Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 61

Transcript of the tape of an interview by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards with Mr Sarosh Zaiwalla on Wednesday 24 May 2000

(Mr Edward Garnier QC MP and Mr Edward Colquhoun, Solicitor, in attendance)

  [Note: ... = "blip" in the tape]

  MR GARNIER: My name is Edward Garnier and I happen to be a Member of Parliament but I am here this morning as a member of the bar, instructed on behalf of Mr Zaiwalla by a solicitor from his firm, Mr Edward Colquhoun, whom you will find on your immediate right. You know Mr Sarosh Zaiwalla, who is the partner of Zaiwalla, the firm of solicitors. He is my client for these purposes and I am here as a member of the bar and not as a member of parliament addressing you in that fashion. That is the first point. We are really here to express two concerns. One is that Mr Zaiwalla, the man, is here to assist you as best he can, both in writing and orally—

  MS FILKIN: For which I am grateful.

  MR GARNIER:—in any of the matters which affect him in the inquiry as to the behaviour of Mr Keith Vaz. As regards the allegations concerning Mr Vaz and people other than Mr Zaiwalla, if he has got any evidence he can help you with, he will certainly give it to you, but he is pretty well unsighted on everything else other than the allegations which affect him directly as far as Mr Vaz is concerned. From that inquiry, Mr Zaiwalla has these concerns, that the main complainant, indeed I think the only complainant, is Mr Andrew Milne.

  MS FILKIN: No, not the only complainant.

  MR GARNIER: At least in relation to Mr Vaz and Mr Zaiwalla, as far as we know Mr Milne is the only complainant, but it may be that there are others and I have misinformed myself. You may or may not be aware of the full background in relation to the relationship between Mr Milne and Mr Zaiwalla and Mr Zaiwalla's firm.

  MS FILKIN: I hope I am. Mr Zaiwalla has written to me a considerable amount of correspondence, all of which I have read very carefully and I am well aware of the very proper concerns which Mr Zaiwalla raises. So I think I am well informed about those matters by Mr Zaiwalla and indeed by others. I have of course contacted the Office of the Supervision of Solicitors. I have checked the information. I believe that I am properly informed about those concerns. I believe also that the Standards and Privileges Committee is properly informed because you have written to the Chairman and indeed on a previous occasion you wrote very clearly about all those matters. I think you can be assured that both I and the Committee are well aware of that and we shall be taking every care that we are able to take note not to involve you improperly in this inquiry. You are not, of course, being inquired into. The inquiry is only about a member of parliament and you are only being asked as a member of the public to comment on allegations which have been made where your name has been raised. I hope I can give you that assurance that I do know those things and I know them in some considerable detail.

  MR GARNIER: May I just finish the points I was going to make? That is reassuring; let me say that on behalf of Mr Zaiwalla. The procedure is somewhat foreign to the lay public.

  MS FILKIN: Of course.

  MR GARNIER: One of the difficulties that someone in Mr Zaiwalla's position finds is that it is a Member of Parliament who is accused of improper behaviour, of breach of the rules of the House or indeed of some sort of criminal behaviour, a member of parliament who is alleged to have been corrupted, must have been corrupted by somebody else, and if Mr Zaiwalla is accused of having acted improperly in concert with Mr Vaz, it is quite difficult for him to defend his good name, especially when your report to the Committee and indeed the Committee's report, are quite properly covered by privilege and cannot be acted upon. So Mr Zaiwalla's particular fear is that allegations which you and the Committee may find to be untrue are nonetheless repeated under privileged circumstances and we cannot stop and you cannot stop the press from picking up the bits of the inquiry report or your provisional report which they find most interesting to print. The difficulty is made all the worse for Mr Zaiwalla, in that Mr Milne has good contacts with the press, is, we shall say, running a campaign of vilification against Mr Zaiwalla and he is really not too bothered whether his allegations are found to be true or not, so long as he can cause damage on the way. He is, we will say, a thoroughly plausible witness and unless the full background to the man is known, it could be that the Committee will allow itself to be persuaded that his allegations may have some truth in them or there may be some good grounds for suspicion against Mr Zaiwalla, when in fact none of those things is true. I interrupted Mr Zaiwalla. He wanted to tell you something.

  MR ZAIWALLA: I am sorry, I know it is not my task exactly. I am deeply concerned about the allegation that I have received commission from Bofors. These allegations would cause unnecessary distress and risk of being harassed by the press to me and my family. I visit India occasionally from where substantial part of my firm's work comes and where several members of my family and my mother lives.

