(ii) Complaints relating
to Mr Vaz's alleged financial relationship with Mapesbury Communications
251. This aspect of my inquiry came about following
a complaint from Mr Lansley and a request from the Committee to
Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes to provide information following the earlier
inquiry. The Committee's initiative followed from the reluctance,
or failure, of key witnesses to provide full information when
requested first by me and then by the Committee.
252. My further investigations into the question
of whether finance was provided for Mr Vaz's parliamentary office
through Mapesbury Communications has been bedevilled not only
by the difficulty of obtaining timely answers to my questions
(see paragraphs 135 and 251 above) but by the considerable vagueness
about the company and its activities displayed by its director
and sole shareholder Ms Fernandes and its former director Mr Mohammed
Pathan. Although Mr Vaz told me initially that he would speak
to his wife so that I could be supplied with the facts within
a week, he has failed, as have Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan, to
provide or obtain adequate information to allow me to compile
a complete picture, or to give me an explanation for this omission.
253. As a necessary preliminary to establishing
how the company raised and spent its money, I sought more information
about its personnel and organisation.
254. During my investigation I found a degree
of uncertainty about the personnel and the role played by each,
and, given that I was repeatedly told it was a 'small company',
about what it actually did. It might be expected that in the case
of a small company, directors would have a detailed knowledge
of its activities. Yet the witnesses gave different accounts of
the role and relative importance of each of the players.
255. The public records show that the directors
of the company have been:
Ms Maria Fernandes
(Mrs Vaz) throughout;
Mrs Merlyn Verona Vaz (Mr Vaz's mother)
from 1 February 1996 onwards;
Mr Mohammed Pathan from 1 April 1999
to 19 January 2001.
256. Ms Fernandes was the sole shareholder and
a director of Mapesbury Communications Limited throughout (though
she told the Committee on 16 February that she did not know why
the company had been set up).
257. Ms Fernandes told the Committee on 13 February
2001 that "the calendars were not very successful and
in 1996 he [Mr Vaz] gave up producing any more. There was
a company there, I was a shareholder, I was a director, and I
decided I wanted to do something with it. I could have bought,
and on reflection probably should have bought, an off-the-shelf
company and started a new business, but there was a company there
and I saw an opportunity to use it and I used it".
258. As to when she had decided to take the company
on for her own purposes she replied "To be honest, Mrs
Filkin, I could not tell you. There was a point at which there
was the issue of these calendars. There was a period, I think,
when it was not doing anything. The first project that I came
across was a book. I wanted to write it. I wanted to publish it...
And I wanted it to be something I did". The book was
published in September 1995.
259. Although Ms Fernandes was a director and
sole shareholder, she told me that apart from the period when
she was writing and publishing her book she did not manage the
company. She said "I do not run the company... I am the
director and the sole shareholder but, to be honest, that was
my involvement in the company. I did not deal with the day to
260. As far as I have been able to ascertain,
Ms Fernandes has been the sole shareholder throughout, although
the accounts for the year ending 31 October 1997 also name Mrs
Merlyn Vaz as a shareholder.
261. The records show that the secretaries to
the company have been:
262. Although Mrs Fernandes (Mr Vaz's mother-in-law)
remained secretary until her death on 29 December 1998, the accounts
for the period ending on 31 October 1997 are signed "Merlyn
Verona Vaz, Secretary, 6 August 1998". I do not regard
this discrepancy as serious.
263. Mrs Gresty said that the person most involved
in Mapesbury was Mr Hanif Pathan. The note prepared by Miss Eggington
and signed by Mrs Gresty stated "Rita was aware that Hanif
Pathan, an Indian, aged about 32 years, was a director and he
seemed to be the only person actively involved in the PR side
of the business." (Mrs Gresty said she herself did not
do filing or correspondence for Mapesbury though she had taken
minutes of a meeting and had helped Mr Vaz with the guest list
for the conference in Millbank Tower).
