(i) The alleged
payments by Mr Zaiwalla to Mr Vaz
37. Before I had had an opportunity to seek his
account of the matters contained in Mr Milne's first letter, Mr
Zaiwalla wrote to me on 8 February (Annex 57), having already
seen similar allegations published in a number of Sunday newspapers.
Mr Zaiwalla stated:
"Neither the firm of Zaiwalla & Co nor
I, have at no time made any payments to Mr Vaz MP or his Parliamentary
office, nor did Mr Vaz approach either me or my firm to give him
38. But Mr Zaiwalla added that he had from time
"sponsored or taken a table at various Asian
social and charity events which Mr Vaz has also supported".
39. Mr Zaiwalla said he had agreed to make such
a charitable contribution, of £1,000, in 1993 or 1994. In
addition, in 1998 he had taken a table for £500 at an Asian
Business Network Group dinner which Mr Vaz had organised and at
about the same time he had sponsored for £500 a charity concert
associated with Mr Vaz.
40. Mr Zaiwalla went on:
"Besides these events supported by Mr Vaz,
I confirm that neither my firm nor I made any payments by cash,
cheque, in kind or inferred any financial benefit directly or
indirectly either to or on Mr Vaz MP or his constituency party,
or his family".
41. On 14 February Mr Zaiwalla wrote to me again
(Annex 58) and provided me with the following more detailed information
about payments or donations he had made which involved Mr Vaz
in any way:
(i) a cheque and counterfoil (015516), dated
23 June 1998, for £500 made out to "The Gala Dinner";
(ii) a cheque and counterfoil (017164), dated
27 October 1998, for £500 made out to "The Gala Dinner",
with "Keith Vaz MP" in the box marked 'details'.
42. However, Mr Zaiwalla told me in the same
letter that he was unable to identify the charity to which he
had made a donation of £1,000 in 1993 or 1994, as he had
"left it to Mr Vaz to select the cause to be benefited, and
the event". But he recollected "vaguely" that the
charity in question was an Indian natural disaster appeal fund.
He also recalled being contacted by "an Asian organisation"
who said that Mr Vaz had told them that he (Mr Zaiwalla) had agreed
to make a contribution of £1,000 to the cost of an event
which they were arranging.
43. On 10 March 2000 Mr R Nanda, the Chairman
of the Asian Business Network (ABN), wrote to me at the request
of Mr Vaz (Annex 177). He said that Mr Zaiwalla had supported
two ABN events in 1998. They were:
on 2 July 1998, a Gala Dinner where
the guest of honour had been the Home Secretary and at which Mr
Zaiwalla had bought a table for £500;
on 17 July 1998 a Gala Dinner at which
Anoushka Shankar, the daughter of Ravi Shankar, had performed,
where the guests of honour had been the Foreign Secretary and
the Chief Executive of Tesco, and at which Mr Zaiwalla had bought
a table for £500.
44. Mr Nanda confirmed that Mr Zaiwalla had not
sponsored a third ABN event. I had asked Mr Vaz whether this was
the case because of the gap between the date of the second event
(17 July) and the date of Mr Zaiwalla's cheque for £500 to
"The Gala Dinner" (27 October)a discrepancy on
which neither Mr Zaiwalla nor Mr Vaz had been able to shed any
45. Both at the outset of my inquiries and subsequently,
Mr Zaiwalla made a number of attacks on Mr Milne's character,
the relevance of which, in Mr Zaiwalla's eyes, was that Mr Milne's
complaints against Mr Vaz had to be seen as part of a campaign
to damage Mr Zaiwalla.
46. For example, in his letter of 8 February
Mr Zaiwalla claimed that Mr Milne was "wholly discredited",
referring to the description by a judge, in court proceedings
brought by Mr Zaiwalla, of Mr Milne's conduct as being "unbefitting
of a solicitor".
47. Mr Zaiwalla also sent me a copy of a letter,
dated 8 February 2000, which he had written to the editor of the
Sunday Telegraph in which he pointed out that he had dismissed
Mr Milne in April 1998 for "gross misconduct", a decision
subsequently upheld on arbitration and which resulted in a monetary
award in Mr Zaiwalla's favour.
48. On 11 February 2000 I wrote to Mr Brian Brown
(Annex 66), who had worked as a bookkeeper in Mr Zaiwalla's office,
to ask him whether he had been present at any discussions or meetings
between Mr Zaiwalla and Mr Vaz and, in particular, whether he
had been involved in any cash payment or other financial transaction
from Mr Zaiwalla to Mr Vaz.
49. In his reply, dated 16 February 2000 (Annex
67), Mr Brown explained that he had worked for Mr Zaiwalla until
November 1994 and could not therefore comment on matters after
that date. He said:
"I do, however, recall that a payment of,
I think, £1,000 was made to Mr Vaz by Mr Zaiwalla for what
I seem to recall was described as being for an 'office fund'.
I do not, however, remember the date upon which the payment was
made, though it was whilst Mr Zaiwalla's practice was housed at
95a Chancery Lane, which I suppose makes it prior to May 1994.
I have been informed by a Sunday Telegraph reporter that
a statement by a third party (whom I assume is Andrew Milne) stated
that I was initially requested to hand Mr Vaz a cheque which was
refused and the payment was requested in cash, which I withdrew
from the firm's bank and handed in our envelope to Mr Vaz. This
may or may not be the case, I simply cannot be certain, though
I suspect that could be the case. I was certainly not involved
in any discussions which led to the payment being made nor was
I made aware whether the payment was a gift or a loan".
50. On 16 February 2000 The Sunday
Telegraph sent me a transcript
of a telephone conversation which took place on 14 January 2000
between Mr Milne and Mr Brown. At the beginning of this conversation,
initiated by Mr Milne, Mr Milne told Mr Brown that he was concerned
about an approach made to him by The Sunday Telegraph over
allegations concerning Mr Vaz. The following exchange then took