Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report


Evidence from Mr Kapasi

132.  On 24 March 2000 I telephoned Mr Kapasi (Annex 131) to thank him for his letter of 21 March denying any involvement in making payments to Mr Vaz; to inform him that I had received evidence of his saying something quite different on another occasion; and to give him an opportunity to revise his original statement, if he wished to do so.

133.  Mr Kapasi wrote to me on 28 March (Annex 132) to tell me: "I stand by every word of my letter of 21 March. It is factually accurate and completely correct".

134.  On 29 March I received from The Sunday Telegraph transcripts of two taped conversations between journalists from the newspaper and Mr Kapasi. These consisted of:

    —   the transcript of the complete tape of which I had heard extracts at my meeting with Mr Hastings and Mr Syal on 17 March 2000[131]

    —   a transcript of a series of subsequent telephone conversations between Mr Syal and Mr Kapasi which took place on 18 March 2000.

135.  According to the second of those transcripts (Annex 4), Mr Syal sought confirmation from Mr Kapasi of the factual basis of an article Mr Syal hoped to write for The Sunday Telegraph about alleged payments to Mr Vaz in connection with the acquisition of land for a complex of religious buildings in Leicester. Mr Kapasi appeared to show some knowledge of the background to the events put to him by Mr Syal, but was plainly reluctant to make any public statement and attempted to dissuade Mr Syal from writing a story for the newspaper—even unattributably. As Mr Kapasi put it: "I would deny anything that I told you before. I need to discuss this with my colleagues".

136.  In a further conversation later the same day (18 March), Mr Syal put it to Mr Kapasi that he already faced similar questions as part of my investigation of the complaints against Mr Vaz:

"RSShe's written to you and asked you to respond; are you going to lie?
JKWell, I'll have to make that decision later, but you see, as I said, I don't want to get involved at all in any of this".

137.  On 12 April I wrote to Mr Kapasi (Annex 133) to ask him to comment on a specific piece of evidence at apparent variance with his earlier denial of having ever made payments to Mr Vaz. The evidence in question was the letter of 22 April 1994 from Sir Peter Soulsby to the then Town Clerk of Leicester,[132] the following extract from which I quoted in my letter to Mr Kapasi:

"This morning I [ie Sir Peter] telephoned Mr Jaffer Kapasi of the Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat, who confirmed that he had been asked repeatedly for a 'campaign contribution' ".

138.  Mr Kapasi replied on 3 May (Annex 134) asking me to let him have a copy of the full letter from Sir Peter from which I had quoted the extract in my letter of 12 April.

139.  In a letter dated 5 May (Annex 135) I informed Mr Kapasi that I was not at liberty to do this, but I assured Mr Kapasi that the rest of the letter did not refer directly to him.

140.  I wrote again to Mr Kapasi on 15 May to remind him that I had not received a reply to my letter of 5 May and to tell him that I had seen an article in The Sunday Times of 14 May 2000 in which it was claimed that he had made comments on tape during the preceding week relating to matters which were the subject of my investigation. I accordingly invited Mr Kapasi to come to see me to give me his account in person. I offered a choice of three dates for this purpose—23, 24 or 25 May.

141.  On 16 May, at my request, The Sunday Times sent me a transcript of the conversation with Mr Kapasi referred to in the article of 14 May, followed a few days later by a second transcript of a subsequent conversation with Mr Kapasi.[133]

142.  In the first conversation, which took place on 11 May 2000, Mr Kapasi confirmed that he had made payments to Mr Vaz. When Mr Kapasi was pressed to give more details the exchanges proceeded as follows (Annex 5):

"DL[134] ... You paid some money in cheques. To him. Mr Keith Vaz. And do you know roughly, remember roughly, when the dates were? Very roughly?
JK I paid in 1992... 1996...
DLHow many cheques?
JK Three cheques
DLThree cheques. Totalling how much money roughly?
JK Quite a few hundred pounds, but...
DLWas it four figures sir?
JK Not in total, no.
DLBut you'd say it was about six or seven hundred pounds?
JK Maybe a little bit more.
DLEight hundred pounds?
JK [inaudible]
DLNine hundred pounds?
JK More... I mean...
DLMore than nine hundred pounds... A thousand pounds?
JKYou know that he... because... I mean that I... he took it [inaudible] a receipt for me...
DLYou've got the receipts, yes? It's a donation is it? To him?
JK Well... to his party's...
DLA donation to the Labour Party. But why would you make the cheque out to him?
JK That's a good question.
GW[135] Did he ask you to make the cheque out to him?
JK No... no... ".