264. The name of Mr Pathan, who became a director
of the company on 1 April 1999, appears in the list of recipients
of payments of more than £1,000 from Mapesbury as an 'employee'.
When I interviewed him , the following exchange took place:
"MS FILKIN: Mr Pathan,
could I understand properly your connection with the company.
You have been an employee and a director?
MR PATHAN: That is right.
MS FILKIN: Could you tell me over the time period
you were an employee and the time period over which you were a
MR PATHAN: I think I was an employee sometime
in 1998. 1998 some time.
MS FILKIN: Just 1998?
MR PATHAN: No, it could be 1998/99, something
like that. I remember I came and we had a dispute with Mr Mahmoud
because I said to him "I want to be involved too" and
then I went off. Then I came and I became a director.
MS FILKIN: When did you become a director?
MR PATHAN: I cannot remember. I am sure it is
easily available, this information."
265. Some of Mr Pathan's evidence suggests an
involvement with the company pre-dating 1998. When I asked Ms
Fernandes and Mr Pathan about role of Mapesbury in the Dada Vaswani
event he replied "I was not involved in that... I remember
the event because it was a priest who came and did something,
a lecture or something like that...I only know that the event
took place and that the Hinduja Foundation paid for the expenses.
That is all I know about it" (Annex i15). Mr Vaz,
when he came to see me on 26 March, described Mr Pathan as 'a
long-term family friend who had been both a volunteer and then
a paid worker and he had been helpful, taking on the trouble of
sorting out Mapesbury Communications' (Annex i6).
266. Mr Pathan subsequently confirmed, in his
letter of 12 September 2001 that he had become a director on 1
April 1999 and resigned on 19 January 2001.
267. I asked Mr Pathan why he had resigned as
a director. He replied "Well, Mr Mahmoud died. There was
no future now for this company. What Mr Mahmoud promised me was
we wanted to take this. I know it was in Maria's name, or Maria
was a director or something, but Mr Mahmoud said "this is
going to be our company, we are going to take it over" because
I was a director and he was going to become the director or something,
I do not know what you have to do. We wanted to change it into
an internet company, That was what the whole idea was, that was
what we were working to. Then he suddenly died and there was no
future, nothing left to follow it" (Annex i15).
268. Ms Williams told me (see Annex ii46) that
Mr Pathan had an office in Mr Vaz's Leicester constituency office
when she worked there from April 1999 to January 2000 and he was
described as 'Director of Events and Communications'. Mrs Williams
supplied me with a copy of the office telephone list which listed
'Hanif Pathan's' mobile telephone number. This tallied
with the number also given by Mrs Gresty as Hanif's number and
with the number which my office had been given and used to contact
Mr Pathan. My office telephoned Ms Fernandes on 7 August
2001 to ask if she had a number for Mr Pathan and she confirmed
this number as his.
269. While Mrs Gresty said (see Annex ii5A) that
Mr Pathan was the person most active on the PR side of Mapesbury,
Mr Pathan told me that his role in Mapesbury was subsidiary to
that of Mr Mahmoud.
270. Information supplied by Mrs Williams and
the New Connaught Rooms (who confirmed he had booked the room)
indicates that Mr Pathan played a major role in organising the
Into Leadership Conference for the Asian Business Network (see
271. According to the evidence of Mr Vaz and
the House of Commons Fees Office, Mr Pathan had been for a period
a member of Mr Vaz's constituency staff. At our meeting of 26
March 2001 Mr Vaz had told me that Mr Pathan was a volunteer in
his Leicester office from 1989. He then became a paid assistant
in the same office, paid through the Office Costs Allowance. This
was confirmed by the Fees Office who informed me that Mr Pathan
was employed by Mr Vaz and paid from the Office Costs Allowance
from 1990 to 1996, with a break in 1994. The evidence of Mrs Williams
is that Mr Pathan was listed in Mr Vaz's office telephone list
in August 1999 as the 'Director of Events and Communications'
(though only with a mobile telephone number). My file note of
my telephone conversation with her on 23 July 2001 records: "Mr
Pathan was in charge of all events. Mr Pathan's office, which
was out of bounds to Mrs Williams, was situated upstairs in the
first front room. Mrs Williams was told to leave all correspondence
addressed to Mr Pathan unopened at the bottom of the stairs. Mr
Pathan would always turn up at the office at approximately 10.00
am every morning, pick up his mail and go straight to his room".