  MS FILKIN: You have said that very clearly. What I can assure you is that I shall bring what I consider to be your proper concerns to the Committee's attention and I shall draw to their attention your request, that although they may wish to look at all this material and come to any decision that they wish about it, they will desist from publicising matters which are not relevant to the particular ... So that from how they considered concerns which you raised after the publication of the report on ... I would be confident that they would be sympathetic ... I hope that will be able to be dealt with. You are of course more than welcome, if you wish, at any time to write to the Clerk of the Committee and specify the pieces which are of particular concern to you, but I think you have done that already. I know from his practice that that will be put to the Committee. I hope that will deal with that matter. I do take it seriously. It is not my job and it is not my wish in any way to involve members of the public in ways which ... complaints which are brought to me wherever they come from and I have to do that ... accounts of what has occurred.

  MR ZAIWALLA: May I add that in the Baldry case ...

  MS FILKIN: The press often is unkind to many people ... personally ... that is not what my report said ... sorry about it but I am afraid I cannot get involved in that. I understand the point you are making and that it is therefore important that the Committee is very careful about not giving ... improperly. I take that point.

  MR GARNIER: It is very comforting to hear that because that is obviously one of the great concerns and it is desirable to have. Springing from that are apparent breaches of confidentiality. It is not Mr Zaiwalla's suggestion that breaches of confidentiality are occurring in this office.

  MS FILKIN: I am very glad to hear that.

  MR GARNIER: I want to make that quite clear.

  MS FILKIN: They certainly are not.

  MR GARNIER: What we are reasonably sure of is that Mr Milne, when he writes a letter to you complaining about a Member of Parliament which contains allegations which are derogatory of Mr Zaiwalla, ensures that they are also copied to the press. We cannot stop the editorial press receiving these letters and they must make their own legal judgement about what they do with them and the allegations contained within them. Nonetheless, there is a fear that Mr Milne is improperly making use of the parliamentary complaints procedure in order to give public vent to his desire for revenge—I put it as high as that—against Mr Zaiwalla, who has succeeded in recovering a massive judgement from him, from the arbitrator, Sir Brian Neill, which has caused him to be bankrupted for the second time and has seen Mr Milne rendered almost incapable of practising as a lawyer because of his bankruptcy. Neither you, Ms Filkin, nor Parliament, can stop Mr Milne misconducting himself. All I would ask on behalf of Mr Zaiwalla is that you and the Committee should be acutely sensitive—and I think you are—to the damage caused to innocent bystanders such as Mr Zaiwalla when your reports are made to the Committee and when the Committee's reports are published in final form. Of course he entirely respects the work you have to do and he entirely respects the work the Committee has to do, but he does ask that the powerful weapon of Parliamentary privilege, absolute privilege, is not used unfairly to his detriment when Mr Milne is not really interested, we say, in the outcome of the Commissioner's report or the Committee's report, but in the process of broadcasting allegations along the way. Mr Zaiwalla has already mentioned the Bofors allegations. He was, as a solicitor, involved in a case where two Indian nationals—certainly one Indian national, one of two brothers, the Bachchan brothers—received a very large sum of money in damages for libel from the High Court here in England over similar allegations. Mr Milne knows about that case and is no doubt regurgitating allegations which came from that case of Mr Zaiwalla's clients. We suggest that he is simply transferring allegations, not even new allegations, onto Mr Zaiwalla and those allegations, as we and Mr Zaiwalla have already told you, have a dire effect upon his commercial and family relations in India itself. There is a danger that if they are broadcast he will be arrested, if he should ever go to India, simply on suspicion of being connected with anything to do with the Bofors scandal which was, as perhaps you know, the biggest commercial/political scandal in recent years.

  MS FILKIN: ... I am well aware of these sensitivities. What I shall make sure is that I bring any of these matters to the attention of the Committee if I have to include them in my report in any way. Many of these things I do not have to include in my report in any way and I shall obviously ... relevant to the case. I take very seriously what you are saying and I have heard and I read it of course, as it is my duty to try to protect you ... what I have to say is that of course it is improper for anyone who is involved in an inquiry which I am making to discuss that inquiry with anyone else, of course other than their advisers ... or indeed to discuss it with the press. I have made it clear both to the newspapers who have contacted me and indeed Mr Milne, as I would to everybody, that that applies to everyone. While an inquiry is going on, people should not seek to undermine it in any way, should not seek to discuss it with anyone else and should wait for the outcome of it ... What people then decide to do ... I am pleased to say there has not been any recent mention of your name in press reports.

