Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 100 - 119)



Mr Bell

  100. Mr Kapasi, I shall be quite brief, to get to the heart of the matter, those words in that interview with those journalists were words you did say, but you are telling us they were a story, which means, what, a fabrication?
  (Mr Kapasi) It means it is not true.

  101. I was a journalist for 34 years and people slammed the door in my face, they refused to answer questions, but I have never met anybody telling untruths in order to get journalists out. You described them as intrusive, did they break in?
  (Mr Kapasi) I refused to be interviewed and they kept on saying they had evidence against me and they needed to interview me. They were very persistent. If you listen to the tapes then, perhaps, you will know that they were.

  102. Your problem was you were being too polite.
  (Mr Kapasi) Thank you for the compliment. Yes, I think that it is in my nature. It is very unfortunate that it hit me in this way.

  103. Can you give me an example of one of the Leicester City Council issues on which you and the community leaders wanted Mr Vaz to back down? Were they planning issues?
  (Mr Kapasi) They were about who was to be elected in the meetings. They have to elect the chairman and the vice chairman of the committees and sub-committees. There was a lot of interference from Mr Vaz on who gets what chair. I am trying to remember the other issues as well.

  104. Why did you find it so difficult to arrange a meeting with the Commissioner?
  (Mr Kapasi) The reason does appear in correspondence I have been advised by my solicitor. I think the key thing is the conflict of interest. Initially, if you look at correspondence I said, "Yes I would like to see the Commissioner to clarify some of the points and clear my name". Then I soon realised that as Sir Peter Soulsby and Mrs Filkin were sitting on the Audit Commission and on one particular one Sir Peter Soulsby was the chairman and Mrs Filkin was a member of the sub committee. Immediately I will come to the question of how impartial you can be. Will you be fair to me? Will you judge me on the British fairness and justice? Will you be totally biased because you know somebody else is also involved in this affair?
  (Mr Stephens) It is fair to say that the procedures were not acceptable.

  105. This Committee stands by the impartiality of the Commissioner. Do you now regret you were not more cooperative than you were?
  (Mr Kapasi) I do not regret it at all. I believe there was a conflict of interest and I would have come immediately if there was not one, because, again, the highest institution is calling me and I am accountable and I need to come quickly.

  Mr Bell: I can assure you that there is no conflict of interest whatever.

Mr Levitt

  106. You have told us, Mr Kapasi, that the things which you told to the newspapers, which we have in the transcript, were a story and were not true. Our problem is that there appears to be some other evidence which appears to support what you have said in the story. I am thinking in particular of the quote from Councillor Peter Soulsby back in April 1994, which was the subject of the Commissioner's first letter to you on 12th April, 2000 in which he says: "This morning I telephoned Mr Jaffer Kapasi who confirms that he had been asked repeatedly for a campaign contribution." How did Councillor Soulsby reach that conclusion?
  (Mr Kapasi) Can I start by saying that in this bundle of correspondence, I do not know whether you have a copy of the Leader's Office letter to Mr Arthur Price Jones, the solicitor for the city council?

  107. We have seen that.
  (Mr Kapasi) I will answer the question point by point. First of all, Councillor Peter Soulsby refers to a conversation in 1994 about events in 1991, the notes of which were not taken at that time. Then he has difficulty in identifying the person he talked to. If you look at the taped conversation where he alleges it, annex 158, page 468, point 2(a). "It was alleged to me by Jaffer Kapasi and a person, whose name I cannot remember". Again there is the same question. Then the next point is, also there is a discrepancy over the alleged sum because in the transcript it says a thousand pounds, yet in the letter to Mr Arthur Price-Jones, the Town Clerk, it refers to £500. Then if you look at the letter to Mr Arthur Price-Jones, if you look at the third paragraph it says: "On Wednesday a colleague alleged that during that campaign and subsequently, Cllr Merlyn Vaz and Keith Vaz MP repeatedly and insistently solicited payment of £500 from each of the three groups ...". The question which I would like to ask is, what happened to the response from Mr Arthur Price-Jones? What did he do with this letter, because there are some serious allegations against both Councillor Merlyn Vaz senior and Mr Keith Vaz MP? What was the response of the Deputy Town Clerk? The other thing was that if this situation was correct why did not Sir Peter Soulsby write to me or my colleagues amongst the Hindu community and the Sikh community demanding an answer through the Deputy Town Clerk? The other fact is that you can see the discrepancies that exist between the taped interview of Sir Peter Soulsby and the letter which was written to Arthur Price-Jones. There are quite serious discrepancies that exist between the letter and the taped interview. The other thing to remember is that Sir Peter Soulsby himself was involved in chairing the meetings of this places of worship group after 1994 when it is alleged that the payments were demanded. I am sure that the Commissioner would find it very interesting to hear that the actual planning permission was not granted to the communities till January 1999, and I have a document written to prove that if anybody wants it (indicating document).[1] The planning permission was not granted till January 1999. Also, you will remember, and this is very important, that we still, after all these years, have not got the land. I think the Commissioner is going to find it very interesting that after the Sunday Times article a young man from a mosque in Birmingham rang me to say, and I think I must make this statement, "Mr Kapasi, I read this article in The Sunday Times. Do you know that you cannot say your prayers in that mosque?" I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "You have bribed a fellow human being to acquire planning permission or the land to build a mosque, a place of God. Nobody is above God. No faith, whether it is Christians, Moslems, Hindus, will accept this." When I told him that we still have not got the land and there is no mosque in sight at all, we do not know when the mosque is going to be built at all, he could not believe the story of The Sunday Times. This is what it creates, the media creates, in the ordinary minds of the ordinary people. My solicitor is kindly pointing out to me that if you refer to annex 158, page 468, again number 2a, Sir Peter Soulsby refers in the tape to, "it was alleged to me by Jaffer Kapasi", but if you look at the letter which he wrote to Mr Arthur Price-Jones, the Deputy Town Clerk, "On Wednesday a colleague alleged ...", so again there is another discrepancy to add to the list of discrepancies I have already made.