272. Mr Vaz explained to me at our meeting of
26 March that Mr Pathan's work for him did not overlap with his
work for Mapesbury Communications Limited.
273. On 10 September I suggested to Mr Pathan
that in June 1999 he had an office in Mr Vaz's constituency office
and asked him on what basis he was employed and over what period.
On 14 September 2001 he replied "I did not have an office
in Mr Vaz's constituency office in June 1999 nor was I employed
there". In view of the Fees Office evidence it may be that
Mr Pathan's denial of his employment in Mr Vaz's constituency
office relates only to the date, but Mrs Williams's evidence suggests
strongly that he was, at least, frequently present in the office.
274. I had put it to Mr Vaz in my letter of 19
October that the list of telephone numbers provided to me by Ms
Williams indicated that Mr Pathan was his 'Director of Events
and Communications'. Mr Vaz wrote on 18 November 2001:
"I understand that
the list you mentioned was prepared by her. Everyone would be
encouraged to have their own contact list as the number of people
they deal with is large and the turnover constant. I understand
that Pauline's duties included ringing people up to ask what they
did, when she did not speak to the individuals she would get this
information from others. Mr Pathan's mobile number would be listed
as that is how he would be contacted. As you have gathered from
your meeting Mr Pathan is a Muslim and most Muslims use the name
Mohammed. He was not the "director of events" for me.
I understand that some of the titles did not represent the reality
of the situation."
275. My reading of the list of Mr Vaz's staff
is that it is an ordinary office address list, centrally prepared
and issued to staff, with handwritten additions. I am of the opinion
that at the relevant time, in June 1999, Mr Pathan was a member
of Mr Vaz's staff even if a volunteer one, as well as being a
director of Mapesbury Communications, and I have been concerned
by the efforts made to conceal this fact.
The late Mr Mahmoud
276. Mr Vaz, Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan were
agreed that the person who did most of the work of Mapesbury Communications
was Mr Raihan Mahmoud, who died at the end of 2000. When I asked
Mr Pathan "Can you tell me about [the work permit
conference] and where that was, who organised it, who paid
for it, etc?", he replied: "It was a conference
where Mr Mahmoud used to send out to the delegates. My role was
...in Mapesbury I was working with Mr Mahmoud, assisting him in
every way, but I was more of a technical person where he used
to send me out and say 'go and get these copies done' or 'go and
put the stage up' or 'go and put this up on the seats' so I did
not have a heavy role. What Mr Mahmoud promised me and what he
said was, once he got everything order he was going to set up
a company, we were going to do an internet company, and he was
going to get me heavily involved in that so I said 'Fine'. That
is why I was so keen to work with Mr Mahmoud, because he did promise
277. According to Mr Pathan, Mr Mahmoud "used
to do the financial things". Thus when I asked Mr Pathan
how much rent Mapesbury paid to Acacia Holdings he replied "I
do not know. Mr Mahmoud used to deal with the financial side so
I would not know. I would not ask him 'how much rent are you paying'"
. At the time of our meeting, Mr Pathan did not know what rent
the company was paying although the company was still renting
the office and Mr Mahmoud had died more than six months earlier.
Mr Pathan subsequently produced the figure.
