Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 40 - 59)



  40. Did he ask for any expenses or any other cash or gifts or anything like that at any time?
  (Mr Kapasi) No, he has never asked me for any expenses or any other money.

  41. You are an officer of the Dawoodi Community?
  (Mr Kapasi) That is right. I am a trustee of it.

  42. Could you tell me your relationship with the community and their approach to you on the land that was required for the building?
  (Mr Kapasi) We have been trying to acquire a place of worship since 1988. We had a mosque where we were given planning permission in an area which was very racist. This particular mosque was fire bombed four times in less than six months, so we were forced to flee from that area and move into the city centre area. At the moment we say our prayers in a former warehouse building which is on the second and third floors of premises right in the city centre surrounded by pubs, clubs, night clubs. You can see that it is not a very conducive area for a place of worship to be where our children could be trained in our religion and basic philosophy of life surrounded by such organisations. We have been fighting for a very long time for a proper place of worship, a purpose built place in the city, and we got together with the Hindu Swaminarayan Group and the Sikh Ramgarhia Board to develop this site in Hamilton. Obviously we sought the help of Councillor Sir Peter Soulsby who was the then Leader of the City Council, who actually helped us in locating this site for a place of worship where this really is for religious groups. We were allocated seven and a half acres of land and this item was put in the Local Plan so that we could have a place of worship there of some distinction, because the Hindu Swaminarayan Group also had suffered the same fate where their place of worship is right in the city centre area surrounded by pubs, clubs and night clubs, no parking, no proper amenities in the building, no access for the disabled, and that is the reason why we got together, to achieve that.

  43. Did Mr Vaz help you in proceeding with this development?
  (Mr Kapasi) No. He has not given us any help at all.

  44. Financial or otherwise?
  (Mr Kapasi) No, not at all. I think the only other person who has actually written a letter of support is Mr Jim Marshall MP. He is the Member of Parliament for Leicester South. Previously we have had help from Sir Derek Spencer, who was MP for Leicester South prior to Mr Jim Marshall.

  45. But over this period you had a number of discussions or interviews or meetings with Mr Vaz. What were they mostly about?
  (Mr Kapasi) You see, in the early—I cannot remember the exact year, but around 1994/95 all the community groups got together and wrote a letter which I signed requesting Mr Vaz not to get involved in the local politics of the City Council.

  46. Did you have discussions with Mr Vaz since the Commissioner has started her inquiry at the early part of last year?
  (Mr Kapasi) You mean discussions—?

  47. About the inquiry that the Commissioner was undertaking.
  (Mr Kapasi) Oh, since the Commissioner's letter?

  48. Indeed.
  (Mr Kapasi) No. In fact, I have met him on—I am trying to remember how many times—about three or four occasions but I have not discussed with him any of this at all.

  49. You have never discussed these matters that the Commissioner was raising with Mr Vaz and with you separately? You have never discussed them together, never discussed with Mr Vaz the questions that the Commissioner was putting to you and to Mr Vaz? You have never discussed that with him?
  (Mr Kapasi) No, not since—in fact, in the public meeting where I met Mr Vaz, one was in September 2000 when he attended the Asra Annual General Meeting, but we never discussed this. Subsequently we met at the Leicester City Football Club when E-commerce "3ees" Seminar was launched by Ms Patricia Hewitt, when I met him the second time, and the third time I met him was on the Indian Republic Day at the Indian High Commission on 26 January which was last Friday, but I have not discussed any of that with him.

  50. You say you never paid him any money nor expenses. Was any campaign contribution paid at all to the Labour Party or to the organisation that was running the campaign?
  (Mr Kapasi) No. I have personally never paid any money to any political party or Mr Vaz because basically I am just a non-partisan community worker. I have no affiliation to any political party and I remain totally neutral seeking the help from Conservative MPs, Mr Edward Garnier, previously Peter Bruinvels, Sir Derek Spencer, Mr Jim Marshall, Ms Patricia Hewitt, Mr Keith Vaz, and in fact the Liberal councillors in the area where I live, I always referred to them on issues of cemeteries or any other problems we had. I have never joined any political party or made donations to any party. This can be verified if the Commissioner would like by having an independent audit of my books and records, cheque stubs, cash book, whatever, because I have personally taken the trouble to check because this affair goes back quite a few years, to make sure that no payments, bar the £52 donation to Sahara Trust, have been made. I have made other donations to other charities, including the Dawoodi Community charities, but not to any political parties.

