Examination of witnesses (Questions 905
TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2001
Chairman: Good morning. We are informed
that Mr Conway has represented Mr Campbell-Savours in other matters.
Mr Campbell-Savours: Over many years.
905. Welcome to the Committee, Ms Maria Fernandes.
You have your solicitor with you. He of course will be available
to you for consultation but will not intervene in our proceedings
except at the Committee's wish. The first question I have to ask
you is about the company, Mapesbury. What was the purpose of the
company? When was it established and has the purpose changed since
the date of its establishment?
(Ms Fernandes) The purpose of the company I believe
has already been explained to you. It was set up in 1994. I agreed
to be a director of that company because at that time the intention
of the company was that it would fund the calendars which I think
you have heard about. The calendars were produced for a period,
I think, from 1994 to 1996 and that was the time when Keith Vaz
was involved in that area, the calendars. The calendars were not
very successful and in 1996 he gave up producing any more. There
was a company there, I was a shareholder, I was a director, and
I decided that I wanted to do something with it. I could have
bought, and on reflection maybe should have bought, an off-the-shelf
company and started a new business but there was a company there
and I saw an opportunity to use it and I used it.
906. The next question I have to ask you is
that there was certain money related to Mr Vaz's calendars which
was processed through the company, and we did ask you for extracts
from the audited records which show these transactions, including
details of who provided those contributions and the payments made
from them. Do you have any difficulty in providing us with this
(Ms Fernandes) I do have difficulty because, to start
off with I was not really involved in the calendars project, if
I can call it that. I understood that the accounts relating to
the calendars in that period were sent on to the accountants and
then returned by the accountants at the end of the accounting
year to the secretary. The secretary then returned them to Mr
Mahmoud who has since passed away. I have this morning telephoned
his widow again and said, "Can we have a look around for
these papers?" I did ask her for the papers but the problem
was she was away for a period of time. Her husband died fairly
recently and she went off for a little while. She has said she
does not think there are any papers. I was specifically looking
for papers relating to 1996. She tells me she cannot see any papers
but she has invited me to go and have a look in her garage where
she believes there might be some papers. But, to be quite honest,
I have not been able to locate them.
907. We have been trying to get hold of copies
of the full audited accounts for each of the years Mapesbury has
been in operation, with the underlying records which show all
the payments into and out of the company since it was set up.
Can you provide this for us? What is the problem here?
(Ms Fernandes) I have no problem providing information
relating to Mr Vaz's role. Mr Vaz's role ended in 1996. The problem
I have is that this is my company and I do not know what it is
you are looking for. If you identify a particular transaction
that you are concerned about, if you can identify the areas of
your concern, maybe I can help you, but I do not where to take
this. It seems like it is too broad a request.
908. But the full audited accounts are surely
available, are they not?
(Ms Fernandes) There are not audited accounts to start
off with, the company was not required to be audited. I said that
in my letter.
909. There are no audited accounts because they
were not required?
(Ms Fernandes) The company is not required
to be audited under the Companies Act and it was not audited.
Chairman: There will be one or two detailed
questions on this which I will ask the Committee to ask.
910. Just to get things reasonably plain, you
are declining to let the Committee see the accounts?
(Ms Fernandes) No, I am not declining to let the Committee
see these papers. If I could locate them, and you have a particular
concern about any particular transaction, then I will look into
it myself. I am not declining to provide that information.
911. Does the witness have the year end accounts
for the company?
(Ms Fernandes) Sorry?
912. Do you have the accounts for the company?
(Ms Fernandes) The accounts are lodged at Companies
913. So the question is not whether the actual
year end accounts are available, the question is whether there
are particular details which can demonstrate where payments may
have been received?
(Ms Fernandes) Yes.
914. So if we go back to the years of the calendar,
which are the years when you were not particularly involved in
the activities of the company although you were a director, we
have been told, for example, that the payments that may have been
made to or from Wilebury Printers (?) are not easily available.
(Ms Fernandes) I do not know who Wilebury are.
915. So if one of the things the Committee is
trying to clear up is whether payments made by somebody, for example,
to the Printers in connection probably with the calendars, neither
you nor the company is able to help because those sorts of records
were in effect before your active time and anyway
(Ms Fernandes) It is a long time ago.
916. If the question came up as to whether anything
in the recent trading of the company or activities of the company
were linked to any of the suggestions which the Committee is having
to look at, you would need to have a specific request to make
a specific check?
(Ms Fernandes) Yes, I would be very happy to provide
you with the information, I have not come here to be obstructive,
I have come here to be helpful, and I am very happy to provide
information providing you identify the transaction you want information
about. I think it is excessive to just ask me to produce all my
records. We are talking about eight years.
917. If you make a distinction between post-1996
and pre-1996, which is I think when in effect the company moved
from Keith Vaz to Maria Fernandes, you are saying to the Committee
that before 1996 you have not really got a clue as to what was
going on in any detail?
(Ms Fernandes) I knew but not a lot.
918. So you would know it was not being a success
and presumably you would know there was not a need to account
to Customs & Excise for VAT or to the Inland Revenue for tax?
(Ms Fernandes) Sorry, I do not understand the question.
919. In terms of the details which a director
would normally be aware of, a director would presumably satisfy
themselves if there were a tax liability the company would satisfy
it, so we have to work on the assumption you were satisfied there
were no outstanding liabilities of that nature?
(Ms Fernandes) Absolutely.