278. Mr Mahmoud's status in the company is somewhat
unclear. He was not a director. I asked Mr Pathan if he was an
employee and he replied "I do not think so. He used to
draw expenses, something like that. I do not think he was employed
Ms Laura Coco
279. I asked Mr Pathan if anyone else was employed
as a member of staff. He could only recall Ms Laura Coco (though
he thought there might have been other, casual, staff). He could
not be sure of the date but told me that he himself had been there
in 1998, the implication being that Ms Coco was also there at
that time .
280. A Ms Laura Coco was on the list of Mr Vaz's
parliamentary staff between July 1998 and January 1999, though
the Fees Office have told me that there is no record of her being
paid out of the Office Costs Allowance.
281. I asked Mr Vaz (see Annex ii78) to provide
me with information about Ms Coco's work for him. He replied in
his letter dated 3 November 2001 (Annex ii86): "I have
inspected the Register of Members' staff held in the Oriel Room
[in the House of Commons Library] and Ms Coco's name is not
there. I did not personally supervise the people in the office
as I worked from elsewhere. My recollection is that she was there
for a short time working part-time as an overseas intern, I have
no knowledge of the matters you raise. I do not have her address
or telephone number. Since I have not seen her name on the Register
I would be glad if you would send me the extract from the Register
you refer to".
282. Mr Vaz would not have seen Ms Coco's name
on the Register of Staff held in the Library because that Register
does not include staff who are no longer employed or have surrendered
283. On 15 November 2001 I sent Mr Vaz the copies
of the House of Commons Register of Interests of Members' Secretaries
and Research Assistants which included her name (Annex ii86).
At his request, with my letter of 15 November I enclosed the list
of Members' staff which showed Ms Coco. In his letter of 18 November
Mr Vaz wrote:
"Thank you for sending
me the extract from the Register of Staff. This of course relates
to the dates of issue of a pass and the date returned, not necessarily
the dates that a person uses the pass."
284. Ms Coco was clearly a member of Mr Vaz's
parliamentary staff (he said a part-time overseas intern) from
December 1998 to June 1999 and may or may not simultaneously have
been on the staff of Mapesbury Communications Limited, or working
for Mapesbury Communications Limited.
285. According to the Grestys, Mrs Gresty, who
worked for Fernandes Vaz, also did some work in connection with
Mapesbury Communications Limited although she did not do correspondence
or general filing. Mrs Gresty told me that she had taken minutes
for a meeting organised under the auspices of Mapesbury at Coleridge
House in or about October 1998 (at which Mr Pathan was present)
but Mr Pathan denied to me that he had ever attended a meeting
286. Mrs Gresty told me on 25 June 2001 that
"from about the New Year 2000, when [the younger Vaz child]
started playgroup, Mary [Matin] came to the Harrow office where
I was working, to do some filing". Mrs Gresty made no suggestion
as to whether this filing included papers relating to Mapesbury
287. On 4 July 2001 the following exchange took
place between me and Ms Fernandes:
"MS FILKIN: Did you
ever employ anybody called Mary Matin?
MS FERNANDES: No.
MS FILKIN: You have never employed anybody of
MS FERNANDES: No.
MS FILKIN: Her name has been given variously to
me as Mary Martin or Mary Ahmed. Have you employed anybody, Mary,
with those surnames?
MS FERNANDES: No."
288. A letter from Ms Fernandes to Mr Gresty,
dated 9 June 2000 and supplied to me by Miss Eggington, contains
the following passage:
"The volume of work
has increased, as I would expect it to but only to the point where
it needs a part-time additional member of staff. Mary was already
doing some work".
289. I found the evidence of Mrs Gresty and the
letter from Ms Fernandes convincing and believe that Mrs Matin
was indeed working for Ms Fernandes (see paragraphs 575-580 and
804). Whether she did work in connection with Mapesbury Communications
is neither confirmed nor denied by the evidence available to me.