143.  Later in the conversation, when Mr Kapasi was asked about the purpose of the three cheques to which he had referred, the following passages ensued:

"DLWhy did you make the donation to him? Why anyone?
JK One, I think, was to a charity he set up... Sahara or whatever.
DL Sahara?
JK Yes.
DLOne was to his charity? A cheque to his charity? But the other two were to Mr Vaz, yes?
JK Mmm
DLThere were three cheques. And you say more than eight or nine hundred pounds altogether? More than a thousand pounds in fact? What—fifteen hundred?
JK Er... fifteen hundred... yes.
DLHe [Mr Vaz] was trying to do what? What was he trying to do?
JK Well, trying to influence the council.
DLOn the planning application?
JK Well yes...
DLBut on the planning application.
JK You see, when we met him he said: 'Look, what I can do is write a letter of support'.
DL But he did write a letter of support.
JK Er... I don't think he did.
GWSo he'd certainly offered to do it?
DL He's offered to write a letter of support for the planning application?
JK Yes.
DLHe offered to do it, and then you gave him some money. When did you give him the money?
JK There's no receipt. You see, this thing has been going on since 1988..."

144.  Mr Kapasi went on to explain that of the three cheques two had been drawn on his personal account and the remaining one on the account of the local Dawoodi community, of which Mr Kapasi is a leading member.

145.  In the second transcript (Annex 6), which related to a conversation recorded a day later (12 May), Mr Kapasi was asked how the three cheques were delivered:

"DLDid you give them [the cheques] to him in the... where did you give them to him? Where were you when you gave him the cheques? Did you post them to him, or did you give them to him in person?
JK I posted them to him.
DL You posted them to him? I see. Because I thought you said yesterday—and I couldn't remember—that you'd actually given them to him in person?
JK I think it happened about three times. I remember now. I'm trying to remember now. I think, once, I think it was posted...
DLOnce it was posted?
JK I think I may have given it to him personally.
DL Can you remember where? Was that in the Town Hall?
JK No, no, no.
DL In your office?
JK No, no... sorry. Some public function somewhere.
DL At a public function? Right. And the two cheques were made to him personally, and one was to the charity, yes?
JK That's right."

146.  When, however, it became clear later in the conversation that The Sunday Times was intending to publish a story about alleged payments by him to Mr Vaz, Mr Kapasi said to the journalists (as he had to The Sunday Telegraph previously) that he was unwilling to make any statement on the record:

"JK As I said, I don't want to get involved. The conversation we had was totally informal.
DL ... The fact is that you gave Mr Vaz £1,500... about £1,500.
JK Well, I would deny that anyway, but there we are...
DL You can't deny it because you told it to us.
JK Well...
DL Why would you deny that?
JK Because I don't want to get involved. That's why.
DL Right, but it won't do you any good to deny it, because I mean it's a fact isn't it?
JK Well... [laughs]... that's it. I mean he's given me the receipts and so on.
DL He's given you the receipts, so you can't deny it.
JK Well, that's up to him... I trusted you to respect that.
DLWell no. The truth is the truth—that's the problem... Hello?"
[The call ends]

147.  On 17 May Mr Kapasi wrote to me (Annex 136) to say that he had no recollection of any conversation with Sir Peter Soulsby about an alleged request from Mr Vaz "for a campaign contribution", and he indicated that he was taking legal advice about Sir Peter's letter of 22 April 1994 to the then Town Clerk of Leicester. Mr Kapasi repeated that the only payment he had made which in any way related to Mr Vaz was a donation to the Sahara Trust charity, of which Mr Vaz was a trustee.

148.  Mr Kapasi telephoned me later that day (17 May) and arranged to see me on 25 May (Annex 136). He said he could not fix the exact time for a meeting on that date until he had checked the availability of his solicitor and that he would let me know when he had done so. When Mr Kapasi failed to come back to me, my office tried to contact him, without success. I therefore wrote to him again on 19 May to ask him for confirmation of the arrangements for our meeting. On 23 May my office received a letter from Finers Stephens Innocent (Mr Kapasi's solicitors) saying that Mr Kapasi would "not be able to attend any proposed meeting" (Annex 137).