  MR ZAIWALLA: I was contacted by the editor of Insight a fortnight ago. I said it would be quite wrong for me to comment and I drew attention to the possibility that for me to say anything would be in contempt of Parliament.

  MS FILKIN: Absolutely; that is right.

  MR ZAIWALLA: It was a very short meeting I had ...

  MS FILKIN: That is the right way to do it.

  MR ZAIWALLA: He does refer to me in his report a fortnight ago but not ... an allegation against me.

  MS FILKIN: Yes, he did not put your name and I was pleased to see that. May I now turn to the questions I should like to put or have you come to the end of what you wanted to say to me?

  MR GARNIER: I am sure Mr Zaiwalla is hugely comforted by the discretion which you will exercise and the way in which you will formulate your report to the Committee and that is a great comfort. He is ready to answer any questions you want to ask him.

  MS FILKIN: Some of my questions you will think I am rehearsing over old ground and that is because I should like to have that conversation with you, if I may. Do not think I have not read the responses which you have made in your letters: I have. But I need to check it with you and be careful. As you know, one of the things which I am always keen to do if I can, is to save people the ... I could never guarantee that because that is a Committee decision and it is the Committee's decision ... But if I can present them with a very full and what they regard as a satisfactory account ... all those people, but I also have to make it clear to people that although that is part of what I am about when I talk to them, I can make no guarantee that the Committee will not call people and that may occur ... In your letter to me of 7 February you say very clearly that neither your firm nor you ever made any payments to Mr Vaz or his office and that Mr Vaz has never approached you for money. You go on to say that you have sponsored or taken tables at social events which Mr Vaz also supported. You give as examples the 1998 Asian Business Network Group which you sponsored for £500 and provided a cheque dated 23 June 1998 for a gala dinner ...

  MR ZAIWALLA: ... separate events.

  MS FILKIN: May I go on because this is one of the things which I need some clarification about, where there is some slight discrepancy ... also at the same time in 1998 you sponsored for £500 part of the costs of a concert given by the daughter of Ravi Shanker and you cite a cheque of 27 October 1998. What I need to get you to repeat: are you talking in your recollection of only providing sponsorship money for two events, one a gala dinner for the Asian Business Network Group for which the cheque of 23 June 1998 applies and ... a part of sponsoring the concert given by the daughter of Ravi Shanker for which the cheque of 27 October 1998 applies. Is that now correct?

  MR ZAIWALLA: May I just repeat myself? There were two separate events.

  MS FILKIN: Yes; absolutely.

  MR ZAIWALLA: One was a gala dinner at which we took a table. I then took guests.

  MS FILKIN: Yes and a gala dinner for whom?

  MR ZAIWALLA: It was the Asian Business Network dinner where Jack Straw was the chief guest and I remember that and I attended.

  MS FILKIN: Yes, and you sponsored a table for £500?

  MR ZAIWALLA: Yes, I sponsored a table for £500, ten seats for my guests.

  MS FILKIN: That was at Mr Vaz's request. Did you pay the money to Mr Vaz?

  MR ZAIWALLA: It was at Mr Vaz's request but the money was not paid to Mr Vaz, it was paid to the organisers, whoever they were [Caradina?].[Tape changed]

  MS FILKIN: Did you want to say anything else about those two events or do you think we covered those?

  MR ZAIWALLA: Let me just make it very, very clear from my recollection, my firm only sponsored two events and when I say sponsored, we purchased tables for ten at £500 each: the first one was The Asian Business Network Group which Jack Straw Keith said would attend. I supported the Asian Business Group the second one, again Keith telephoned me to say that ... I think it was the Asian sita maestro Ravi Shanker's daughter was going to perform. I said yes and we took a table. I am not sure whether Keith said Ravi Shanker's daughter was going to perform, or she was going to attend. I have vague recollection, or I must have heard it later on, that Robin Cook was the chief guest at the occasion. The cheques on both these occasions were not made out by me to Keith directly.

  MS FILKIN: There certainly is a cheque that you provided me with the counterfoil for ... that event.

  MR ZAIWALLA: What event?

  MS FILKIN: You provided the counterfoils for both events. The counterfoil I should just like a bit more explanation about is the counterfoil of 27 October 1998 which refers, as you have said, to the concert of Ravi Shanker's daughter's dinner, has written on it "Keith Vaz". Could you explain to me why it has got that on it?

  MR ZAIWALLA: Yes; certainly. I can certainly explain to you. It was because it was Keith Vaz's event for me. For example, if someone asks me to sponsor something I would make a note that I had done so at that persons request.