290. Mrs Williams had been from April 1999 to
January 2000 a volunteer worker at Mr Vaz's constituency office
in Leicester. She told me she had been involved in the organisation
of a conference for the Asian Business Network, which certainly
had a connection with Mapesbury in the person of Mr Pathan, and
she also filed copies of cheques related to the conference which
may or may not have been processed through Mapesbury.
Location of Mapesbury Communications Limited
291. According to information from Companies
House, from 2 November 1994 to 3 June 1999 the registered address
of Mapesbury Communications was at Ms Fernandes's London home
at 70a Teignmouth Road, NW2 (a box number PO 8726
being added, Mr Pathan said at the instigation of Mr Mahmoud,
on 22 March 1996). From 3 June 1999 the registered address was
at the Leicester home of the company secretary, Mrs Vaz senior
(the Register of Members remained at the home of Ms Fernandes
who, with Mr Vaz, had moved to * * * [Middlesex] in 1997). In
January 2001 the registered address was moved to Savant House,
63-65 Camden High Street.
292. The registered address of a company, however,
need not be the address where the work is done. During the inquiry
I was told of work related to Mapesbury Communications being done
at various locations, but there was serious disagreement between
the witnesses on the subject.
293. Ms Fernandes was the sole shareholder and
a director of Mapesbury Communications Limited. She was also sole
partner in her law firm, Fernandes Vaz. It would not therefore
have been surprising if some work for Mapesbury had been done
from the offices where the law firm was located, whether in *
* * [Middlesex] or Byron Road, Harrowbut this she categorically
294. Mr and Mrs Gresty suggested that during
her period of employment with Ms Fernandes at least some Mapesbury
work was done from * * * [Middlesex], the house to which Mr Vaz
and Ms Fernandes moved from Teignmouth Road in 1997 and where
her law firm was based until late 1999. Mrs Gresty displayed a
knowledge of Mr Pathan ("Hanif Pathan, Indian, about 32")
that would appear to be based on personal experience.
295. Ms Fernandes told me that the only time
Mapesbury Communications Limited had operated from her home had
been during the period in 1995 when she was preparing her book
on visas and immigration (published in September 1995).
296. During our interview I suggested to Ms Fernandes
that "for a while, the company was based at your * * *
[Middlesex] home, or did it work from your home?".
She replied "No... No, absolutely not, because I was not
involved in the day to day running of it. It might have been registered
or, I do not know". She also said "It did not
operate from there".
297. Mr Pathan said at our meeting that the day-to-day
business of Mapesbury was carried out "at Savant House
and at Mr Mahmoud's house". I note that he dated the
doing of work at Savant House (63/5 Camden High Street London
NW2) from well before the company's registered address moved there
in January 2001. He said "It was done at Savant House
from, I do not know, I cannot remember, two or three years".
This chronology is borne out by one of the few expenditure figures
he provided, which was that rent of £108.33 a month paid
to the landlords, Acacia Holdings, had amounted to £3,509.83
by September 2001.
298. Mrs Gresty also told me that a meeting under
the auspices of Mapesbury Communications had been held at Coleridge
House, 4/5 Coleridge Gardens London in "about October
1998" , that Maria Fernandes and Hanif Pathan had run
the meeting and that she, Mrs Gresty, had taken the minutes. In
his letter of 27 September 2001, Mr Pathan, however, denied having
attended a meeting at Coleridge House on behalf of the company
at any time. This denial, of course, leaves open the possibility
that he attended such a meeting in some other capacity. If so,
he did not volunteer this information and he gave me the clear
impression by his reply that he knew nothing at all about Coleridge
House. I asked him whether Coleridge House meant anything to him
and he said "No".
299. The only other hard piece of information
about where the work of Mapesbury Communications Limited was done
comes in the accounts for 1996-97 which gave a cost of £1,012
for "moving offices".
300. According to the current entry in the website
192.com and Mr Vaz (see Annex vi16), Coleridge House is currently
the address of the Asian Business Network.
