Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 80 - 99)




  80. We have some discussion here as to which questions we can put. I think we must have this in private. Would you like to leave the room for a short time?
  (Mr Stephens) Before we go, could I make one further point, which is that we have asked and put these points to the Commissioner. We have asked for the extracts of the report that are relevant in order to prepare for today.

  Mr Williams: Can I, for the record, make it clear that if I had been aware that he was not aware of the passages referred to I would not have used them as a basis for my questioning.
  (The witness withdrew)
  (The Committee went into private session)

(After a short break)


  81. Thank you, Mr Kapasi, for coming back quickly after your investigation of the transcript. I should point out that the transcript from which Mr Williams was quoting was sent to you on 11th July and acknowledged, but it was not in the recent bundle that you had. We apologise for that.
  (Mrs Filkin) I would like to apologise, I misled you when I suggested that I had already offered you the opportunity of examining the tape forensically. I checked with my office, that is what I was going to offer you after we had met and you had given me your account of these events. As I did not ever meet you I did not make that offer to you. I made it to Mr Vaz's solicitor, but, of course, you would not know that. I apologise for saying that this morning.

  Chairman: There is nothing to say on this. I will go straight to Mr Williams.

Mr Williams

  82. Can we start at the other end for a moment, we will come back to both sets of the information. You have subsequently signed two statutory declarations.
  (Mr Kapasi) Yes, I have.

  83. These are the equivalent of taking an oath, although you do not need to take an oath, however, it is perjury if they are wrong. According to the statutory declaration you said, "The article falsely claims that I made a payment to Keith Vaz, MP", that is one point. It is your document, so you should have it. Then you also say in relation to Mr Leppard of The Sunday Times, "I have never made payments of any kind to Mr Vaz, MP nor has he ever asked me to do so". Finally, "The article falsely states I wanted Mr Vaz to influence the thinking of the council on a proposal to give planning approval to build on a site at Manor Farm in Hamilton". Those are the denials in that document that you made and signed.
  (Mr Kapasi) Are you referring to page 453?

  84. I am referring to your own legal statutory declaration.
  (Mr Kapasi) I have a long statutory declaration and a short statutory declaration.

  Mr Levitt: 452, 453 and 475.

Mr Williams

  85. It is your own piece of paper, not the piece of paper you were expecting from us. I have quoted from it, you accepted it. I am sure your solicitor would have alerted you if I had in any way quoted inaccurately.
  (Mr Stephens) I was not able to catch it.

  86. I will do it again. "The article falsely claims that I made payments to Keith Vaz, MP". It says that.
  (Mr Stephens) Yes, that is paragraph two.

  87. I have never made payments of any kind to Mr Keith Vaz, MP nor has he ever asked me to do so".
  (Mr Stephens) That is paragraph four.

  88. "The article falsely states I wanted Mr Vaz to influence the thinking of the council on the proposal to give planning approval to build on a site in Manor Farm, Hamilton". These are highly specific denials.
  (Mr Stephens) That is paragraph 7.

  89. If you look, first of all, at the transcript from which there are excerpts, which you do accept you have seen already, from The Sunday Times, just the excerpts, not the full transcript—this is on page 469—in that transcript Mr Leppard asked you, "Did you make a cheque?" "Several cheques", you say. Then you reply, "Yes, yes", then something inaudible. Also, "Whether he declared it or not, that is up to him". Not only is there an admission there which seems to contradict the fact you never made payments to Mr Vaz but also in a rather nasty way you fingered him in relation to his obligations to the registrar of the House of Commons, if that transcript is correct. It then goes on to say, he asks you if there were two cheques. After a bit of preamble, speculating about figures he says, "What, 1,500?" You reply, "1,500, yes". That, again, is hard to reconcile with your sworn statement, is it not, that you did not make any payments? These are in the document you had seen. There is a third one, "Was the cheque from your personal account?" "Two were and one was from the community". Those statements do not seem to me like just responding to what you thought the journalist wanted to hear. They are very specific allegations which contradict what you said in your sworn statement, are they not? Are you saying they are false? We can always get the transcript and get the actual tape, and so on.
  (Mr Kapasi) My response is that, first of all, these transcripts are not full because our conversation starts with, "This is an off-the-record conversation", and he is not taking any notes at all. He is actually taping me when he is stating this. That is what I would really like to see. I have already said, I was just telling him a story.

