Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report




  434. A number of points raised in evidence, both in support of and against the allegations, were tested by further inquiries, or were put to relevant witnesses for comment in line with the procedures set out in Annex 1.

The Credibility of Mr Al Fayed

a) Mr Betterman's Statement

  435. Mr Al Fayed strongly rejected the allegations made against him by Mr Betterman. He supplied me with three statements[191] by Mr John Macnamara, Director of Security at Harrods. These alleged that Mr Betterman was himself not a credible witness because he had been involved in fraudulent salvage deals and had made a number of untrue accusations about Mr Al Fayed's dealings with certain former business associates.

  436. In summary, Mr Macnamara's evidence, which was supported by relevant witness statements, made the following points:

    -    that Mr Betterman had admitted to Mr Macnamara, during the course of a tape-recorded conversation in August 1991, to having been complicit in a salvage operation, the net result of which was that the insurers had been defrauded; and that the reason why Mr Betterman had been acquitted by the court in Dubai was that Mr Macnamara had not been called as a witness, and that consequently vital evidence damaging to Mr Betterman was never heard;

    -    the libel action brought by Mr Betterman had been settled because, in view of the failure of the criminal prosecution against him in Dubai, Mr Al Fayed was unable to substantiate a statement he had made to the ruler and deputy ruler of Sharjah alleging embezzlement on Mr Betterman's part;

    -    that Mr Betterman had lied in his statement to the inquiry about the circumstances in which two former employees of Harrods, Mr Peter Bolliger and Mr Graham Jones had left the company.

  437. In an Appendix to his submission, Mr Hamilton challenged Mr Macnamara's statements in a number of respects.[192]

b) Professor Rider's Statement

  438. The statement by Professor Rider strongly implied that Ms Francesca Pollard[193] was the main source of the evidence of a campaign against him orchestrated by Mr Al Fayed. It also noted that although the case papers had been sent to the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, no further action was taken in view of the difficulty of proving charges largely on the basis of Ms Pollard's uncorroborated testimony The fact that in 1991 Ms Pollard, after several years in the Al Fayed camp, switched sides and published her "apology" to Lonrho was alluded to in my recent report on a complaint against Mr Michael Howard.

  439. In a statement through his solicitors, Mr Al Fayed accepted that he had been critical of Professor Rider's role in relation to the Trade and Industry Select Committee but strongly denied having done "anything untoward" as far as either Professor Rider or the Committee were concerned.

The Credibility of Mr Royston Webb

  440. In his oral evidence, Mr Webb responded to the challenge by Mr Hamilton to his reliability as a witness by claiming that Mr Hamilton had described him in a statement to the inquiry as "fastidious". Moreover, he appeared on his own behalf: Mr Al Fayed had not put him forward as a witness, a fact which was confirmed by Mr Al Fayed's solicitor and which accords with my own understanding.[194]

  441. As regards the transcript produced by Mr Greer of his telephone conversation with him on 20 October 1994, Mr Webb did not see any discrepancy, of the sort claimed by Mr Hamilton, between his remark that he had had little to do with Mr Hamilton and his comment in his own written statement that he had not been surprised to learn of the cash payments allegation against Mr Hamilton. Mr Webb accepted that, had he used the phrase `I had nothing to do with Mr Hamilton', the charge of inconsistency might have had some validity - but that was not what he had said.

  442. According to Mr Webb, another telephone conversation had taken place with Mr Greer - he thought just after the one recorded in the transcript - in which similar matters had been discussed. I took this up with Mr Greer who stated that there had, indeed, been a second conversation, but before 20 October. This had not been recorded and so no transcript existed.

  443. Mr Webb vigorously rejected as a slur on his professional standing any imputation by Mr Hamilton that he had been party to any morally questionable practices whilst in Mr Al Fayed's employment and strongly denied that he was under any pressure or inducement from Mr Al Fayed to give evidence in a particular way.

  444. Subsequently, towards the end of the inquiry, I wrote to Mr Webb in order to offer him the opportunity to respond to Mr Hamilton's detailed analysis, in his written submission, of Mr Webb's evidence. Unfortunately, Mr Webb was abroad at the time and had not been able to reply before this report was completed.

