Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report


Transcript of conversation between Mr Andrew Milne and Mr Brian Brown, 7 pm on 14 January 2000

  Ring ring

  Andrew Milne:  Brown, its Andrew Milne

  Brian Brown:  Hi

  AM:  I have been contacted by the Sunday Telegraph and I am really rather concerned at what you may or may not have been saying to them. They say they are going to run some story and I am very anxious to find out what you have said to them about Mr Vaz.

  BB:  I haven't said anything.

  AM:  Were you discreet?

  BB:  I haven't said anything. What they asked me about I didn't know. Simple as that. I haven't heard from them for four weeks.

  AM:  I was contacted by them quite recently and I was really rather concerned. I didn't want my name to get into the paper about this sort of thing. It concerns the £2,000 that you handed over to his assistant.

  BB:  Well, supposed to have. It's not something that I remember. That's what I told them.

  AM:  That you had chosen not to remember.

  BB:  Not that I had chosen not to remember. That I didn't remember.

  AM:  You certainly did hand over an envelope at some stage.

  BB:  Or so I am told, but I still don't remember it.

  AM:  I am quite anxious to get our story straight on this because I have been telephoned a number of times.

  BB:  I am interested to know where you got the number from.

  AM:  I asked them how you might be contacted after they mentioned your name two or three times. They eventually gave me the number. What do you do now?

  BB:  That's irrelevant.

  AM:  I am anxious to get our story straight.

  BB:  I have no story. They got nothing from me, nothing from my family and that's the end of it. I have heard nothing from them for four weeks.

  AM:  You were discreet in what you said to them.

  BB:  I told them I couldn't remember. Which is exactly it.

  AM:  I have a vivid recollection that you did hand over an envelope with £2,000 in it to Mr Vaz's office.

  BB:  Well that wasn't asked of me. I was asked about a bloke called Baldry. Vaz never came up into the conversation at all.

  AM:  You were asked if you had given Baldry money—which you hadn't done.

  BB:  That's right. Because it was 1987, er 1997.

  AM:  Oh I see. That's comforting. I was asked about Mr Vaz though which I did find concerning because I do remember you did give him—or someone from his office—an envelope.

  BB:  Oh yes. I remember that quite vividly, he was up there quite a lot.

  AM:  They asked me various other names which I found concerning. Do you remember the name of Vaz's assistant who actually handed the cash to?

  BB:  No because it was to him personally.

  AM:  You handed the £2,000 to Mr Vaz personally.

  BB:  Well, however much it was, it was to him personally. I don't remember any assistants.

  AM:  Did Keith say thank you.

  BB:  I couldn't tell you.

  AM:  Can't remember that.

  BB:  No.

  AM:  Well, I was very anxious to get the whole story straight and I was very anxious to find out . . .

  BB:  I told them I couldn't help. They asked me about Mr Baldry. I told them I had met him a couple of times.

  AM:  Was there more than one occasion that you gave cash to Mr Vaz?

  BB:  I can't remember. There may have been more than one.

  AM:  But you remember giving him cash on more than one occasion.

  BB:  Oh, on one occasion, yes.

  AM:  The Baldry payment was £5,000, but I was having all sorts of things put to me. My recollection with Mr Vaz was that the envelope had £2,000 in cash in it.

  BB:  It may well have done, and I am sure there was more than one, but er . . .

  AM:  If you are asked about Mr Vaz in the future what are you going to say?

  BB:  I am not getting involved. I told them that I do not want to talk to them. They came here to the house.

  AM:  They actually came and visited you.

  BB:  Yes.

  AM:  I have not had that yet and I am actually rather concerned that that might happen.

  BB:  Well I wasn't here anyway. I wasn't in when they came down to the house. They have been down to Southend as well. I just told them I didn't want to get involved and that was before Christmas.

  AM:  My recollection of when you gave Mr Vaz the cash on one occasion was in 1994.

  BB:  Well it would have been (unclear) . . .

  AM:  I think Vaz is quite a corrupt character and one imagines they might round up a number of people to say he was in the habit of receiving cash from them.

  BB:  Maybe, maybe, but they wont get anything from me, I can assure you.

  AM:  That's quite comforting. As I said they have called a number of times and I was concerned they might start visiting or visiting at my place of work which would also be concerning.

  BB:  They don't seem to have any qualms about calling when and wherever they feel like it. They have actually driven up here on the chance I was going to be in. Seems absolutely bizarre to me after telling them two or three times that I didn't know anything and I didn't want to talk to them.

