Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 580 - 599)



  580. Right. Then I only have one other question—because colleagues will want to come in—unless you have got anything to add on that?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No, sir. May I only add, sir, that in the context in which my commitment was made and I was required to pay, I had made the payment not to Mr Vaz or his representative, but to the charity, to people whom I understood to be the representatives of the charity.

  581. And they looked responsible people?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) They did not look like people from the street. I mean, they were— I had no reason to suspect them.

  582. But you did not know them?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No. They were not people whom I knew before.

  583. The only other question I want to ask is about the honours recommendation. Did Mr Vaz ever suggest to you that he might recommend you for an honour?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Never.

  584. Never at any time?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Never at all. It is a complete and utter lie.

  585. You did not ask him for anything?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No, I did not ask him for anything. The newspaper journalist tried to trick me into saying that, and I have always denied that, sir. I would like to say this, sir, that I have been in Chancery Lane for the last 20 years, and I would not have survived indeed with the system if I had done anything which was untoward or wrong. There is one rule which I follow, which is do everything within the system with probity and never cross the system. My father was one of the first ever Indians to qualify as an English solicitor in 1925 and he practised here for a year from 1925 to 1926, and that is one rule which I have always insisted on always.

  Chairman: Thank you.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  586. Mr Zaiwalla, could you possibly have made a mistake in your memory, in that the monies were for the office account of Mr Vaz?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No. No.

  587. You are absolutely sure?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Absolutely sure.

  588. Is it possible that you told Mr Brown that it was for an office account?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Mr Brown would not have known anything whatsoever, because Mr Brown was only a bookkeeper and he would have known nothing whatsoever.

  589. Would there be any reason why Mr Brown might remember it in that way, possibly?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) The only possible reason is that Mr Milne has something on him. That is the other unfortunate thing. I have been a victim. In the course of running my practice I have twice been a victim of frauds. Mr Brown was jailed for 4½ years. He admitted, in very odd circumstances, to Mr Milne that he had stolen £44,000. Subsequently Mr Milne told me that he had stolen over £750,000. Mr Milne is a person—if I may share this with you, because now I know—who keeps things on people, and I have a feeling that Mr Milne probably has something on Brown.

  590. What do you mean by "something on"?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) My own feeling is—and I say this with caution—that Mr Brown probably stole from my office over £700,000, but he admitted his theft in very strange circumstances to Mr Milne the day I was away in Paris. I am a member of the International Court of Arbitration. The day I was in Paris Mr Milne discovered that he had stolen money and got a statement from him, before the police were called, in which he admitted theft totalling £44,000. I suspect that Mr Milne had done a deal with Mr Brown. We must not forget, sir, if I may say so, that it is now in public knowledge that Mr Milne in 1992 had gone into bankruptcy of £1.8 million owing to 108 creditors most of whom were credit card companies. He is a very clever man, and these are all facts.[2]

  591. Can I ask you, when did you last talk to Mr Vaz?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I last talked to Mr Vaz, just "Hello", we just shook hands, at the Chinese National Day at the Chinese Embassy in October 2000. I was surprised, but he came up and said hello to me and shook hands. I was touched, because I had complained against Mr Vaz, about his conduct, to the Prime Minister, concerning a totally different matter where I have got leave to appeal before an employment appeal tribunal concerning sex discrimination complaint by a former member of staff who had not been given a training contract.

  592. I am sorry, I did not quite hear that.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Sir, this is a completely different matter. I had formally complained to the Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister, because one of my staff, somebody who had worked with my firm as a para-legal, took my firm to the employment tribunal under the Sex Discrimination Act, for sex discrimination, because she was not given a training contract. At the employment tribunal hearing, surprise, surprise, the Minister of the Crown, Mr Vaz, gave evidence—his statement was read out—that that particular individual was a very fit individual, and if he was in my place he would have given her a training contract. We then found out that there was a problem, because there was a copy from the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Lord Chancellor's special adviser was involved. The whole thing was very surprising. Ultimately we applied for leave to appeal, and neither Mr Vaz nor the Lord Chancellor's Department would give me the information. I complained formally. I complained to Mrs Elizabeth Filkin first, and she said she had no powers. I wrote to the Permanent Secretary of the Lord Chancellor's Department, and then I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary, as a result of which Mr Vaz's solicitors confirmed that Miss *** had obtained an office copy from the Lord Chancellor's file, without his authority, and the matter was closed then.

  593. Obviously that does not bear a direct relationship to our inquiries that are currently taking place. When did you meet Mr Vaz before that?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Before that, when he was a Minister I met him. Let me be very accurate. I once met him at a dinner which the Princess Royal attended.

  594. When was that approximately?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) That was in the middle of 1999, after he became a Minister.

  595. In other words, you only met Mr Vaz once last year?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) I met Mr Vaz— No, let me be very accurate, because I am giving evidence on oath. Last year I met Mr Vaz once, on Easter Monday.

  596. On Easter Monday as well?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Easter Monday of 1999.

  597. Last year is 2000.
  (Mr Zaiwalla) 2000, Easter Monday last year. In 1999 I met him— No, I am so sorry, sir, I also met him at a Chinese Embassy event in 2000.

  598. Have you ever discussed anything relating to this inquiry with Mr Vaz?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) No.

  599. Nothing at all to do with any of the issues that are being raised with Mr Vaz at any stage?
  (Mr Zaiwalla) Nothing at all, because our relations were very cold until— In fact, there was a complaint against Mr Vaz, and our relations were very cold.

2   Note by witness: Last year was Mr Milne's second bankruptcy. Mr Brown has also been convicted twice and jailed on two separate occasions. Back

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