The Credibility of Ms Bozek, Ms Bond and Mr Bromfield

  445. Ms Bozek, Ms Bond and Mr Bromfield all vehemently repudiated the suggestion that they had come under any pressure, financial or otherwise, to tailor their evidence to suit Mr Al Fayed.[195] Ms Bozek added that she had not even spoken to Mr Al Fayed about the matter.[196]

  446. It was Ms Bozek's credibility that Mr Hamilton most directly questioned and in relation to which he adduced the evidence of Mr Betterman concerning the case of Mr Ho Cheesing. In response, Ms Bozek flatly denied the claim that she had lied to immigration officials and said that Mr Ho Cheesing's arrival and application for a work permit had been dealt with by Mr Betterman. For his part, Mr Betterman, in a supplementary statement, claimed that he had been based in Dubai at the time and that the arrangements relating to Mr Ho Cheesing had been handled in Mr Al Fayed's office.

  447. In an attempt to clarify the position, I wrote to the Home Office asking for information about the nature of the inquiries that had been made by the immigration authorities about Mr Ho Cheesing and what, if any, declarations or undertakings had been given on his behalf. The Home Office has informed me that no records exist of inquiries made by the Immigration Service on his application for entry.

  448. In view of the particular attack by Mr Hamilton on Ms Bozek's reliability as a witness of fact I thought it right to seek a character reference from her current employers, the solicitors Allen and Overy.

  449. In a statement dated 25 March 1997,[197] Mr T J House, a partner at the firm, explained that Ms Bozek had applied for a training contract in 1992 and was subsequently offered a position as a trainee solicitor "on her own merits". After completing law school she joined Allen and Overy on a two-year contract in February 1996. In November 1992, Allen and Overy had taken up a reference on Ms Bozek from Birkberk College, University of London, where she had studied for her BA as a part-time student. The reference had been very positive in all aspects and included the observation "I can vouch for her integrity".

  450. So far as his own judgement of Ms Bozek was concerned, Mr House concluded with the following remarks:

    "During her year with the firm [Ms Bozek] has met the high standards we expect of our trainee solicitors. I have never had the slightest reason to doubt her honesty and reliability.

    I have formed a high opinion of [Ms Bozek]. She has been working for some time with me and other lawyers on a demanding case, and our regard for her is such that we have extended her period in the litigation department, when in the normal course she would have moved on to another part of the firm. She is mature, sensible and reliable. I do not believe she would lie in order to support her former employer's contentions".

  451. I have also noted the observation[198] of Mr Webb in relation to Ms Bozek and Ms Bond that "in a decade of dealing with these ladies on an almost daily basis, I cannot recall a single instance when I had cause to question their veracity".

  452. As previously indicated,[199] Mr Hamilton had sought to cast doubt on the means by which the three corroborative written statements were obtained, the process by which they were drawn up, and the lateness of their emergence - very shortly before the libel trial was due to start.

  453. In a statement dated 22 January 1997[200], Mr Douglas Marvin, a practising lawyer from Washington DC, said that in September 1996 he had been working in London on a commercial transaction for Harrods. He learned about the impending libel action in which Mr Al Fayed was scheduled to appear as a witness and subsequently took part in a meeting with The Guardian's lawyers during the course of which he was told about certain diary and message book entries that had been produced to them by Mr Al Fayed.

  454. One of the entries related to "a woman named Iris" (Ms Bond), and Mr Marvin, assuming that this referred to one of the secretaries in Mr Al Fayed's office, undertook to ask her what she knew about it. It immediately became clear that Ms Bond was aware of facts of direct relevance to the libel case and during the course of questioning the names of Ms Bozek and Mr Bromfield also emerged.

  455. Statements were then taken by Mr Marvin from all these witnesses separately over the course of the next week (Ms Bozek had been on holiday and was not available immediately). They were not shown Mr Al Fayed's witness statement, nor any other document, except that Ms Bond did have sight of the diary and message book entries. Mr Marvin did not discuss with any witness the answers given by the other witnesses. Mr Al Fayed did not attend any of the meetings at which witnesses were questioned, nor did he give Mr Marvin any instructions about the form or content of their statements.

  456. Mr Marvin's statement concluded: "Mr Hamilton's claim that the statements from the three witnesses were fabricated is absolutely false. Each of the witnesses simply responded to questions put to them and were very careful in ensuring that their statements were entirely honest and truthful. For my part, I certainly considered each of the individuals to be honest and truthful".

  457. Commenting on Mr Marvin's statement, Mr Hamilton[201] stated that he found his role in the process puzzling and that as far as he (Mr Hamilton) was concerned it remained unexplained why it had taken so long to connect the documentary evidence with the three witnesses and why The Guardian's own lawyers had not been able to discover them by their own efforts.