  MS FILKIN: You would have put that on.

  MR ZAIWALLA: For my own record I put `Keith Vaz' to reflect what it was all about. I would take a table and it would just reflect what that was all about. Very often, we sponsored an event and I would not turn up. For example, we often sponsored charity events, for example we took a table a this year's Lord Chancellor's dinner and we paid £3,000 and I went down there and took clients along.

  MS FILKIN: May I go back to the other matter which appears to be the matter which ties in, if anything ties in, with the allegation. You have told me that you gave financial support up to £1,000 to a charity. You left it to Mr Vaz to select the name of the charity which you should support and this was in 1993 or 1994.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Correct.

  MS FILKIN: You said to me in your letter you think that the charity chosen was an Indian natural disaster appeal.


  MS FILKIN: And that in the event you paid cash of £1,000 for that financial support and you asked your bookkeeper to take a cheque to the NatWest branch which happened to be in the bottom of where your office was in Chancery Lane. Have I got that absolutely correct?

  MR ZAIWALLA: From memory, because I have not refreshed what I said.

  MS FILKIN: That is what you said in your letter to me. You told me that you had found no trace of the record of that donation. May I check that the bookkeeper to whom you referred in your letter was in fact Mr Brown?

  MR ZAIWALLA: It was Mr Brown.

  MS FILKIN: Am I right in saying that you have still found no record of that donation.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Yes, there is no record of that.

  MS FILKIN: I wonder whether I could trouble you to get from your bank the record of that cheque.

  MR ZAIWALLA: I will certainly do everything possible to get the record of the cheque.

  MS FILKIN: Perhaps I could ask you a few questions about that.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Certainly.

  MS FILKIN: Why did you offer Mr Vaz £1,000 to be donated to any charity of his choice, not knowing which charity he would choose?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I can tell you precisely why. I have very vivid recollections of it happening at public event when Mr Vaz said to me "You should be doing more for the community" and "You are not doing sufficient for the community". Everybody present said "Yes, you're not doing anything for the community". I was prepared to give £1,000 and told Keith to select a charity or sponsor a charity event where the payment would go ... [I remember that]. He said "Sure". I think then what happened was that Mr Vaz telephoned me and said there was the next charity event he was supporting and could I support it.

  MR ZAIWALLA: I think then what happened was Mr Vaz said what the next event was and he was counting on me supporting that event by donating £1000.

  MS FILKIN: What happened then was that instead of sending off a cheque to this charity, or indeed sending the cheque to Mr Vaz for him to put into the charity, what happened then? Because two people arrived.

  MR ZAIWALLA: That is absolutely right. What possibly happened is that the payment was not made in time by us. I do not know who phoned up, whether Mr Vaz phoned me or somebody else and they said "You haven't paid" and I said, "We will pay". It is true that two people arrived and I asked who they wanted the cheque to be made out for. I was a bit upset that they wanted cash. On the spur of the moment I agreed to pay them cash.

  MS FILKIN: How did you verify that they were genuine?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I think Mr Vaz must have phoned me up to say that I had not paid and why had I not paid and the organisers of the charity or charity event would be contacting me to obtain payment for which I had made a commitment.

  MS FILKIN: But these two people who turned up out of the blue and said they wanted £1,000 and they did not want it in a cheque, they wanted it in cash.

  MR ZAIWALLA: No, I would have trusted them because I knew they were coming.

  MS FILKIN: Because Mr Vaz told you they were coming?

  MR ZAIWALLA: Mr Vaz must have said—I am speaking of years ago now.

  MS FILKIN: Yes, of course.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Mr Vaz may have telephoned me or he had telephoned me, I am not too certain about it, to say I had not paid. The late payment happens quite often. I would have said "Where is the invoice and I can pass it on?". They would say because we were late, or something like that, they wanted cash for immediate disbursements and things like that and I remember calling Brian Brown to write a cheque. I signed the cheque and Brian Brown was able to go down and collect it. He would have handed over the cash against a receipt. I expect Brian Brown to have done that.

  MS FILKIN: You have no record of that in your company. It would not have gone through your company accounts, your tax returns.

  MR ZAIWALLA: It would certainly be in the cashbook as £1,000 given for an event. It would be debited to marketing. We would designate sponsorship as marketing. I think we have checked and there is no record of the requisition slip, cheque requisition slip or the cheque because we have had a big problem with Mr Brian Brown and the records have been gone through in the last eight years about four or five times. A lot of our record has gone completely haywire. These have been checked by Police, Law Society in respect of Andrew Milne, they went through all the records, they took all the records, there is a Fraud Investigation. Then there was the arbitration and it is impossible for me to find them but Mr Colquhoun would assist you.

