Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report




  406. Mr Hamilton, both in writing and in oral evidence, strongly denied the allegations that he received cash payments from Mr Al Fayed.

  407. More particularly, Mr Hamilton claimed that the accusations against him were both false and malicious, motivated in Mr Al Fayed's case by personal pique at Mr Hamilton's supposed betrayal of his interests while a Minister at the DTI and, in the case of The Guardian, by political hostility and spite.

  408. Mr Hamilton produced three documents in evidence to the inquiry:

    -    a statement of rebuttal[170] summarising his response to the principal allegations against him;

    -    a schedule to the statement of rebuttal,[171] setting out more fully the basis for his rebuttal;

    -    a submission,[172] consisting of an examination of the original evidence in support of the allegations; an analysis of the background to the allegations; and responses to additional issues raised by witnesses during the course of the inquiry.

  409. Mr Hamilton's submission is a lengthy document containing many detailed points. I have accordingly endeavoured to summarise in the following paragraphs what appear to me to be the principal elements of Mr Hamilton's case against the allegations.

The Credibility of Mr Al Fayed and The Guardian

  410. In his submission, Mr Hamilton made a number of specific attacks on the credibility of Mr Al Fayed as a complainant. Chief amongst these were the following points:

      (i)    Mr Al Fayed was discredited as a witness by the findings of the DTI Inspectors' report on the take-over of House of Fraser, against which he had exhausted his legal remedies, which said of the Al Fayed brothers: "In consequence of watching them give evidence we became reluctant to believe anything they told us unless it was reliably corroborated by independent evidence of a dependable nature";

      (ii)  Between 1991 and 1994 Mr Al Fayed falsely accused Mr Christoph Betterman, a former Deputy Chairman of Harrods, of criminal corruption, which led to his being arrested, charged and eventually acquitted by a court in Dubai. Mr Betterman subsequently sued Mr Al Fayed, who was obliged to admit in open court that he had fabricated the allegations against Mr Betterman out of a desire for revenge against his decision to resign from the Al Fayed group;[173]

      (iii)  In 1990 Professor Barry Rider, Professor of Law at the University of London was, whilst acting as specialist adviser to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry for its inquiry into the House of Fraser take-over, subjected to a scurrilous campaign of personal attacks and misinformation orchestrated on Mr Al Fayed's behalf by Ms Francesca Pollard.[174] (Ms Pollard entertained, at that time, a grudge against Lonrho and its chief executive Mr Tiny Rowland, against whom, with Mr Al Fayed's encouragement, she was circulating defamatory material).

  411. In addition to the three specific points set out above, Mr Hamilton also drew upon documents submitted by Mr Tiny Rowland in connection with my inquiry into allegations made by Mr Al Fayed against Mr Michael Howard; for example:

    -      the detailed statement by Ms Pollard[175] retracting accusations against Mr Tiny Rowland made by her on Mr Al Fayed's behalf; and the alleged offer of a substantial bribe by Mr Al Fayed to Mr Adnan Khashoggi (an allegation denied by Mr Al Fayed);

    -      Mr Al Fayed's dealings with former senior employees of House of Fraser and Harrods, Mr Graham Jones and Mr Peter Bolliger;[176]

  412. This aspect of Mr Hamilton's attack on Mr Al Fayed's credibility can be summarised by the following extract from his written submission: "Fayed is a compulsive liar, who will stop at nothing to destroy his perceived enemies".[177]

  413. So far as The Guardian was concerned, Mr Hamilton made the accusation of inconsistency on their part, in that they had been amongst Mr Al Fayed's fiercest critics when the Inspectors' report was published but were now prepared to associate themselves with him in his allegations against Members of Parliament.

  414. Mr Hamilton also drew attention to what he saw as discrepancies in the details of the allegations; in the chronology of their formulation; and in the corroborative evidence adduced in support of them.