149.  I telephoned Mr Kapasi on 24 May to seek an explanation for his apparent change of mind. Mr Kapasi told me that the letter from his solicitor referred only to the proposed meeting on 25 May and that its cancellation was due to the unavailability of his solicitor on that date. He added that he was still trying to arrange to see me. We agreed on 7 June as a possible date, subject to the agreement of Mr Kapasi's solicitor. On the same day (24 May), I subsequently received a telephone call from Mr Mark Stephens of Finers Stephens Innocent to say that he would be away until 12 June but would contact me before 14 June, either to tell me that he was advising Mr Kapasi not to attend a meeting with me or to arrange a suitable date and time. Since I felt that I was not receiving the necessary co-operation from Mr Kapasi I reported the position to the Standards and Privileges Committee.

150.  There then followed a series of further telephone calls and correspondence involving myself, Mr Kapasi and Finers Stephens Innocent, including:

    —   a letter, dated 25 May (Annex 138), from me to Mr Kapasi repeating my request for a meeting and setting out the proposed arrangements;

    —   a letter, dated 1 June (Annex 139), to me from Finers Stephens Innocent, confirming that they would let me know by 14 June whether or not they would advise Mr Kapasi to attend a meeting with me;

    —   a letter, dated 9 June (Annex 140), to me from Finers Stephens Innocent asking whether I had met Sir Peter Soulsby, before, as they put it, "he made the complaint which you are currently investigating";

    —   a letter dated 14 June (Annex 141), from me to Finers Stephens Innocent proposing four possible dates and times for a meeting with Mr Kapasi.

    —   a letter, dated 15 June (Annex 142), to me from Finers Stephens Innocent saying that they were still not in a position to give me a decision on whether Mr Kapasi would come to see me and asking whether I knew Sir Peter Soulsby;

    —   a letter, dated 21 June (Annex 147), from me to Mr Kapasi informing him that the Standards and Privileges Committee had, at a meeting the previous day, decided that it wished him to assist my inquiry;[136] explaining that Sir Peter's sole motive in mentioning Mr Kapasi to me was to ensure that I had a full and accurate account of matters relevant to the complaint against Mr Vaz; and pointing out that I had still not heard from his solicitors about our proposed meeting;

    —   a letter, dated 21 June (Annex 148), to me from Finers Stephens Innocent asking me to correspond directly with them; repeating their earlier question about Sir Peter Soulsby, and in particular what they described as his "motive in seeking to involve our client in this matter"; but not making any comment or suggestion regarding my proposed meeting with Mr Kapasi;

    —   a letter, dated 21 June (Annex 149), from me to Finers Stephens Innocent stating that the only outstanding issue was the fixing of a date for a meeting with Mr Kapasi; pointing out that I had already dealt with the question about Sir Peter Soulsby; and making clear that it was necessary for me, in the absence of any agreed date for a meeting, to communicate directly with Mr Kapasi, who, as a witness in my inquiry, had a personal responsibility to Parliament;

    —   a letter, dated 26 June (Annex 150), from me to Finers Stephens Innocent reminding them that a week had passed since the Chairman of the Committee had written to Mr Kapasi,[137] asking for a response by 27 June;

    —   a letter, dated 26 June (Annex 151), to me from Finers Stephens Innocent, indicating that Mr Kapasi was reluctant to meet me because of what they claimed was an undisclosed interest on my part "in relation to Sir Peter Soulsby from past dealings with him", and enclosing a copy of a statutory declaration by Mr Kapasi, dated 25 May 2000, setting out his position";[138]

    —   a letter, dated 27 June (Annex 151A), from Finers Stephens Innocent to the Chairman of the Committee casting doubt on the independence of the inquiry process and repeating the reference to my alleged undisclosed interest in relation to Sir Peter Soulsby;

    —   a letter, dated 27 June (Annex 152), from me to Finers Stephens Innocent informing them that my only connection with Sir Peter Soulsby was that we were at that time both members of the Audit Commission—a matter of public record; and indicating that, whilst I was "most willing" to see Mr Kapasi, I might at some point conclude that I should make a report to the Committee on the basis of the evidence I had been able to obtain thus far, even if that did not include Mr Kapasi's;

    —   a letter, dated 27 June (Annex 153A), to me from Finers Stephens Innocent referring to the alleged disclosure of my "interests with Sir Peter Soulsby" and indicating that they would be taking Mr Kapasi's instructions "as to whether or not he feels that the proceedings are thus far so tainted that he should not deal with you";

    —   a letter, dated 27 June (Annex 154), from the Chairman of the Committee to Finers Stephens Innocent pointing out that it had been I who had approached Sir Peter after being informed that he might have relevant information in connection with my investigation of complaints against Mr Vaz; that "no question of improper influence" arose from our overlapping membership of the Audit Commission; and pointing out that whilst I was willing, if necessary, to travel to Leicester to meet Mr Kapasi, I could not, in fairness to Mr Vaz, indefinitely hold up my report the Committee;