  MS FILKIN: I understand. All I am trying to do when I ask for those records is to substantiate what you have said. Because that donation is unusual at least, that somebody gives £1,000 to people and has no record of it. If you are unable to find anything in your records I would be grateful if you would get the bank to at least give a copy of the cheque.

  MR ZAIWALLA: I shall certainly check.

  MS FILKIN: If you would. If you are unable to find anything in your cashbook or your accounts of it in any way there is anything in your records which indicates to you which event, I should be grateful if you would get the bank to at least give me a copy of the cheque.

  MR ZAIWALLA: There is a cashbook entry of cash and next to it is "marketing" because sponsorship goes under the head "marketing". Whether it is worth it or not is a different matter, but it goes under "marketing".

  MS FILKIN: Everything you have got which relates in any way to that payment, I should be grateful.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Certainly; I shall look for it.

  MS FILKIN: If it in any way indicates to you which fund it was, I leave that with you, but if there is anything at all you can do to help me, I should be grateful. I have this problem with the accounts of these events which I should just like to check with you again, if I may? Mr Vaz says that the Ravi Shanker's daughter's concert was on 17 July 1997. However you say that it relates to a cheque which was drawn for 27 October 1998. This morning you made it clear that we are only talking about donations to two different events, plus the earlier one we have just had a conversation about in 1993-94. Mr Vaz tells me it is a 1997 event. What I have is you telling me there are two events which took place in 1998 and for which the cheques tally. Mr Vaz saying that one of those events, which you described as taking place in 1998 actually took place in 1997 and I do not understand that discrepancy. Can you give me any help with that?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I think Mr Vaz is probably wrong because I do not think I would have supported Mr Vaz's events in 1997. Andrew Milne was managing the firm then and disliked Mr Vaz intensely and therefore he would never have supported any event in which Mr Vaz was involved. [Mr Milne was dismissed in April 1998.]

  MR GARNIER: Is it possible to look for any publicity material relating to this event?

  MS FILKIN: Of course; there must be some.

  MR GARNIER: Which would perhaps allow us to date it?

  MS FILKIN: Absolutely.

  MR ZAIWALLA: It is possible.

  MS FILKIN: Both of those events, the events which you have mentioned, ought to be checkable with the people who ran them. My problem is that if there was a third event, unless we can identify that we then—

  MR GARNIER: There may of course be several of these events.

  MS FILKIN: Of course, but if there is anything you can do to assist me, I should be grateful.

  MR GARNIER: We can do that.

  MR ZAIWALLA: I am not sure whether she performed or not, but I was told that she was going to be present.

  MS FILKIN: On 12 April, I wrote to you about the Sunday Telegraph article which mentioned a tape recording of remarks you made about an honour. You replied on 17 April saying you have had no conversation concerning honours with Mr Vaz other than when joking. You say that Mr Vaz never brought a letter into your office, which he had sent to Mr Major and you have had no discussion with Mr Vaz about honours. You also say in another letter that you have received copy of a standard letter which Mr Vaz wrote to Mr Major in 1993-94 saying that more Asian honours were needed and that he had included your name in an attached list. Did you ever discuss this letter and this list with Mr Vaz in any way?

  MR ZAIWALLA: May I first of all say that over the years I have received lots of communications from Mr Vaz—what I would call circular communications, literally at the rate of one a month about what he is doing for the Asian community, what he is doing for Leicester. I was on his mailing list so I received a lot of these things. I remember some time in 1992-93 or 1993-94—I cannot recollect now—I received one of those circular letters where my name was written "Dear So and So" and had enclosed a letter which he had written to John Major, where he made a sort of appeal that there should be more Asians on the Honours List is on the attached list but there was no list attached. I very clearly remember that. I do not know whether I should say this, but I suspected he was just doing a PR exercise on me or public relations, anyway there was no list attached.

  MS FILKIN: But it was a letter from him to you.

  MR ZAIWALLA: No it was a letter he—

  MS FILKIN: It was a circular letter.