  415. Specifically, Mr Hamilton asserted:

      (i)    that the evidence of Ms Bozek and Ms Bond differed from that of Mr Al Fayed, in that the former had both referred to collection from the front desk of 60 Park Lane or delivery to Mr Hamilton as the methods of payment, whereas Mr Al Fayed had claimed that money was handed over at face to face meetings with Mr Hamilton;

      (ii)  that the particular amounts alleged to have been paid on each occasion had varied both as between witnesses and over time;

      (iii)  that in respect of one of the dates on which Mr Al Fayed claimed to have handed over an envelope containing cash to Mr Hamilton, a journalist, Mr Timothy O'Sullivan, had testified in a statement for the libel action[178] that he had been with Mr Hamilton and Mr Al Fayed throughout their meeting that day and that no such action by Mr Al Fayed had taken place;

      (iv)  that Mr Al Fayed's description of the allegations had gone through various versions since they were first aired and that, in particular, when The Guardian's two journalists first confronted Mr Hamilton in 1993,[179] the accusation put to him related only to the non-registration of the Ritz stay and that there was no mention of cash payments to him, as opposed to Mr Smith.[180]

      (v)  that Mr Al Fayed had made no mention in his witness statement for the libel trial of the allegation that Mr Greer had been paid quarterly payments of £5,000 "outside the books";

      (vi)  that in the evidence of Ms Bozek and Ms Bond some events were remembered with great clarity after 10 years, whereas others - especially where a detailed recollection might have proved inconvenient - had been forgotten or could only be dimly called to mind.

The Credibility of the Corroborative Witnesses

  416. In addition, Mr Hamilton challenged the reliability of the three witnesses who gave corroborative evidence in support of the allegations - Ms Bozek, Ms Bond and Mr Bromfield.

  417. As a general proposition, Mr Hamilton contended that all three were too close to Mr Al Fayed to be regarded as independent witnesses of fact - Ms Bond and Mr Bromfield because they still worked at Harrods, and Ms Bozek because she had only relatively recently left Mr Al Fayed's employment and might still owe him a duty of loyalty.

  418. Furthermore, Mr Hamilton asserted that Mr Al Fayed was capable of making cash payments to his long-serving employees as an inducement to tell lies for his benefit. He added: "... the word of [Mr Al Fayed's] employees cannot safely be relied on in corroboration of anything he says. His employee witnesses are either dishonest by temperament or capable of being suborned by his vast wealth, complete lack of scruple or domineering personality".[181]

  419. More particularly, Mr Hamilton voiced suspicion about what he claimed was the very late stage in the subsequently abandoned libel proceedings at which their witness statements had been produced. Mr Hamilton's insinuation was that the statements had been, in effect, concocted in order to shore up the case for the defendants and to spare Mr Al Fayed what, in Mr Hamilton's view, would have been the uncomfortable experience of seeing his evidence crumble under cross-examination by Counsel for the plaintiffs.

  420. In making this claim, Mr Hamilton asserted that the telephone message books (which had led Mr Douglas Marvin[182] and The Guardian lawyers directly to the three corroborative witnesses) had not been produced to the plaintiffs in the libel action until the late summer of 1996, a matter of weeks before the trial was due to start.[183] As Mr Hamilton put it: "... the convenience of the trail from the last-minute appearance of the telephone messages, to the appearance of Marvin, to the neat appearance of Bond and thence to Bozek and Bromfield is so neat as to stretch credulity to the limit".

  421. So far as Ms Bozek was concerned, Mr Hamilton adduced, through Mr Betterman, evidence which, he argued, showed that she had previously been willing to tell lies to Mr Al Fayed's orders.

  422. This attack on Ms Bozek's credibility was set out in more detail in a statement by Mr. Betterman.[184] He claimed that in 1989-90 Ms Bozek had, on Mr Al Fayed's instructions, lied to the immigration authorities about the circumstances in which a Sri Lankan cook, Mr Ho Cheesing (whom Mr Al Fayed wished to employ), had entered the country. In particular, according to Mr Betterman, she had falsely stated that Mr Cheesing had stayed with her in London in order to provide a cover story for him following his detention and interrogation after being caught trying to re-enter the United Kingdom without proper authorisation. Mr Betterman added that Mr Al Fayed had asked him to confirm Ms Bozek's statement to the police or the immigration authorities if he were questioned about it - which, in the event, he never was.

