Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 158

Letter to Finers Stephens Innocent, Solicitors, from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

  I am about to begin to make my assessment of the information which has been provided to me during this enquiry and to write my report for the Standards and Privileges Committee.

  As you know, I have been seeking an opportunity to meet with Mr Kapasi since 15 May, to allow him to give me his account of the background and content of some items of information which I have received. On 17 May Mr Kapasi agreed he would meet me for this purpose, but no arrangement has been made despite numerous requests to Mr Kapasi personally and to your firm by telephone and in writing.

  As I said in my letter of 3 July, my invitation to Mr Kapasi to allow him to put his account of these events to me remains open. Since I will need to put certain items of this information to the Standards and Privileges Committee, and Mr Kapasi appears to be unwilling to meet me, I felt I should set out for him the information I have received which includes what witnesses believe was said by Mr Kapasi. The items in question are as follows:

    1.  copy of letter of 22 April 1994 written by Sir Peter Soulsby to Mr A Price-Jones (not attached);

    2.  relevant extracts from my interview of Sir Peter Soulsby, 23 March 2000:

    (A)  "Sir Peter Soulsby:   . . . it was alleged to me by Jaffer Kapasi, one of the successful groups and a person whose name I cannot remember . . . that Keith and Merlyn had asked for a contribution of £1,000 from them. I have a file note to myself from a slightly later period, April 1994, I think it must have followed from some further conversation with Jaffer Kapasi, when I had drawn this to the attention of the Town Clerk. However, I do know in a subsequent discussion I had with Jaffer Kapasi that he was not prepared to repeat that at that time.

    Ms Filkin:  But he definitely said it to you.

    Sir Peter Soulsby:  He definitely said it to me; I am absolutely certain of that."

    (B)  "Sir Peter Soulsby:  He has absolutely definitely said it to me. I wrote a file note to myself and I drew it to the attention of the Town Clerk and that was probably in writing and that will probably be in the Town Clerk's files if they go back that far.

    Ms Filkin:  Who was the Town Clerk at the time?

    Sir Peter Soulsby:  It was Arthur Price Jones. Arthur has now retired."

    (c)  "Ms Filkin:  Did Mr Kapasi say the £1,000 was for being on the short list or for planning permission? Did he tell you what the £1,000 was for?

    Sir Peter Soulsby:  It was something like, "Keith and Merlyn have said to me 'We are getting you this land'".

    Ms Filkin:  For the land.

    Sir Peter Soulsby:  I am fairly sure it was that rather than planning permission.

    Ms Filkin:  Rather than the planning permission itself.

    Sir Peter Soulsby:  And 'This is the least you can do' or something to that effect.

    Ms Filkin:  Did he tell you it was actually paid to both of them or to one of them?

    Sir Peter Soulsby:  To the best of my recollection, he had paid it directly to Merlyn.

    Ms Filkin:  Not to Keith.

    Sir Peter Soulsby:  Not to Keith to the best of my recollection. It was put to me that the request had been made jointly by one or other and paid to one or other but I think it was Merlyn to whom the money had actually been paid. I think the request was for £1,000 and £500 had been paid."

  3.  Extracts from tape recorded interviews with The Sunday Times.

  Interview with Jaffer Kapasi, *  *  *  * Leicester, 11 May 2000, re Keith Vaz with David Leppard and Gareth Walsh of The Sunday Times in his office.

    (A)  "DL:  Did you make the cheques . . . several cheques you say?

    JK:  Well yes, yes [inaudible] and also, whether he declared it or not, that's up to him.

    DL:  It's nothing to do with you. You've done nothing wrong."

    (B)  "DL:  There were three cheques. And you say more than eight or nine hundred pounds altogether. More than a thousand pounds in fact.

    What . . . 15 hundred?

    JK:  Er . . . 15 hundred . . . yes."

    (C)  "DL:  And was the cheque from your personal bank account . . . The cheques?

    JK:  Two were, and one from the community.