  MR ZAIWALLA: It was a circular letter which he had put out which had enclosed a letter from him to John Major and I think there was John Major's reply saying he had taken note, thanking him for the letter and saying he was very concerned about the situation; a standard sort of letter from the Prime Minister. It did not impress me at all. That is all that happened ... Vaz has never come to the office with any letter as the Sunday Telegraph alleged and I have had no conversation with Mr Vaz. The only conversation which I have ever had—it was not a conversation, it was more of a monologue and this is Mr Vaz's style; if he sees me, or Mr Raj Loomba or Mr K N Noon he would say, "Here comes Lord Noon or Lord Zaiwalla" and things like that and I would be very embarrassed and I would not respond to that. That was again what I would call a PR exercise from Mr Vaz in what he considered to be his Asian constituency. Mr Vaz does consider all Asians who are doing reasonably well as part of his constituency. He always tells them what he is doing for the community, whether we asked him to let us know or not; it just comes.

  MS FILKIN: I see; thank you. Do you still have a copy of that circular letter which you received?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I do not think I would but I can soon check on that.

  MS FILKIN: If you did, I should be most grateful.

  MR ZAIWALLA: I can certainly do that.

  MS FILKIN: Thank you.

  MR ZAIWALLA: But I have my doubts whether I would have retained that letter because I did try to check. First of all, I do not know whether I have the 1993-94 files to check whether I have not misplaced them but my normal habit is when I get post and a lot of the post which I see every morning, unless letters are relevant, I just throw them away.

  MS FILKIN: I understand.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Mr Vaz should have it and John Major's office should have it.

  MS FILKIN: Of course. The Sunday Telegraph indicate in that article that you did discuss this matter with them. They reported that, that you had told them that you had had discussions with Mr Vaz about the award of an honour ... discussion with the Sunday Telegraph.

  MR ZAIWALLA: That is totally inaccurate. The discussions I had with the Sunday Telegraph were precisely what I told you. The Sunday Telegraph reporter told me, which I can say because I have had a correspondence with him, that Sunday Telegraph had learnt from their political sources that the previous Lord Chancellor had recommended me for honours. I said that I knew nothing about it. Then he asked me if Mr Baldry or Mr Vaz had recommended me for honours and I said I did not know anything about it ... that is precisely what I have told you and this is the honest truth. Mr Vaz is in the habit of suggesting to individual members of Asian community that he or she deserves to receive an honour and hints that he might take the initiative to do so but, nobody takes him seriously, because he does flatter people by calling them Lord Loomba and things like that and I was always embarrassed whenever he said that to me and I would not discuss it with him.

  MS FILKIN: How do you explain them saying in that article that they had tape recorded a conversation with you in which you are reported to have said that Mr Vaz said "I am going to recommend you for ..."?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I have written to you that you should obtain a copy of that tape.

  MS FILKIN: Are you telling me that that which I have just quoted to you is inaccurate, that you did not ever say that to the Sunday Telegraph?


  MS FILKIN: I have the transcript of the tape. The tape itself is available to me and it does say that you said that. Do you wish to say anything further?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I do not recollect ever having said that because I do not think it was accurate that I had conversation Mr Vaz ...If one looks at the tape in the context you will see he said Lord Zaiwalla, Lord Noon. That is exactly what I said to Sunday Telegraph and what I have said to you if one looks at my whole conversation in this context.

  MS FILKIN: You told me in response to another of the allegations—

  MR ZAIWALLA: May I also say that it is possible that Mr Vaz may have off the cuff said that he was going to recommend me, but that is not a conversation. Not the way I would view it. He does it to everyone. that is his way ... He has this habit of flattering Asians and ...

  MS FILKIN: Let me be precise about that. Has he ever, off the cuff or in any other situation, said what you have just said to me, that he said he was going to recommend you for an honour?... did not take it seriously as you are saying to me. Has he ever said that to you?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I have heard him saying that to others in the group and it is possible that he may have said it to me because he repeats himself so often, saying that and to an intelligent mind it is quite obvious that he is just saying it. I have heard him saying it so often.

  MS FILKIN: So you are not denying that he said it to you?

  MR ZAIWALLA: ... I cannot recollect what I said to the Sunday Telegraph, if you say that I have said that, but it is possible he may have just said it. It is possible nothing more than that.

  MS FILKIN: You told me in response to another allegation that you have never had any conversation with Mr Vaz about the... investigation of your firm's tax affairs? Is that correct?

  Mr ZAIWALLA: Absolutely correct.

  MS FILKIN: When was the last time you discussed any of these matters with Mr Vaz?

  MR ZAIWALLA: The last time I discussed these matters with Mr Vaz was about 3 OR 4 weeks ago.

  MS FILKIN: Could you be precise?

  Mr ZAIWALLA: After Easter. Easter Monday.

