time you have been a Member of Parliament?

C.   The Into Leadership Conference


Mrs Pauline Elizabeth (Liz) Williams told me that an event involving yourself and your wife took place at the New Connaught Rooms on 23rd June 1999. This is confirmed, at least as far as you are concerned, by an Office of Public Service press release which announces that you organised and spoke at the Into Leadership Conference there on that day. This press release gives a telephone number which relates to Coleridge House, 4/5 Coleridge Gardens, London NW6 (currently the address of the Asian Business Network).

The Connaught Rooms confirmed that the event had been booked for the Asian Business Network by 'Mr Hanif Pathan', giving the address of Coleridge House, 3/5 Coleridge Gardens London NW6. This address also appears for registration purposes on the conference brochure.

Mrs Pauline Elizabeth (Liz) Williams, who worked for you as a volunteer in your Leicester office from April 1999 to January 2000, has provided me with information about the Conference, including the fact that you were involved in the organisation to the extent of briefing staff on their responsibilities. She further told me that she herself worked at the Conference and confirms that 'Mr Pathan' (to whom she also refers as 'Hanif Pathan', describing him as director of events and communications) had overall responsibility, booking the rooms and receiving cheques at your Leicester office (photocopies of which cheques he then asked her to file). Mrs Williams provided me with a list of the telephone numbers of your Leicester office staff which included a mobile phone number for 'Hanif' which is the same as that we have for Mr Mohammed Pathan, Ms Maria Fernandes's co-director of Mapesbury Communications Limited.

When I interviewed Mr Mohammed Pathan together with Ms Maria Fernandes on 2 July 2001, I suggested to him that Mapesbury Communications (which was in the business of organising events) had booked the New Connaught Rooms for the Asian Business Network and he expressed ignorance of the event. The exchange ran as follows:

"Ms Filkin:   Mapesbury Communications booked an event at the New Connaught Rooms on 23 June 1999 for the Asian Business Network. Did you book that event?

Mr Pathan:   Sorry, say that again.

Ms Filkin:     I believe that Mapesbury Communications booked an event at the New Connaught Rooms on 23 June 1999 for the Asian Business Network. I was asking whether you were involved in booking that event?

Mr Pathan:   No, nothing I know about, no. The event, no."

In view of these discrepancies I would be grateful if you would let me know

    (a)   whether Mr Pathan was responsible for organising the Into Leadership Conference; and if so, was this on your instructions, or with your authority?

    (b)   whether you were aware while Mr Pathan was working for you of his connection with either Mapesbury Communications or the Asian Business Network?

    (c)   who collected the cheques for the event, into which account they were paid and was your office used to receive and process these cheques?

    (d)   how much was raised by the event?

    (e)   what you know about Coleridge House, and in particular if you have attended meetings there?

    (f)   if you know a Mr David Barnes, and, if so, in what capacity?

    (g)   if you know a Mr David Golding, and, if so, in what capacity?

    (h)   whether you have organised any other events for the Asian Business Network since May 1997, and if so please list them?

D.  The Asian Business Network

At my request the journalists Chris Hastings and Rajeev Syal of the Sunday Telegraph have provided me with information. They provided information (from the BT website) that until February 2001 the Asian Business Network was registered from 70a Teignmouth Road London NW2, which was also the registered address of Mapesbury Communications until 3rd June 1999. You have confirmed that you owned 70a Teignmouth Road from 1993 until 1997 and that it was your home.

Your entries in the Register of Members' Interests in 1999 and 2000 state that you were honorary (unpaid) president of the Network. In view of the address given for it, however, I would be grateful if you would let me know:

—   your relationship to the Network? If you were not actively involved in its work, can you suggest why it should be registered at your home address?

I also understand that your involvement with the Asian Business Network extended to having a "conference hotline" installed in the Parliamentary Building, Norman Shaw North (number * * *) and that you wrote to various companies (including Taylor Woodrow, Motorola and Camelot) inviting support. I would be grateful if you would let me know -

    (a)   whether you had an additional telephone line installed in your office at Norman Shaw North; and, if so, for what purpose?

    (b)   whether and over what period you were actively involved in seeking contributions to the Asian Business Network?

    (c)   to whom any resulting cheques were made out, who collected them and into which account they were paid; at which bank; and who were the authorised signatories on the account?

E.  Miss Laura Coco

The Register of Members' staff shows Miss Laura Coco as a member of your staff from December 1998 to July 1999. When I interviewed Mr Pathan on 4th July he said that "he [the late Mr Mahmoud] must have employed someone to do the some work, to do secretarial work or something". I asked "Can you remember who these people were?" and he replied "I wrote down something, Laura Coco as an employee".

Can you tell me whether Miss Coco worked for you before or after she worked for Mapesbury Communications, or whether these two employments were simultaneous? Please provide me with her address and telephone numbers.

F.   Wildberry Printers

On 13 February 2001, when you were giving evidence to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, Mr Bottomley asked you

"Returning to the advertisement payments [by Mr Zaiwalla], I think it is a matter of record that this was made to a company called Wildberry?"

You replied   


Mr Bottomley further asked

"Is it agreed that Wildberry were the printers who were doing the calendars?"

You replied   

"I do not know, I am sorry, it was such a long time ago".

Companies House has provided me with the information that the directors of Wildberry were Mrs Merlyn Vaz, your mother, and Mr Paul John Townsend (living in 1996 at 18 Elthorne Park Road, Hanwell, London W7). I see from the electoral registers that a Paul Townsend, together with Valerie Vaz, has been registered to vote at 153 Scraptoft Lane, Leicester, since 1995-96, and I had understood him to be your brother-in-law, or the partner of your sister. In the light of this, would you please let me know if Mr Townsend, the former director of Wildberry, has or has had any family connection with you?

G.  General Mediterranean Holdings

You replied to my enquiries about this directorship in your letter of 28 September 2001. As you suggested, I have checked your correspondence with the then Registrar. A Register entry was made on 19 May 1999 and you requested its removal on 20 May 1999 as you had resigned the directorship. This entry did not appear in a published version of the Register.

I have also seen you are listed as a director of the company for 1998 and 1999 in the Annual Reports of the Company (see Annual Report of General Mediterranean Holdings SA, UK Holdings Company for 1998 and the Annual Report of Compagnie Internationale de Participations Bancaires et Financiers (CIPAF), General Mediterranean Holdings (UK) for 1999).

I have also been informed that you were a director in years prior to the publication of those reports.

Please would you let me know:

    (i)   The date on which it was proposed to you that you should be a director?

    (ii)   The date on which a formal offer of a directorship was made?

    (iii) The proposed remuneration terms?

    (iv) The date on which you accepted the offer?

    (v)   From the information I hold there appears to have been a gap between the offer and acceptance. If this is correct, please explain the gap.

    (vi)  Whether you have received any benefits of any kind, at any time, associated in any way with Mr Auchi, the Chairman of General Mediterranean Holdings or any other associated company. In particular, have you received any benefit from Tucan Investments plc?

You asked me for a possible timetable. As soon as I receive a comprehensive response to this letter I should be able to give you an estimated timetable. I look forward to concluding my report as soon as possible.

19 October 2001

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