  423. Mr Betterman also produced evidence[185] about cases involving Mr Al Fayed or his employees which, he maintained, illustrated Mr Al Fayed's vindictiveness and dishonest practices.

The Credibility of Mr Webb

  424. Despite the fact that he (along with Mr Greer) had proposed Mr Royston Webb as a witness to the inquiry, Mr Hamilton sought to undermine his credibility as a witness. This he did by asserting:

    -    that he had been involved in, or at the very least had knowledge of and failed to distance himself from, the alleged campaign of falsification and vilification against business opponents which were described in Mr Betterman's statement;

    -    that it was inconceivable that, as an experienced lawyer, he would have failed to appreciate from the earliest days of the libel action the importance of the corroborative evidence of Ms Bozek, Ms Bond and Mr Bromfield, making their late appearance as witnesses highly suspicious.

  425. Mr Hamilton attached great importance in this context to a transcript of a telephone conversation between Mr Greer and Mr Webb, who was staying in Dubai, on 20 October 1994. This call was recorded by Mr Greer without Mr Webb's knowledge. Mr Hamilton drew my attention to a number of points arising from the conversation, the two most significant being:

    -    that Mr Webb had claimed to have had very little to do with Mr Hamilton, thus, in Mr Hamilton's view, contradicting his evidence to the inquiry that he had not been surprised by the allegations of cash payments to Mr Hamilton;

    -    that he had informed Mr Greer he had no knowledge concerning allegations published that day by The Guardian (including that relating to cash payments from Mr Al Fayed to Mr Hamilton), whereas in his evidence to the inquiry Mr Webb had stated that Mr Al Fayed had told him that both Mr Hamilton and Sir Andrew Bowden were being paid.

The Documentary Evidence

  426. Mr Hamilton's general approach to the documentary evidence contained in the diaries and telephone message books[186] was exemplified by his response when confronted with the message book entry for 27 or 28 May 1987 and the diary entry indicating a meeting with Mr Al Fayed on 2 June 1987. Mr Hamilton replied that he did not know in whose handwriting the message was written and that he had not seen the original document. But he implied that, given Mr Al Fayed's role in the case of the "cod fax" from The Guardian in the case of Mr Jonathan Aitken, he (Mr Al Fayed) was "not averse to forging documents."[187]

  427. Pressed, however, by Counsel to the inquiry to confirm that his position, in so far as the documentary evidence might be damaging to him, was that "it is all fake", Mr Hamilton replied "No".[188]

  428. But in a subsequent addition to his written submission, Mr Hamilton appeared to revert to his initial accusation that evidence had been manufactured to meet Mr Al Fayed's case. For example, of the telephone message book entries, he remarked: "It is notable that [they] have no date or time on them. Thus Fayed avoids the risk that we could prove that we were unable to make a telephone call at the relevant time." The clear implication is that the entries were not made contemporaneously in response to telephone calls but were added at some later date, and that they were couched in a form deliberately tailored to make them more difficult to rebut.

  429. Mr Hamilton's specific responses to the telephone message book entries were as follows:

      (i)    of the message relating to 2 June 1987, Mr Hamilton stated that it was extremely unlikely that he would have gone to London during the election campaign and that a more likely interpretation of the message, and in particular the "Yes", was that he was calling to confirm that a meeting arranged some time earlier for 2 June would have to be cancelled; in this case, the secretary who took the message would have forgotten to erase the entry in Mr Al Fayed's diary for 2 June;