301. Mrs Williams said that while she was working
at Mr Vaz's constituency office she heard the name Mapesbury mentioned
but she was told that she "did not need to know anything
about it". That is not in itself evidence that Mapesbury-related
work was not carried on from the office. On the other hand she
did say that work for the Asian Business Network was done there,
including the organisation of a conference (or conferences) and
the processing of cheques received in respect of these, and that
one of the people who performed this function was a former employee,
and director, of Mapesbury Communications Limited, Mr Pathan.
The list of payments
302. As previously indicated, at the insistence
of the Committee, Ms Fernandes provided in May 2001 a list of
clients, events and payments of more than £1,000 in and out
of Mapesbury Communications.
303. The list provided by Ms Fernandes includes
'Root Magazine (Antigua Promotion)', a Work Permit Conference,
a 'seminar/event on visa policy' and the 'Dada Vaswani event'.
304. I asked Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan how the
list was drawn up. The following exchange took place:
"MR PATHAN: I remember
drawing this list up. I came back from Pakistan, I was on holiday,
and Maria said that the Chairman wanted this long list. I remember
sitting down and we were racking our brains. The thing is, Mr
Mahmoud had the files and he used to do paperwork and everything
like that. These would be the contacts or clients of that. We
sat down and said "let us put this down, let us put this
down", so we could get this in time to the Chairman.
MS FILKIN: That was without the benefit of invoices,
it was just out of your head?
MR PATHAN: That is right. Of course, yes.
MS FILKIN: You obviously had enough information
in your head to provide it. Would you be able to give at least
round figures against the payments?
MR PATHAN: I would not because Mr Mahmoud would
deal with the finances.
MS FILKIN: So how did you make a decision that
those were over £1,000 each?
MR PATHAN: I made the decision but I think these
would be the companies that were involved somehow, we have done
an event and that is why we have done something for them or we
have published something for them. That was why I came to the
decision to put these names down.
MS FILKIN: Have you found that there is actually
no other information which you can provide to settle that now?
MR PATHAN: That is right, yes.
MS FILKIN: It does not exist. You were talking
about Mr Mahmoud's garage that you were going to look at and so
forth. It is not there is what you are telling me, is it, there
is no other information?
MS FERNANDES: Well, I have asked his widow. Mr
Mahmoud was involved in a number of activities and she has got
a number of papers. I have had a look, I cannot see anything that
relates to Mapesbury there. I have asked her to have another look
for the paperwork but, to be quite honest, to date I have not
got it. Of course, if any of it becomes available I would like
you to have it."
305. I attempted on several occasions to establish
what the list of payments might amount to in total and to what
period they related, but neither Ms Fernandes nor Mr Pathan was
able to enlighten me. At our meeting I put it to Mr Pathan that
he had enough material in his head to judge what payments amounted
to more than £1,000 , and asked him if he could at least
put round figures against the payments but he replied "I
would not because Mr Mahmoud would deal with the finances".
Mr Pathan wrote on 30 August 2001 in response to my request
to him to "inform me of the total amount in round numbers
covered by the entries on the list, with dates, and the total
income received by the company in each of the years covered by
the list" that "for the reasons given to you
it is not possible to do this without the benefit of Mr Mahmoud's
help. I would not like to guess and give you an inaccurate reply".
He reiterated this response in his letter of 12 October 2001.
306. The firm was described in the Companies
House documents as 'a publications and public relations company'.
307. Ms Fernandes explained in our interview
that following the failure of the calendar project she had decided
to use the company, which was at that time lying dormant, to publish
her Guide to Visitors' Visas, which, she told me, came
out in September 1995 and which she had been writing in March
or April of that year.
308. There is a discrepancy here on the timing,
which I have not been able to resolve. Mr Vaz told the Committee
on 13 February 2001 that the last calendar was produced in 1996
(though there is one in Mr Vaz's personal Registry file dated
1999) whereas Ms Fernandes told me that she had decided to take
the company on at a time when it was dormant.