  Chairman: Thank you. That is the end of my opening questions which I will come back to again, but colleagues will wish to come in at this stage.

Mr Bruce

  51. You said in reply to the Chairman's question that you had written to Mr Vaz asking him not to interfere with local council politics. Why did you do that? In what way was he interfering in local council politics?
  (Mr Kapasi) I think we were approached by Sir Peter Soulsby and his Deputy Leader, Councillor Bhupen Dave, at that time, who actually summoned us to a meeting in the City Council and explained to us that there was a lot of interference from Mr Vaz in the local authority affairs and whether he could support us in requesting Mr Vaz not to do that.

  52. So there was not any particular event directly connected with you or your community that was concerning you?
  (Mr Kapasi) I cannot recollect them mentioning any particular issues but I think there were a number of issues where they felt that there was interference by Mr Vaz in council politics.

Mr Williams

  53. What work are you involved in?
  (Mr Kapasi) By profession I am a qualified financial accountant. I have my own practice. Previously I have been engaged in manufacturing of garments with a company called Leicester Garments Ltd.

  54. Did I understand from the Chairman that you are Lord Lieutenant?

  Chairman: Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Leicester.

Mr Williams

  55. Which is a Royal appointment?
  (Mr Kapasi) It is a very high honour.

  56. So from a position which is one of considerable status—very few people have the honour you have—and backed by the fact that your occupation is a financial accountant of some standing, not only does anything you say but also anything you say in a financial context bear very considerable weight, does it not, more weight than if I said it as an individual? (Mr Kapasi) It all depends on the circumstances, yes.

  57. We will exercise our political inferiority complex and say that I would value your financial judgment rather more highly than I would value mine. However, what puzzles me is that you are in a double position of integrity: you are in an honourable position of integrity and you are in an occupation that demands considerable integrity. Why on earth did you come to say to the journalists what you said to the journalists?
  (Mr Kapasi) If I can explain to you—

  58. Please do, and take your time.
  (Mr Kapasi) The background to this interview, which is in Annex 158 at page 468 and then carries on to 469 and 470, the extracts from the tape-recorded interview with The Sunday Times, is that on 11 May I was working in my office late trying to finish my work and suddenly I had a call, because nobody was in the office except myself. I had only had a call from my wife saying "Could you be here at 7 pm because dinner is waiting for you and otherwise it is going to get cold." These two intruders come in, asking me -well, telling me—that they are from The Sunday Times "and we would like you to be interviewed on Mr Keith Vaz." My immediate response was "I do not wish to get involved and I do not wish to be interviewed". My immediate response to seeing this on 469 is that these transcripts are not complete. Also, whether only the relevant facts have been taken out to compile this. It is a fact, because all I was trying to do was trying to do my work and suddenly I had this intrusion and a lot of questions put to me. The reason why I allowed them into my office, my second office, was that when they told me they have got evidence against me and that they are aware of the correspondence which I have had with the Commissioner. The second thing that happens is "Well, look, okay, you are not prepared to be interviewed, we will do this off the record and we will not take any notes at all." If I had the opportunity of requesting the Commissioner to actually let us hear this now because this statement I have made every effort to remember is that Mr David Leppard stated categorically that "This conversation is off the record. We are not taking any notes at all". So what I did was to tell him a story. I know that it sounds awful and I am totally embarrassed by what I told him, and not realising the consequences then of the story, because I was considering doing my work when I told him what actually he wanted to hear. He had an agenda of coming to see me, he was very well-briefed by whoever and he was fully aware of what is going on. Then the conversation goes on, followed by another conversation the next day. There again, having told him a total story and being put in a very embarrassing position to rectify, if you look at page 471, page 4, and just before (B), I asked him a question "Are you going to do a story on this ... ?" and that is, actually, when I realised that I am in serious trouble. So I immediately tried to retract my position by stating I would deny this anyway and that I do not wish to get involved—which I told him at the beginning when he came to see me. What happens, if you look towards the end of page 4, is that the call ends because Mr Leppard soon found out that I was retracting the whole story and that it will have no meaning to what I told him before.

  59. Mr Kapasi, I can understand you were put in an embarrassing position and having to rectify, but did you not think you were putting Mr Vaz in am embarrassing position by saying what you said?
  (Mr Kapasi) Yes, I am, but the question is—

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