    DL:  And what's the name of the community?

    JK:  It's just called Dawoodi community.

    DL:  Dawoodi.

    [JK spells name "Dawoodi" to DL.]

    DL:  What, a Muslim thing. And you are the . . . chief?

    JK:  I mean, I'm not the big chief. I'm one of the chiefs.

    DL:  You're one of the leaders . . . Look, my question to you is: don't you think that this has placed Mr Vaz in a difficult position? Any may have compromised him as well?

    [7 seconds silence]

    JK:  Yes, you know, I think the way people are reading it [inaudible]".

    (D)  "DL:  This puts you in a much more difficult position if you made the cheque to him—as you must realise now. There's nothing wrong with you donating money to a political party. But if you make a donation like that to an MP, in his own name, after he offers to help you, and also says: "Can you help me?"—he said 'Can you help me?'—that places you in a very difficult position, doesn't it. Do you regret doing that?

    JK:  Well in a way, yes, because to be honest I don't understand the system. [inaudible]"

    (E)  "DL:  So basically, Sir Peter has written a letter, in which one sentence, he says "I telephoned Mr Jaffer Kapasi, who confirmed that he had been asked repeatedly for a campaign contribution. 'Is that true? You've been asked repeatedly for a campaign contribution?

    JK:  Yes—but its not related to this particular matter.

    DL:  But it relates to the £1,500.

    JK:  [inaudible].

    DL:  Did Mr Vaz ask you repeatedly, did he?

    JK:  [inaudible] he asked, but not repeatedly."

  Transcript of telephone interview of Jaffer Kapasi by David Leppard, 12 May 2000. Call made from D Leppard's telephone at The Sunday Times to Mr Kapasi's mobile number. Transcript prepared by Gareth Walsh, Insight. This is the second conversation between The Sunday Times and Kapasi.

    (A)  "DL:  Hello, is that Mr Kapasi?

    JK:  Yes it is.

    DL:  Hello, its David Leppard here of The Sunday Times sir.

    JK:  Oh, hello.

    DL:  Hi. I just wanted to check one point with you, if that's alright. I'm sorry to trouble you. You know those three cheques you paid to Mr Vaz, yes?

    JK:  Yes.

    DL:  Did you give them 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 . . .

    DL:  Once 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.

    DL:  And two of the cheques were drawn on your own personal account, and one from Dawoodi, yes?

    JK:  Yes, yes.

  DL:  That's correct. Okay. Are you . . .

    JK:  Are you going to do a story on this . . . or . . . ?"

    (B)  "DL:  Well, I mean the point is sir that you are involved. That's the problem. Because there are other letters which mention your name. So . . . and we know about those letters, so we can't not report that because the suggest . . . the allegation is a claim. 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.

    DL:  Well no. The truth is the truth—that's the problem . . . hello? [call ends]".

  4.  Extract from tape recorded interviews with The Sunday Telegraph, 3 March 2000 and 18 March 2000 (II and II attached).

  5.  Mr Kapasi has provided me with a statutory declaration made on 25 May 2000 in relation to the Sunday Times article which says:

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

    "I clarified the position when Mr Leppard 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."

  I would be grateful to receive any comment on these items which Mr Kapasi wishes to make, in particular any explanation Mr Kapasi wishes to give for the discrepancies between the taped interviews and his statutory declaration.

  I am sorry that for completeness I need to repeat to Mr Kapasi that evidence I put to the Standards and Privileges Committee may be published in due course.

  Having drafted this letter I have received today your fax of 11 July. I repeat that the information I have given previously. Sir Peter Soulsby is not a complainant. Sir Peter Soulsby is one of the witnesses I have interviewed during this enquiry having been referred to him by another witness. These were answers he gave in response to my questions. He informed me of the letter when I asked him if there were any written accounts of these matters. I have identified the complainants to the Member of Parliament. I do not give any information to others about complainants or other witnesses in the course of an enquiry.

11 July 2000

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