  458. Mr Hamilton also claimed that Mr Marvin had been closely involved in the preparation of the Al Fayeds' evidence to the DTI inquiry and was therefore equally tainted by the criticisms of Mr Al Fayed expressed in the Inspectors' report.

The Guardian

  459. Responding to Mr Hamilton's charge that they were giving credence to allegations made by Mr Al Fayed, about whose conduct and business practices they had been highly critical at the time of the Inspectors' report, The Guardian put forward two main counter-arguments:

    -    that it did not lie in the mouth of Mr Hamilton to accuse others of inconsistency when he himself had once been one of the fiercest champions of Mr Al Fayed's cause and, indeed, had continued to promote his interests for some time after the Inspectors' report had been published.

  460. To Mr Hamilton's questions about the role of The Guardian's lawyers in obtaining the three corroborative witness statements for the libel case, the newspaper replied:

    -    that their legal team had asked "with increasing fervour" for evidence from "the two secretaries" (Ms Bond and Ms Bozek) but that Mr Al Fayed had seemed "genuinely protective and reluctant to involve them in what he perceived as his own battle"; and

    -    that they had been quite prepared, contrary to Mr Hamilton's assertion, to put Mr Al Fayed in the witness box.

  461. As to the delay in the production of the witness statements, The Guardian explained in a supplementary submission that the case had "gone to sleep" for about a year between the newspaper's successful application for a stay of the action (because of the crippling effect of the Bill of Rights on their defence) and Mr Hamilton's return to the court following the passage of the Defamation Act 1996.

  462. My own analysis of the documents provided to the inquiry has produced further evidence about the sequence of events leading to the production of the witness statements which suggests that Mr Hamilton's position is mistaken. In particular:

    -    in asserting that the telephone messages miraculously appeared at the last minute in order to provide a spurious cover for the three witness statements Mr Hamilton has assumed that they only became available shortly before the trial was due to begin;

    -    this was about the time at which the libel action was stayed, on The Guardian's application;

    -    the letter from D J Freeman was sent before they had seen the plaintiffs' witness statements.

Mr O'Sullivan

  463. Mr Hamilton had cited the evidence of Mr O'Sullivan[203] as discrediting Mr Al Fayed's account of the pattern of cash payments - specifically in relation to one date, 20 February 1989, but, by implication, more generally with regard to the allegations as a whole. Mr Al Fayed disputed Mr O'Sullivan's evidence, claiming that he had never met him with Mr Hamilton. He thought it possible that Mr O'Sullivan might have remained in the waiting room while Mr Al Fayed and Mr Hamilton met alone and that as Mr Hamilton was being ushered out he had said "hello" to Mr O'Sullivan.

  464. In any case, as has been indicated[204], it is Mr Al Fayed's contention that a payment would only have been made if he and Mr Hamilton were actually alone.

The Documentary Evidence

  465. As in the case of the message books and diary entries relating to Mr Greer, those which referred to Mr Hamilton seemed likely to be important in assisting me to reach conclusions on these allegations. I therefore decided to subject those documents also to forensic analysis, not least because of Mr Hamilton's suggestion, albeit somewhat equivocal, that they might have been fabricated.

  466. The main conclusions[205] from the forensic examination of the three message books containing the three entries relating to Mr Hamilton were that:

    -    there was nothing to suggest that they were in any way unusual or different from the other messages in the relevant book;

    -    all the observations made by the examiner were those which might be expected if the messages formed part of a contemporaneous record.

  467. The handwriting of the messages dated 28 September 1988 was similar to that of other messages attributable to Ms Bozek. The other two messages relating to Mr Hamilton were each in different styles of writing, but in both cases there were other examples of messages in similar handwriting elsewhere in the same book, and, in one case, in the other books also.

191  See Appendix 6. Back

192  See Appendix 33 (Appendix 3). Back

193  See paras 410(iii) and 411. Back

194  Q 1816 and 1865. Back

195  Q 178-9, 357, 427 and 468. Back

196  Q 177. Back

197  See Appendix 93. Back

198  See Appendix 97. Back

199  See paras 419-20. Back

200  See Appendix 95. Back

201  See Appendix 33. Back

202  See Appendix 4. Back

203  See para 415(iii). Back

204  See para 191. Back

205  See Appendix 94. Back

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Prepared 8 July 1997