Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 58

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissions for Standards from Mr Sarosh Zaiwalla

  Thank you for your letter of 10 February 2000.

  My response in the same order as your questions is as follows:

    1.  (a)  After the passage of so many years, I am unable to identify the charity which Mr Vaz asked me to support in 1993 or 1994. Since 1989 I have been the sole proprietor (never having ever had equity partners) of my firm. Mr Milne was at all material times a salaried partner, that is an employee.

    (b)  In endeavouring to assist you, it is my recollection that some time in 1993 or 1994 during an informal group conversation with Keith Vaz MP at one of the Asian events, Mr Vaz said that he would like individuals like me (that is successful members of the Asian community) to be more involved in Asian causes). He told me that if I am unable to spare the time to give to those causes, then I should financially support some of the Asian charity and social events. If I recall correctly during this conversation Mr C B Patel, Editor of the newspaper Gujarat Samachar was one of the persons present.

    (c)  In good faith, I made a spontaneous commitment to Mr Vaz to give financial support to one such cause with a limit of £1,000. I left it to Mr Vaz to select the cause to be benefited and the event.

    (d)  I was then contacted by an Asian organisation (whose identity I do not recall) who said that Mr Vaz had told them that I had agreed to make a contribution of £1,000 to the cost of an event which they were organising. The charity concerned, I recall vaguely, was an Indian natural disaster appeal. I believe I sent them my firm's logo in order that it appeared and was displayed at the nominated event.

    (e)  In ordinary course, the organisers would have invited me for the event. I do not recall having attended the event myself. I often do not do so. Payment followed against an invoice or a receipt. The payment, I recall, was made by cash because the two individuals (whom I am unable to identify) requested cash, as they said they had to pay bills. I recall agreeing to this request because I was in a rush and I had to ask my book-keeper to take the cheque down to the Nat West Bank (branch below) my then office to obtain cash.

    (f)  My office is unable to trace the record which is over six years old. Many of the documents in the firm's accounts records over this period are missing. The firm's then book-keeper, Brian Brown, was arrested in November 1994 for deflacation of office funds, which he admitted to Mr Milne, who obtained from him a written confession. Mr Brown was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment by the Court.

    (g)  The books for the period before Mr Brown's arrest were re-written in December 1994 to March 1995 under Mr Milne's supervision, but unfortunately the entries therein are not reliable because Mr Milne had caused the accounts to be falsified. The City of London Police (Detective Constable Morkill) is at present investigating a charge of falsification of accounts and theft by Mr Milne.

    (h)  Mr Milne had a "contra attempt" with the book-keeper and I am not confident that the entries which are meant to be correct were in fact correct. I had grave doubts that Mr Milne was honest with me about the position, despite him being paid to sort out the position. See my enclosed letter dated 30 September 1999 to Mr Worrow of Cassou Beckman (now Baker Tilly) and their interim reply. It may interest you to note that Mr Milne, unknown to me, authorised himself to draw very substantial sums over and above that which he was lawfully entitled. The sum which he improperly helped himself to is £1.7 million. You will recall in 1992 Mr Milne went bankrupt owing £1.2 million to 108 creditors, many of whom were credit card companies. Under an IVA which annulled the bankruptcy, Mr Milne's creditors obtained less than eight pence in a pound. It may also interest you to note that prior to his bankruptcy Mr Milne had purchased two substantial properties which he continued to beneficially own under a disguise after the annulment of his bankruptcy. See the enclosed Affidavit dated 14 October 1998 of Mr Smeetesh Kakkad who is a solicitor and salaried partner of my firm.

  2.  This a more recent event and I am pleased to enclose a copy of the cheque made payable to the Gala Dinner for £500. I recall on the same day as Mr Vaz's event my firm had also supported an Asian Conservative Party event at the Cafe Royal where the guest of honour was Mr John Major MP. My firm has supported such events without any party affiliation (which I have none) and I do this from time to time as part of my contribution to support and involve the Asian community in mainstream Britain.

  3.  The concert by Ravi Shankar's daughter was in fact a gala dinner organised by the Asian Business Network Group at which she performed. I now recall the guest of honour was to have been the Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Mr Robin Cook. I also recall that I was unable to attend myself and I had at the last moment requested Mr and Mrs Anuj Gupta (who are friends, not clients of my firm) to attend in my place.

  On all these occasions I dealt with the matter myself and did not ask any member of the firm (save for the book-keeper) to make out cheques for my signature (and on the first occasion to also get the cash from the bank) or to handle it for me.

  I should add that following my discovery of Mr Milne's self over-rewarding, he entered my office over the weekend and took a large number of documents which he unlawfully removed from my office. It was also not a coincidence that this coincided with an order he had given a few weeks before to the secretarial staff to wipe the computers' hard disk.

  Finally, I reliably believe that Mr Milne against whom bankruptcy petition are pending in Court may have been paid by the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times to sell his story. Both the concerned reporters of the Sunday Telegraph until recently had worked together as a team at the Sunday Times. Need I say you may wish to investigate whether Mr Milne has financially benefited by these untrue allegations.

  I wish to assist you in every possible way in your investigation.

14 February 2000

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