    —   a letter, dated 28 June (Annex 155), from me to Finers Stephens Innocent noting their inaccurate comment about "my interests" in relation to Sir Peter; emphasising that my sole purpose in wishing to see Mr Kapasi was to give him the opportunity to comment on the evidence provided by other witnesses; and again pointing out that, whether or not Mr Kapasi agreed to meet me, the Committee might exercise its power to summon him to give evidence when it considered my memorandum;

    —   a letter, dated 30 June (Annex 156), from Finers Stephens Innocent to me maintaining that they could not advise Mr Kapasi whether to attend a meeting with me until they had received transcripts and tapes of the conversations between Mr Kapasi and The Sunday Times reported in the newspaper on 14 May 2000;

    —   a letter, dated 3 July (Annex 157), from me to Finers Stephens Innocent saying that I had nothing further to add to my previous letters concerning Sir Peter and informing them that I was required by the Committee to report the latest position to them the following day (4 July);

    —   a letter, dated 3 July (Annex 157A), to me from Finers Stephens Innocent repeating their view that there remained matters outstanding from our previous correspondence.

151.  Having considered the implications of this series of exchanges, I wrote on 11 July to Finers Stephens Innocent (Annex 158), reminding them that I had been seeking to arrange a meeting with Mr Kapasi since 17 May; and that, since he appeared unwilling to meet me, I needed, in order to bring my inquiry to a conclusion, to put to him for his comments certain information, in particular what other witnesses believed Mr Kapasi to have said about payments to Mr Vaz.

152.  The information I enclosed with my letter of 11 July was as follows:

    (i)  a copy of the letter of 22 April 1994 written by Sir Peter Soulsby to Mr Arthur Price-Jones, the then Town Clerk of Leicester

    (ii)  extracts from the transcript of my interview with Sir Peter Soulsby on 23 March 2000

    (iii)  extracts from the transcripts of the tape-recorded interviews of Mr Kapasi by The Sunday Times on 11 and 12 May 2000

    (iv)  extracts from the transcripts of the tape-recorded interviews of Mr Kapasi by The Sunday Telegraph on 3 March 2000.

153.  In my letter of 11 July I also asked for Mr Kapasi's explanation for the discrepancies between his taped interviews with the two newspapers and his statutory declaration of 25 May 2000.[139]

154.  The statutory declaration by Mr Kapasi contained the following statements:

    "The article[140] falsely claims that I have made payments to Keith Vaz MP."

    "I clarified the position when Mr Leppard[141] subsequently telephoned me on my mobile phone on Friday 12 May 2000 during the week of publication of the article and stated, as is the case, that I have never made payments of any kind to Mr Vaz MP, nor has he ever asked me to do so."

    "The article falsely states that I wanted Mr K Vaz to influence the thinking of the Council on the proposal to give the planning approval to build on a site at Manor Farm, Hamilton."

    "I confirm that the contents of this statement are true."

155.  On 21 July, Finers Stephens Innocent wrote to me (Annex 159) to say that Mr Kapasi was "unable to comment on the veracity" of the transcript of his conversation with Mr Leppard of The Sunday Times; they added that Mr Kapasi was "not a public figure well versed in dealing with the media" and that he had told the journalists "what they wanted to hear" in order "to make them go away."

156.  Attached to the same letter was a second statutory declaration by Mr Kapasi, dated 21 July 2000, in which he re-confirmed the contents of the first declaration, denying that he had made payments of any kind to Mr Vaz, save for the donation to the Sahara Trust.

131   See paragraph 116. The batch of transcripts supplied to me by The Sunday Telegraph also included recordings of conversations between the newspaper and Mr Zaiwalla and Mr B S Attwal (see paragraphs 88 and 251). The original tapes on which the transcripts were based were later supplied to me. Back

132   See paragraphs 122, 127, 128.. Back

133   I was subsequently provided by The Sunday Times with the original tapes from which these transcripts were taken. Back

134   Mr David Leppard Back

135   Mr Gareth Walsh. Back

136   This decision was also communicated to Mr Kapasi in a separate letter from the Chairman of the Committee. Back

137   This was the letter referred to in footnote 42. Back

138   See paragraph 154. Back

139  This was sent to me by Finers Stephens Innocent on 26 June (see paragraph.150). Back

140   A reference to an article in The Sunday Times on 14 May 2000. Back

141   Mr David Leppard, a journalist on The Sunday TimesBack

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