  90. Can we differentiate? There are two things you could be saying here, one is that it has been topped and tailed, and the alternative, which is far more serious, is that you could be suggesting that they had edited the tapes to make them sound as if you were saying things you had not actually said. Which of those two are you suggesting?
  (Mr Kapasi) In The Sunday Times article, as I mentioned to you earlier, this is a total embarrassment for me. I have never been in a situation like this in my life ever before. What I have tried to do in my subsequent telephone conversation is try to retract it but David Leppard decided to put the phone down, so there was no way I could retract the statement I had made earlier on the previous night.

  91. You are admitting that you made them.
  (Mr Kapasi) In this case, yes, I did make those statements.

  92. That does not fit in with your deposition at all, does it? That in itself is in breach of a statement you made under the equivalent of being under oath. You are only trying to withdraw them, you are not denying them, because they were taped without you knowing. This is what your objections seem to amount to.
  (Mr Kapasi) In the statutory declaration the way I read it is that I have stated very categorically that no payments have been made to Mr Vaz, bar the £52 to the Sahara Trust.

  93. Then a second journalist, the one I was referring to earlier when you said you had not had the document when in fact you had, I am not making a point about that, I just want it clearly on record that you had had that document. To another journalist when he asked, "Was it in a brown envelope?" you said, "A white envelope", and laughed. That might have been a throwaway comment. "Did he promise anything in return?" "He said that he would help us with the planning issues, that is all". That seems to run in the face of your statement in your statutory declaration, "The article falsely states I wanted Mr Vaz to influence the outcome of the thinking of the council on the proposal to give it planning approval". They do not seem reconcilable, do they?
  (Mr Kapasi) This, again, mentions, because we had a brief look at it, very clearly that he is not taping me, it is an off-the-record conversation. The question I ask is, can an MP really be the chair of the Planning Committee and influence the decision of a planning application for a place of worship? There are already, according to the local plans, three sites already allocated for places of worship and the outline planning permission is already there.

  94. I am finishing at this point, because my colleagues have to come in, your complaint is that you were recorded—and we understand this, we object to it, as I indicated earlier—without being told you were going to be recorded. Unless you are denying that these tapes say what we have sent you a transcript showing you what they say, unless you are denying that what you are saying is that it is all right to utter an untruth as long as it is off the record, it is not going to be published and the other person may never find out about it.
  (Mr Kapasi) Mr Williams, in real life I know we are all meant to tell the truth according to Christian, Islamic or Hindu rules but people do bend the truth, people do tell lies in order to get out of a situation.

  95. Which one is the lie? Is it what you are telling us now or is it what you told the newspaper?
  (Mr Kapasi) I am under oath at the moment, under the Koran.

  96. Are you then saying that the tape is false or it has been edited in some way to misrepresent?
  (Mr Kapasi) What I am saying is that quite a lot of the information given on this transcript is inaccurate. This is supposed to be an off-the-record conversation, which, according to my understanding, has really no meaning and it cannot be used against anybody. People do talk. If you are in the pub or a club you very regularly hear people saying things against the Prime Minister and against Her Majesty, the Queen. If I had a recorder with me and if I taped a friend of mine having a conversation in a pub and used it against him, are you saying that?

  97. What you seem to be saying in answer to my question, "Are you suggesting that the tape is untrue?" What you are saying is that, no, you are not saying that. The tape had no meaning because you thought it was off-the-

  record. You are not denying that you said what is in the transcript, are you?
  (Mr Stephens) I think there is a misunderstanding here.

  98. We do not want to trap him in anything.
  (Mr Stephens) I do not think you will.
  (Mr Kapasi) (After talking to Mr Stephens) What I have stated in my statutory declaration stands. What I am telling you stands. I am before a great Parliament of the world, it is highly respected. It offers democracy and freedom and justice. I am sitting in front of Parliamentarians and Commissioners who have been assigned to hear me. What I am telling you is the truth and nothing but the truth. I stand totally by the statutory declaration I made.

  99. When you see the transcript they are irreconcilable, because under oath you have said to us that something that is recorded, that is supposed to be off the record, has no meaning. You did not deny that you said it, you just said it has no meaning, unless I misunderstood the point you are making. In which case, what is recorded here on the tape stands and there is no way at all in which we can reconcile the tape with your statutory declaration. You have a right to answer that before I hand the questioning back to the Chairman.
  (Mr Kapasi) To clarify the off-the-record conversation, according to my understanding there is no consequence, there is no foundation for a story in any newspaper or any publication because this is an off-the-record conversation I am having with someone.

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