  AM:  Did you see the article on Baldry.

  BB:  No.

  AM:  They did a whole page on him and he has had quite a telling off from various different people it seems. I certainly don't want my name to appear under any circumstances in any article about Vaz.

  BB:  I am just not talking to them. If they turn up here I still won't talk to them. Nothing will come from me.

  AM:  Was there more than one occasion that you gave Mr Vaz cash.

  BB:  I can't remember.

  AM:  But you definitely recollect one occasion.

  BB:  I wouldn't be surprised if there were more than one occasion. You know what they were like down there.

  AM:  I do. I can remember on one occasion he insisted on cash, which I found very amusing at the time.

  BB:  I think he always did.

  AM:  Was there ever an occasion where he took a cheque?

  BB:  Not to my recollection.

  AM:  Always cash, so it could not be traced. It's a bizarre, bizarre thing. I certainly don't want my name to get mixed up with Mr Vaz collecting cash from . . .

  BB:  Do what I did and tell them you are not going to talk to them.

  AM:  The problem is that they call where I work and I have had quite a number of calls now and I did not know what you had told them. Having had a direct hit on Mr Baldry there's a possibility they are digging around on Mr Vaz now.

  BB:  That's a possibility, it wouldn't surprise me. As it happens, they didn't ask me about Mr Vaz so there's nothing for me to tell them and they mentioned Baldry. Apart from the fact that I had met him a couple of times at Christmas functions, that was the extent of my meeting him. They said 1997. Well, I wasn't there in 1997.

  AM:  Because you met Vaz on many occasions when he came to the office.

  BB:  Yes.

  AM:  Were you ever present when he asked for cash?

  BB:  No. Those discussions were private.

  AM:  So your only recollection is of actually handing it over.

  BB:  Just going, collecting it, taking it up, getting it done.

  AM:  Drawing it out of the bank specially because it would be over the petty cash limit of what we would physically have in the office.

  BB:  That's right.

  AM:  So you would need to go cash a cheque.

  BB:  Yes.

  AM:  If they start getting hold of office records would you have entered in the cash book that it was for Mr Vaz.

  BB:  Oh no, it would have gone down as drawings.

  AM:  It would have said drawings.

  BB:  Yes.

  AM:  Well that's something anyway, it would not have been traceable from that point of view.

  BB:  No.

  AM:  Can you think of anyway that the cash Mr Vaz took would be traceable.

  BB:  No. It just went down to drawings.

  AM:  The cash you remember giving to Mr Vaz, was anybody else present who they might go and dig up. Any other witnesses?

  BB:  I doubt it.

  AM:  Only Mr Zaiwalla.

  BB:  mmm.

  AM:  Unless he goes completely mad won't tell them about it. The Baldry article in the end was utterly hilarious because from the way it was written, most of the info in the end was provided by Mr Zaiwalla.

  BB:  I know.

  AM:  It was quite unbelievable, because they rang him up and said we have been doing this whatever, and he doesn't say I am not going to talk to you. They get this verbal diarrhoea that fills half a page and then he rings them back. A full page article appeared and it says "and then he contacted us again and changed his story". He gives three totally different accounts of events all of which are published as great length.

  BB:  All inviting bad publicity by the sounds of it.

  AM:  The firm now consists of two other solicitors other than Mr Zaiwalla so its grown and shrunk. Unfortunately the taxman has paid a visit and he seems to be clutching a bill for in excess of £2 million connected with the affairs of Delta shipping.

  BB:  Ha ha ha.

  AM:  Can you imagine it.

  BB:  Poor man.

  AM:  Can you imagine. All the other partners in Delta have gone back to India or disappeared and he just can't work out what to do.

  BB:  My understanding is that he tried telling them he knew nothing about Delta shipping so they got a court order and went down to Den Norske Bank and seized all Den Norske's files.

  AM:  Why are they after him you suppose.

  AM:  The Inland Revenue.

  BB:  No, the papers.

  AM:  Oh, because the Baldry story was a big story and seemed to work out very well and there is a perception that he is a corrupt man who has made payments to other people. I was asked about other MPs bit I just had no recollection that they were getting cash, I mean they may have done . . . (Can't hear for two seconds) . . . but I was just very concerned about Mr Vaz. They were asking me about payments to him and him being in the habit of taking cash as to what you had told them and they started mentioning your name.