309. There is some evidence that the company
published other books. When Mr Foster, a Member of the Committee,
asked Ms Fernandes on 30 January 2001 "What was its
[the company's] main purpose from 1997 onwards?" she
replied "I held work on conferences, I did a book, and
I did a deal with a publications company to produce a couple of
travel books I think".
This may refer to the Antigua promotion
'Roots' which appears in the list of payments.
310. I have received information that Mapesbury
Communications Limited and/or members of its staff have been,
or may have been, involved in arranging events as follows:
the Dada Vaswani
event of June or July 1995 (first suggested by Mr Lansley);
a meeting at Coleridge House in around
October 1998 (suggested by Mr and Mrs Gresty);
a "work permit for chefs" event
in November 1998 (first suggested by Mrs Gresty);
a function at the New Connaught Rooms
for the Asian Business Network in February 1999 at which Mr Gresty
was engaged to play the piano (suggested by Mr Gresty);
the Into Leadership Conference at the
New Connaught Rooms on 23 June 1999 (first suggested by Mr Hastings
and Mr Syal);
a "Work Permit Conference"
at the St James's Court Hotel, London, on an unspecified date
(first suggested by Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan);
a seminar/event on visa policy held in
Birmingham on an unspecified date (suggested by Ms Fernandes and
311. Some of these are confirmed by the list
of payments (see paragraph 153) which lists a 'Work Permit Conference',
a seminar/event on Visa Policy and the Dada Vaswani event.
312. I repeatedly asked Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan
for a complete list of the conferences and events with
which Mapesbury Communications Limited had been involved
but none was forthcoming.
313. Such information about conferences and events
involving Mapesbury Communications Limited and its staff as I
have been given is set out in the following paragraphs.
The Dada Vaswani event (June 1995)
314. I have discussed the Dada Vaswani event
elsewhere (see section II) in the context of the possibility that
Mr Vaz had received benefits from the Hinduja family or Foundation.
315. When I asked Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan
about the Dada Vaswani event they denied knowledge of the details,
saying it was run by Mr Mahmoud. Mr Pathan, whose admitted connection
with the company post-dated the event and who described it vaguely
as 'the priest event' surmised that it might have been
run for 'reimbursement rather than profit-making'. This
suggestion was confirmed by the evidence from Mr Vaz and by the
The Work Permit Conference
316. I asked Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan to tell
me about the Work Permit Conference:
"MS FILKIN: Can you
tell me about that and where that was, who organised it, who paid
for it, etc?
MR PATHAN: ...Yes, it was a good opportunity.
I was a young man and I wanted to help Mr Mahmoud and do something
for myself. That was why he did that. I remember other conferences.
He sent out letters to delegates and normal public people would
come to it who were interested in work permits, something like
software companies, hoteliers or business people who wanted work
permits or something like that.
MS FILKIN: And where was that held, that Work
MR PATHAN: It was in London, yes. It was in London.
I cannot remember...
MS FERNANDES: There was one, I think it was the
St James' Court Hotel, the London one.
MS FILKIN: That one was, the work permit one?
MS FERNANDES: Yes.
MS FILKIN: Fine. It was done on an ordinary commercial
basis of sending out invitations and seeing who came?
MR PATHAN: To the normal public, yes, that is
I was not told the date of this event.
The visa policy event
317. When I asked about the 'seminar/event on
visa policy', Ms Fernandes said "There was an event...
that was the Birmingham one". Mr Pathan added "That
is right, yes. Exactly the same thing, where you send out letters
and normal people would reply because they have got an interest
in visa policy or to do with that and they would fill out the
delegate forms and then apply and come and attend the conferences".
I asked where it was held and Ms Fernandes said "I cannot
remember, to be honest, but it was held in the centre of Birmingham.
I will try to rack my brains. We should be able to find out where
I was not told the date of this event.