      (ii)  of the message relating to 28 September 1988, Mr Hamilton claimed that Mr Al Fayed was often anxious for him to see important documents in advance of a meeting and it was therefore perfectly possible that an envelope containing papers could have been sent to him in Cheshire in preparation for the meeting on 4 October which was recorded in Mr Al Fayed's diary; but Mr Hamilton added that the authenticity of the message book entry could not necessarily be assumed, since, as he put it, "any document that is produced which apparently assists Mr Al Fayed has a capacity to be forged, altered, manufactured for the occasion";

      (iii)  of the messages relating to December 1988, Mr Hamilton stated that he was "reasonably sure" that he did not attend the meeting confirmed for 20 December in Mr Greer's message of 13 December, since he had been attending a Christmas lunch with his parents in Portsmouth; that after discovering that the business in the House permitted him to be away from Westminster that day he would probably have cancelled his attendance at the 20 December meeting; and that, accordingly, the meeting with Mr Al Fayed on 15 December could be explained in terms of Mr Hamilton wishing to deliver a Christmas present to him.

The Pattern of Parliamentary Activity

  430. A further point made by Mr Hamilton in his defence was that there was no correlation between the alleged chronology of the payments to him, as evidenced by Mr Al Fayed's diary entries, on the one hand, and the pattern of his Parliamentary activity which could reasonably be seen as related to House of Fraser. It was noteworthy, according to Mr Hamilton, that a comparison of the two items of evidence appeared to show clusters of payments for little or no work, whilst bursts of activity went unrewarded.

The Comparison with Mr Smith

  431. Mr Hamilton rejected the argument that the similarity between the roles played by Mr Smith and himself made more credible the allegation that he, too, had been paid in cash by Mr Al Fayed. Mr Hamilton claimed in this regard:

    -    that he, unlike Mr Smith, had never been offered a Parliamentary consultancy with House of Fraser.

Summary (Mr Hamilton's Evidence)

  432. I have attempted in the preceding paragraphs to summarise the principal evidence adduced by Mr Hamilton in support of his denial of the allegations against him. However, as indicated above,[189] Mr Hamilton has raised a great many additional issues in his written submission and he has also subjected the oral evidence of other witnesses to detailed examination and analysis. Although I have given careful consideration to all these points, I have not thought it necessary to rehearse them in full in the body of the report, since they are set out in the relevant Appendices.

Other Evidence in support of Mr Hamilton

  433. I received two other pieces of evidence relevant to Mr Hamilton's defence against the allegations:

170  See Appendix 34. Back

171  See Appendix 35. Back

172  See Appendix 33. Back

173  The details of the case referred to by Mr Hamilton involving Mr Betterman are contained both in Mr Hamilton's submission and in letters from Mr Betterman and the attached witness statements (See Appendix 33 (Appendix 3), 82 and 83). Back

174  See Appendix 86. Back

175  HC (1996-97) 359, Appendix, paras 108-113. Back

176  See Appendix 33 (Appendices 2 and 3). Back

177  See Appendix 33, para 7. Back

178  See Appendix 87. Mr O'Sullivan confirmed the accuracy of his witness statement in a letter dated 28 January 1997. Back

179  See paras 518-527. Back

180  A further similar point arose from a tape of a secretly recorded conversation between Mr Al Fayed and Mr Tiny Rowland (supplied to me in connection with my inquiry concerning Mr Michael Howard). During this conversation, on 20 October 1994, Mr Al Fayed had seemed to imply that cash had been taken to Mr Hamilton rather than handed over directly (although the main thrust of the allegation of cash payments to Mr Hamilton was confirmed by Mr Al Fayed's remarks). Back

181  See Appendix 33, (Appendix 3). Back

182  See paras 386 and 453-58. Back

183  See Appendix 33, paras 480, 481, 485, 486, 511, 517 and 522. Back

184  See Appendices 82 and 84. Back

185  See Appendices 82 and 83. Back

186  See paras 387-397. Back

187  Q 1955. Back

188  Q 1956. Back

189  See paras 408-9. Back

190  The main substance of Mr Lawrence's allegations against Mr Al Fayed are contained in Mr Hamilton's own submission (see Appendix 33). Back

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