  BB:  Rest assured that his name never came up as far as I was concerned and if it did, I am not going to give any stories about him. If they can get it from somebody else, let them, they wont get anything from me. I have told them enough times that I don't want to talk to them. They seem to have got the message.

  AM:  Regarding the cash you gave to Mr Vaz, you would simply say that you couldn't remember if they were to ask you.

  BB:  Yes I would.

  AM:  Can you think of anyone else they might dig up who witnessed the money being handed over.

  BB:  I doubt it.

  AM:  The Baldry story was quite a success. Mr Zaiwalla is a solicitor who is perceived to be on the fringes of politics and had contact with a few politicians and given them money. Needless to say Mr Baldry forgot to put his money in the register and there turned out to be quite a list of things that Mr Baldry had not put in the register. Mr Vaz has not put in any payments in the register let alone cash payments. So he would be a target as well. Baldry is just lucky he is not in government anymore. The headline said "Latest Tory sleaze scandal" and a picture of Mr Zaiwalla reading a law book.

  BB:  Which he probably has framed somewhere.

  AM:  "Latest Tory sleaze", and he has framed it. I believe he first wrote to them saying he would sue them, and five minutes later invited them round. Come and have a coffee in my office.

  BB:  So, it sounds as if he hasn't changed over the years.

  AM:  No certainly hasn't changed, hasn't changed at all. I am concerned at what they might say about Keith Vaz and things they might ask me about. Other than the cash you gave him, can you think of anything else that might be embarrassing that one might be asked about.

  BB:  There was that one occasion, but as I said there probably were more that I do remember .. . . (can't hear).

  AM:  Can you remember what he wanted the cash for?

  BB:  Oh yes. He was starting some fund or something, wasn't he, to help run his office.

  AM:  On the occasion of the £2,000 which is the only occasion that I specifically remember, Mr Zaiwalla told me that Vaz said his bank manager was after him because he has an overdraft, but I suppose that might equate with running his personal office.

  BB:  Yes.

  AM:  You don't think he might have paid it in somewhere and that might come to light or something like that.

  BB:  I wouldn't know.

  AM:  And it was fifties you would have given him wouldn't it.

  BB:  I have no idea.

  AM:  What did Mr Zaiwalla get in return from Mr Vaz.

  BB:  I have no idea. It's not something I thought about then or now.

  AM:  He was very keen to get a CBE or something. He did get it slightly off the ground, but I believe the honours scrutiny committee turned him down.

  BB:  I am not surprised.

  AM:  I think if you are born overseas then the high commission of the land of your birth are also consulted and apparently when the Indian High Commission were asked if Mr Zaiwalla should be honoured they were less than enthusiastic.

  BB:  Yes.

  AM:  I feel much better that there's not going to be some sort of part two of this. If you are asked about Mr Vaz and the cash what are you going to say.

  BB:  I shant say anything. I should tell them what I have told them on numerous occasions that I don't want to talk to them and the same applies now.

  AM:  On the specific occasion you do remember giving Mr Vaz cash, are you sure there are no entries in the firms books that could be suddenly produced.

  BB:  I would be very surprised. The only way that could have been done is against an invoice or if he had done it as a loan or something like that. But he didn't. Most of the payments that came out, came out of his drawings.

  AM:  So Vaz did not receive the money as a loan, it was an outright payment.

  BB:  No, it wasn't a loan at all.

  AM:  It was an outright cash in hand, as they say.

  BB:  Yes, yes.

  AM:  In the records, if someone got hold of that it would just say SZ drawings £2,000 cash.

  BB:  Yes.

  AM:  The occasion, you remember that was at the old offices wasn't it.

  BB:  Yes, Chancery Lane, 95A.

  AM:  So that would be prior to April 1994 when we moved.

  BB:  Yes.

  AM:  My recollection was that it was just before the move regarding the £2,000 payment.

  BB:  May have been. I couldn't be specific about the time.

  AM:  Alright thank you very much. I feel much better now and I hope this will be the end of it. I am just worried about what the papers might dig up. They have a habit of turning up quite unexpectedly.

  BB:  I don't want to talk to them.

  AM:  If they ask Mr Zaiwalla about it do you think he might get verbal diarrhoea and tell them about it.

  BB:  Yes, Don't worry about it. I am not interested full stop.

  AM:  Well thank you very much. Knowing you haven't said anything about it I will take a similarly robust view if pressed again.

  BB:  Bye bye.

  AM:  Bye bye.

  $$$ ends.

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