  MS FILKIN: You have not discussed it with him after the Sunday Times article or after last Sunday's article?

  MR ZAIWALLA: No, I have not read last Sunday's article. I was in Israel. I should love to see it.

  MS FILKIN: ... said Easter Monday. Could you tell me what you talked about?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I shall tell you what I talked about. It was more to do with a completely different matter—I do not know whether I should raise it now; can I talk to you off the record?[2]

  MS FILKIN: Of course. I shall turn off the tape, if you wish. [Tape turned off]

  MS FILKIN: Thank you for telling me that. My question to you was: when you discussed these matters that I am raising with you with Mr Vaz ... on that occasions did you discuss these matters with Mr Vaz?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I do not think I did; I do not think I did.

  MS FILKIN: ... you do not think you did.

  MR ZAIWALLA: No, I do not think I did.

  MS FILKIN: When did you last discuss these matters with him.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Can I tell you, to be honest, as we were parting, I asked him whether there was any truth in the newspaper report?

  MS FILKIN: Which newspaper report?

  MR ZAIWALLA: Some newspaper report that he had taken money from Leicester, somebody or other. He said there was none.

  MS FILKIN: I see. When did you discuss your part in all of this, this issue about whether or not he had [Tape 3 starts here in parallel with Tape 2: Tape 2 still jumps and Tape 3 is very faint] recommended you for honours in return for either money that you had paid him or help you had given him financially in one way or another. When did you last discuss that allegation, which is the allegation which involves you and Mr Vaz?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I cannot put a precise date; it must have been on the phone, before Easter. The last time I spoke to him was concerning Michael Chambers, the commercial law report—

  MS FILKIN: That was after Easter, was it not?

  MR ZAIWALLA: That was after Easter.

  MS FILKIN: So you have discussed this matter since that date.

  MR ZAIWALLA: After Easter. I left a message on the pager and he called me and I told him that I thought that he should also take it up with Michael Chambers. I remember I was near Wandsworth Bridge and did not talk very much.

  MS FILKIN: When you talked to him about the report in the Sunday Telegraph that they had got a taped conversation of you saying that he had said to you that he had recommended you for honours, what did he say about that?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I do not think I did talk to him [about that.]

  MS FILKIN: Have you ever had a conversation with him about that report in that Sunday Telegraph paper which said they had been offered a tape?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I do not recollect; I do not recollect that conversation.

  MS FILKIN: Are you saying you do not recollect or are you saying you did not.

  MR ZAIWALLA: I do not think I have.

  MS FILKIN: That is actually accurate, is it?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I think so; I think so.

  MS FILKIN: Do you have anything else you would like to say to me about any of these matters now you have had chance to reflect on them and now you have heard the questions which I have put to you from evidence which I have collected? Are there any other things which you want to alert me to or to inform me about to make sure that I can make an absolutely accurate report about your part in this matter to the Standards and Privileges Committee? Not only an accurate report but a whole report so that nothing is left out that I may not know about and have not asked you about but that I need to know to have a full picture?

  MR ZAIWALLA: I told you about Keith Vaz's role—I do not want to get into that; I told you off the record about Keith Vaz's role in the affair and that it was quite wrong and I have given evidence on Gary Hart's role in the whole situation. The only other thing I did not actually say is that in preparing for the arbitration my team and I personally had reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Brown and Mr Milne were hand in glove in some way. What happened was, when I was in Paris at the ICC court session, Mr Brown was apprehended by Mr Milne stealing money from my firm. Before I reached my office at about 9.30 in the night when I was told to come, Mr Brown had given a confession, a voluntary confession that he had stolen £44,000 and the police were called. I found it extraordinary and I suspect that Mr Brown had probably stolen much more but he had agreed with Mr Milne that he would admit £44,000, because I recall Mr Milne telling me that Mr Brown had stolen about £750,000. I have a small firm and I am very busy and I trust people. It is impossible for me to keep an eye on everything. I am very vulnerable to people like Milne in a very busy office. Fortunately [inaudible] Mr Colquhoun is my right-hand now.

  MS FILKIN: Thank you. Is there anything else you want to tell me about the matter which is under consideration?

  MR ZAIWALLA: Only that may I say I fully support what you are doing.

  MS FILKIN: Thank you.

  MR ZAIWALLA: ... [Whole paragraph almost inaudible] ... I should like myself to see a very clean public administration and the firm has survived in Chancery Lane until now because of my integrity and what I believe acting according to my conscience, not necessarily every time correct but in the best of my clients' interests. I fully support what you are doing and if there is any way I can assist you further I will do so. I have already said to you that when I go back I will send a copy of the cashbook entry. I undertake to research with the bank if there are any cashbook entries at the bank and come back to you.

