Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report

Annex vi19

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Graeme Peene

Thank you for your letter of 15th October 2001 in connection with the above matter.

Firstly may I say that I am appalled that Mr VAZ has sought to mislead your office by alleging that I was no longer a civil servant when we met at his request on 17th April 1999, particularly given the circumstances of the visit the premises of M Ltd.

My colleague Mr F and I would have produced our Anti Fraud Unit Warrants as proof of identity. It would be illogical to suggest that a member of the public could gain entry to trader's premises, interview senior members of staff, examine and uplift commercially sensitive documents without having produced evidence of identity and authority to so act.

Another factor to consider would be the short space of time between the visit to M Ltd , and receipt of the letter from Mr Vaz, less than two weeks of meeting with Mr Vaz at his surgery.

When my wife *** and I met with Mr Vaz on 17th April 1999, he (Mr Vaz) would have known that I was an employee of the Intervention Board. It would be illogical for Mr Vaz's contact at M Ltd not to have mentioned they had been visited by the Intervention Board Anti Fraud Unit, otherwise how else could Mr Vaz have made the connection with myself particularly given my unusual surname.

Furthermore, during the meeting with Mr Vaz on 17th April 1999 Mr Vaz proceeded to ask questions and enquired,

"... whether my problems at the Department of Trade & Industry had anything to do with my Russian Butter Export Refund Investigation".

Mr Vaz knew that I was a serving civil servant, I worked for the Intervention Board Anti Fraud Unit and I was engaged upon a criminal investigation. Mr Vaz referred to the scheme "Export Refund" and used the word "Investigation".

Prior to joining the Intervention Board during October 1997 I had not heard of the Export Refund Scheme, and I would suggest that neither would many other people unless they were civil servants administering the scheme or traders registered with the Intervention Board claiming aid under the provisions of the scheme.

Furthermore, I have known Mr Vaz since he first became the Member of Parliament for Leicester East. At that time I was a Detective Sergeant with the Leicestershire Constabulary, and on various occasions, during the course of my duties, I visited Mr Vaz's home at Scraptoft Lane, Leicester, the Labour Party Office on Uppingham Road, (which is not where he has ever lived), in response to incidents reported by Mr Vaz. Mr Vaz has also attended St Joseph's RC Church, Uppingham Road, Leicester where I have attended with my wife *** who is a practising Roman Catholic.

I will now deal with your letter in order as set out in your letter.

1. I first became involved with the M Ltd investigation during March or early April 1999. My involvement commenced when a complaint was received by the Intervention Board Research & Intelligence Unit alleging the possible use of false / forged Public Health / Veterinary stamps.

I am the Senior Higher Executive Officer employed within the Intervention Board Anti Fraud Unit, I worked out of the Wolverhampton Office, and because of my investigative background and the experience Senior Management wanted me to assist with and supervise the initial enquiries carried out by M Ltd. After the initial visit further enquiries were made by the Research & Intelligence Section together with OLAF, EEC Investigators because the Export Refund Scheme was funded under the provisions of the Common Agriculture Policy.

2. I joined the Civil Service during October 1990 and worked for the Department of Trade & Industry Investigations & Enforcement Directorate, Solicitors Office, Investigation Officers Section until October 1997. My grade was Higher Executive Officer and during the last year at the DTI I carried out periods of substitution to Deputy Chief Investigation Officer.

I transferred to the Intervention Board on a lateral transfer on permanent and compulsory terms during October 1997 as a Higher Executive Officer. During the latter part of 2000 I was a Temporary Senior Investigating Officer, and currently a Higher Executive Officer.

3. Following the receipt of the letter from Keith Vaz, and attending the meeting on 17th April 1999, Companies House Direct Searches were carried out on 21st April 1999. The report would have been submitted during that week and handed to Mr David Webb, former Senior Investigation Officer for onward transmission to Mr James Hutchinson, former Head of the Anti Fraud Unit.

Unfortunately I do not have a copy of the report to hand, and I have not been to my office since 3rd November 2000, for reasons I will explain on the telephone should you wish to make contact with me on the above telephone number. However, I would advise that at the time of my Temporary Senior Investigating Officer post I discussed the matter with Sarah Milum, Head of Anti Fraud Unit, but now understand that the Intervention Board deny any knowledge of the affair.

4. I estimate that my first personal contact with Mr Vaz was shortly after my retirement from the police service, sometime after 11th September 1988, possibly 1989 or 1990 when I attempt to pursue a Criminal Injuries Compensation Claim. Merlyn Vaz, Keith Vaz's mother prevented him from becoming involved because I had left the Leicester East Constituency by some 500 yards.

The last time I corresponded with Mr Vaz was when I acted as the spokesperson for the local neighbourhood in relation to a One2One telecommunication mast in our area late 2000 and early 2001. I have enclosed a copy of a letter received from Carolyn Adams dated 19th April 2001 together with my response dated 23 April 2001.

I trust the above is sufficient, but should you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me.

16 October 2001

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