  108. Thank you for that detailed reply. You said at the beginning of that reply that the letter from Sir Peter Soulsby in relation to a conversation with you referred to some years earlier, but in fact in the letter it says, "This morning I telephoned Jaffer Kapasi who confirmed that he had been asked repeatedly for a campaign contribution", and that is clearly distinct from the allegations of payments of £500 which an unnamed colleague appears to have made. I accept your point that Mr Price-Jones did not in fact follow this up and have an investigation, but I wonder how, on the very morning that you wrote that letter, 22 April 1994, Sir Peter Soulsby could have been under the impression that you were confirming this question of campaign contributions.
  (Mr Kapasi) I have been trying to remember this very clearly but there is no way I can recollect having this conversation with Sir Peter Soulsby on this particular issue.

  109. What would you say the relationship was between Sir Peter Soulsby and Keith Vaz?
  (Mr Kapasi) I think it is very well known in the community and perhaps now possibly in the whole country that they both are political rivals. The way I look at it is that there is a saying in Swahili, because I come from East Africa, that when the two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers, and in this case I think I am the grass.

Shona McIsaac

  110. Mr Kapasi, you would agree that the truth is the truth whether it is off the record or on the record? Yes or no?
  (Mr Kapasi) Yes, the truth is the truth.

  111. So we have got transcripts of four separate conversations that you have had with journalists and you claim now that you only told them the facts in those conversations because you thought that was what they wanted to hear.
  (Mr Kapasi) Yes, I am saying that.

  112. So everything in those conversations is not the truth?
  (Mr Kapasi) I would safely say most of it is not true.

  113. So it is not true that you gave Mr Vaz £500 in cash as you stated in one of those conversations with journalists?
  (Mr Kapasi) I have never given any money to Mr Vaz except the £52 donation to his charity.

  114. You were very specific to the journalists that you would have passed it over in a white envelope. These are intricate facts that you have told journalists because you thought that was what they wanted to hear because you say that is how you wanted to get rid of them.
  (Mr Kapasi) In fact I have just looked at this transcript which I have been given. Even if you look at the contents of it there is a question mark to me as well whether I am actually involved in those interviews.

  115. So, Mr Kapasi, you are saying that is not you on those tapes?
  (Mr Kapasi) Some of it actually I cannot recollect having discussed with them at all. You can see that some of the answers—some of it I do accept, but if you look at some of the replies—

  116. But, Mr Kapasi, you are just saying now that you do not think it was you in those tapes but you admit in other bits it is you.
  (Mr Kapasi) I admit quite a bit at least, but some of it I really cannot recollect now because it has happened so many years ago.

  117. How on earth can you tell us if you cannot recollect it that you were telling journalists these facts because that is what you thought they wanted to hear in order to get rid of them? If you cannot recollect it, you cannot recollect it. You are also telling us that you deny the facts of those conversations. Now you are saying you do not recollect the conversations, so where does that put your sworn statement?
  (Mr Kapasi) As I say, I have just been through, in the last 15, 20 minutes, this transcript and, as I said, for example I do not know what "PPL" stands for and it has been mentioned enough times.

  118. I have not asked you about that, with respect.
  (Mr Kapasi) That is the difficulty I am facing now.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  119. "PPL"?
  (Mr Kapasi) To be honest, I still do not know.

1   Mr Kapasi supplied the Committee with a copy of the planning permission. Back

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