  MS FILKIN: That is very good of you. Obviously when you have had chance to discuss this with your advisers, because it is always difficult when one is answering questions, your advisers may wish to advise you that there is other information which you could give me to clarify it, and please do.

  MR ZAIWALLA: You would like what other information? I should like to assist you fully.

  MS FILKIN: I should like any information you have that you feel might give me a full picture of these affairs. Anything at all. When I decide it is not relevant I will put it to one side. Any information which you have I should be grateful to have.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Anything which I have said I have said very, very objectively and I used the words "Mr Vaz's flattery", but that was exactly how I felt in those days. I do not want it to create sort of—

  MS FILKIN: No, no. I take that you tried to describe that as you experienced it. I accept that.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Small firm. I can hardly afford a controversy.

  MS FILKIN: I do understand that and I am grateful to you for saying what you thought.

  MR ZAIWALLA: May I say that after 18 years of practising in Chancery Lane—and I raised this with Lord Woolf—that even today I am the only law firm in the City Square Mile which was started by a non-Anglo-Saxon. It is tough sometimes.

  MS FILKIN: I am sure.

  MR ZAIWALLA: You are attacked from all sides.

  MS FILKIN: Of course, I understand that. Mr Garnier, may I ask you one question? Have you had any conversation with Mr Vaz about this case?

  MR GARNIER: None at all; none at all, either as a lawyer or as a member of parliament.

  MS FILKIN: You will understand why I have to ask the question.

  MR GARNIER: Of course.

  MR ZAIWALLA: May I just say one thing to be very accurate. Mr Vaz, in a telephone conversation with me, did say that he notices all rubbish that is coming out. "What is Milne up to?". I said "Look, this is a matter where I have said what I have said to Ms Filkin but I am not discussing it". That is what I said.

  MS FILKIN: May I thank you for sparing the time to come to see me?

  MR ZAIWALLA: No problem. It is a pleasure.

  MS FILKIN: I look forward to having anything further which you would like to provide. We hope to be able, between us, to provide you with a complete record of what has been said today. Then I shall send it to you for you to correct so that we have a final copy that you are comfortable that you said the things.

  MR ZAIWALLA: May I make one request of you?

  MS FILKIN: Of course.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Is it possible for me to have a transcript of the tape of the Sunday Telegraph?

  MS FILKIN: Yes, you can ask them for that.

  MR ZAIWALLA: Can you provide it?

  MS FILKIN: No, I cannot. I can never provide what one witness gives me about another. I am sure they will provide you with one; I presume. But you must ask them for that. Thank you very much indeed for coming and doing all that; that was very good of you. I am grateful to you.

  MR GARNIER: Would you like a photocopy of my notes?

  MS FILKIN: That would be lovely. Then we can give that to you and we will get this all transcribed and then we will fit what you have into this. I think that is the way we ought to proceed.

  MR COLQUHOUN: May I just say one thing? You asked to obtain a copy cheque. The banks do keep records, but how long it will take to get it from their archives—

  MS FILKIN: Is the problem.

  Mr COLQUHOUN: They are microfilmed and after a while they do destroy them.

  MS FILKIN: They usually have them back that far; anyway do your best.

  MR COLQUHOUN: We shall make the request.

  MR ZAIWALLA: May I just say that only yesterday I had a conversation with my current bookkeeper, Terence Hodgson about this Inland Revenue investigation, whether Mr Milne had in any way set me up. He was trying to track down one transfer of £28,000. I asked Terence to get it from the bank. His answer to me yesterday was that the banks records do not go that far. I said that it was very important for me to have what this transfer was about. He said that in the arbitration, you will correct me if I am wrong, but you wanted some record and the bank said no. Is that correct?

  MR COLQUHOUN: It is quite possible. I cannot recollect.

  MS FILKIN: All you can do is ask.

  MR COLQUHOUN: We will make the request as the customer.

  MS FILKIN: What I am trying to do is make solid, as best I can, everything you have said. Every piece of paper which does that is helpful. If I can have it, thank you. Thank you all very much indeed.

  (Agreed as correct by Mr Zaiwalla, 13 July 2000.)

2   On July 13 2000 Mr Zaiwalla informed me that he wished to record that this did not refer to any tax investigation and that he has at no time had any conversation with Mr Vaz about a tax investigation. Back

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