(vii) Complaint alleging
that Mr Vaz had failed to register a remunerated directorship
with a company, General Mediterranean Holding, or with subsidiaries
of that company
677. During my examination of this allegation,
I have been provided with the following information:
|26 January 1999
||Mr Vaz offered non-executive directorship of General Mediterranean Holding (UK Ltd) Annual fee $20,000
|13 April 1999
||Mr Vaz accepted offer 'verbally'
|13 April 1999
||Twenty Year Brochure for CIPAF which lists Mr Vaz as a director went to print
|13 April and 17 May 1999
||The accounts of General Mediterranean Holding SA which lists Mr Vaz as a director went to print
|28 April 1999
||Mr Vaz wrote to the then Registrar asking him to add to his Register entry under Remunerated Directorships "my [his] new Directorship which is with The General Mediterranean Group (non-executive)."
|4 May 1999
||The then Registrar replied asking him for details of the business of the General Mediterranean Group
|17 May 1999
||Mr Vaz provided the details to the then Registrar
|17 May 1999
||Mr Vaz was appointed Parliamentary Secretary in the Lord Chancellor's Department
|17 May 1999
||Mr Vaz resigned his non-executive directorship
|20 May 1999
||The then Registrar wrote to Mr Vaz with a copy of his amended Register entry, dated 19 May 1999, telling him it would appear in the next updated printout. This entry showed his directorship as being with "The General Mediterranean Group" and described it as investment holding company
|20 May 1999
||Mr Vaz informed the Registrar of his resignation from the non-executive directorship and the Registrar agreed to remove the entry
|21 May 1999
||Mr Vaz's Register printout was amended again and the then Registrar sent it to him confirming their conversation of 20 May 1999. The entry therefore showed no remunerated directorship
|27 June 1999
||Updated Register published
|1 July 1999
||The Annual Report and Accounts of General Mediterranean Holding SA show that on 1 July 1999 the accountants BDO Stoy Hayward signed off the accounts for 1998, which are included in the published report.
678. Neither the company nor Mr Vaz has provided
me with the documentary evidence in the form of board minutes,
notification documents or correspondence which would verify these
679. Mr Vaz, in his letter of 3 November 2001,
claimed that my summary was inaccurate. He states:
"...I was not responsible
for the date it was entered in the Register, or for its removal.
The correspondence does not indicate that I asked for it to be
removed. This is a matter for the Registrar.
136. I am not responsible
for what is published in Annual Reports. The company will have
the precise information..."
680. He also gave as his reason for his delay
of three months in accepting the non-executive directorship that
he had received another offer from a firm of solicitors.
The Rules relating to the Registration of Financial
681. Members of Parliament are obliged by the
rules of the House of Commons to "notify changes in their
registrable interests within four weeks of each change occurring".
The Standards and Privileges Committee has underlined this requirement
in a report, as follows: "Members are required to register
any employment 'in which the Member has any pecuniary interests'."
682. Assuming that the date of 13 April 1999
for the 'verbal' acceptance is accurate, Mr Vaz was required to
register his non-executive directorship within four weeks of accepting
itat the latest by 11 May 1999. He wrote to the Registrar
to make the entry on 28 April 1999.
683. I note that Mr Vaz's register entry was
imprecise. I have received no information that Mr Vaz was ever
appointed as a non-executive director of General Mediterranean
Holding Group. Indeed Mr Auchi, the Finance Director and Lord
Lamont take care to describe the General Mediterranean Group and
General Mediterranean Holding SA (UK Ltd) as quite separate. In
his letter of 21 September 2001 Lord Lamont described the relationship
of the companies as follows:
"I am a director
of Compaigne Internationale de Participations Bancaires et Financieres
(CIPAF) which is a subsidiary of General Mediterranean Holdings.
I am not, and have not ever been, a director of General Mediterranean
Holdings or any of its other subsidiaries."
684. Lord Lamont also said "I have never
come across Keith Vaz in any business relating to CIPAF or General
685. Lord Steel said in his letter dated 18 September
2001"What I can tell you is that the first I knew that
Mr Vaz was a director of a subsidiary was when I read it in the
company's annual report".
686. There are, however, some aspects of this
sequence of events which I do not feel are clear. I have been
surprised that neither the company nor Mr Vaz has been able to
provide me with any documentary records to support their account.
I find it hard to believe that the company holds no board minutes,
notification documents or correspondence which details an offer,
acceptance, and appointment to a non-executive directorship. In
addition, neither Mr Vaz nor the company have given a satisfactory
explanation as to how the Annual Report and Accounts for General
Mediterranean Holding SA for 1998 came to list Mr Vaz as a director
of the UK Holding Company.
687. According to Mr Vaz and General Mediterranean
Holding Mr Vaz was not offered the directorship until January
1999 and did not accept it until April 1999. Therefore, they said,
he was not a director in 1998.
688. General Mediterranean Holding told me that
the 1998 report went to print "sometime between Mr Vaz's
acceptance and his resignation", ie 13 April 1999 and
17 May 1999.
689. They added that the go-ahead for the final
print was only given after the accountants had signed off their
report, ie on 1 July 1999. They explained that "Mr Vaz's
name on page 24 would seem to be an oversight".
690. I can see that a mistake might have occurred
in the short period from 13 April 1999 to 17 May 1999 but I find
it hard to believe that the company did not check the proof of
their Annual Report and Accounts for 1998 before publication,
which must have been sometime after 1 July 1999.
691. As the accounts were not signed off until
1 July 1999 I find it difficult to reconcile this date with the
period within which, according to the company, the Annual Report
and Accounts went to the printersnamely 13 April 1999 and
17 May 1999. If this was the correct period, I would have expected
the company to have a copy of a covering letter or invoice which
referred to the date in question but none has been offered to
692. I also find it unconvincing that so many
individuals, who were apparently board members or employees paid
by companies within the General Mediterranean Group, say they
have no knowledge of the offer to, or appointment of, Mr Vaz as
a director of General Mediterranean Holding SA (UK Ltd). For example
both Mr Gerald Malone and Dr Charles Panayides are also listed
alongside Mr Vaz as directors of the General Mediterranean Holding
UK Holding Company in the 1998 Annual Report and Accounts. They
both said they could give me no information about the period Mr
Vaz was a director or any remuneration agreed or paid to him.
693. Both Mr Nadhmi Auchi, the Chairman of General
Mediterranean Holding, and Mr Vaz have told me that no payment
was made, or benefit provided, to Mr Vaz by General Mediterranean
Holding or any associated company. I have been supplied with information
by Mr Tom Sackville and Mr Gray Kennady, both of whom worked for
periods for the General Mediterranean Group, who say that payments
were made to Mr Vaz. The only documentary evidence which I have
received are the 1998 Annual Report and Accounts and the Twenty
Year brochure. Both the Company Secretary and Mr Vaz say that
the 1998 Annual report which lists Mr Vaz as a director was a
152 HC (2000-01) 465. Back