The food policy event/work permits for chefs (
318. Mindful of what Mrs Gresty had told me about
a conference on work permits for chefs held at Millbank Tower
in London in November 1998 I asked the witnesses if either the
work permit conference or the food policy event had taken place
at Millbank Tower. They both initially said "No"
but Ms Fernandes then explained "there was one on food
policy which covered the issue of work permits but it also covered...health,
safety and various issues". She said she had chaired
the meeting, thus confirming what Mrs Gresty had suggested.
319. In view of what Mrs Gresty had said about
Mr Vaz's involvement in the work permits conference, namely that
he "sat down with her [Mrs Gresty] in the * * *
office going through the Egon Ronay Restaurant Guide. He picked
out all the Indian and Nepalese restaurants and Rita sent out
the invitations", I asked Ms Fernandes whether Mr Vaz
had taken part in any of the events. She said "None of
them" and Mr Pathan added "None". I
then said "If you can give me any information about these
conferences I would be most grateful because then I will be absolutely
accurate, particularly saying that Mr Vaz was not involved in
them and was not involved in the guest list, etc...unless when
he thinks about it he says 'Oh yes, I did suggest some guests'.
There is no problem about that, but just so that we have dealt
with it all."
320. Mrs Gresty had said (Annex ii5A) that literature
advertising the firm of Fernandes Vaz was prominently displayed
at the conference and that the firm got a lot of new business
from it. I asked Ms Fernandes what part the firm of Fernandes
Vaz played in the events we had talked about and she replied "None.
I practise in the area of immigration and there are work permit
conferences held but that is the extent of the involvement."
The Into Leadership Conference (23 June 1999)?
321. Mrs Pauline Elizabeth (Liz) Williams, who
had worked with Mr Vaz as a volunteer in his Leicester office
from April 1999 to January 2000 spoke to me on the telephone on
23 July 2001. I took a full note of our conversation, which she
subsequently corrected and signed as accurate (Annex ii46). She
told me that an event had taken place at the New Connaught Rooms
on 23rd June 1999. The New Connaught Rooms confirmed to my office
that there had been an event called "The Into Leadership
Conference" held on that date by the Asian Business Network,
and told me that it had been booked by a Mr Hanif Pathan, Coleridge
House, 4/5 Coleridge Gardens, London NW6 3QU.
322. Material supplied by Mr Chris Hastings and
Mr Rajeev Syal, including a Conference brochure and Office of
Public Service press release dated 23 June 1999, confirmed that
the event took place, that it was organised by the Asian Business
Network and that Mr Vaz was one of the speakers.
323. Mrs Williams provided further information
about the conference and the involvement in it of Mr Vaz.
324. Mrs Williams described "a very large
conference with over a thousand delegates, organised by Mr Vaz.
Her [Mrs Williams's] key task was the running of the registration
room. Mr Vaz gave everyone a quick guide around the building where
everyone was going to be positioned and then gave a last-minute
briefing as to their responsibilities. Mr Pathan had overall responsibility
as he had made the arrangements for the conference, booked the
rooms and taken cheques from the delegates at Keith Vaz's Leicester
office. The cheques were made out to the Into Leadership Conference".
Mrs Williams said she knew this because she was asked by Mr Pathan
to make photocopies of all cheques and then file them in black
arch-lever folders in numerical order. A Diversity Gala Dinner
followed the conference on the same evening. Delegates would pay
one price for the conference itself and an additional sum for
325. Mr Williams went on to say that there were
other conferences organised by the Leicester office and added
that she had on one occasion referred to a conference as being
"organised by Mr Vaz", upon which she was told
by one of the workers in the London office that she must not refer
to it in those terms because Mr Vaz "could get into trouble"
if he were seen to be organising conferences.
326. Mrs Williams said that she had heard Mapesbury
Communications mentioned but had been told that she "did
not need to know about that".
327. When I interviewed Mr Pathan and Ms Fernandes
on 4 July 2001 I suggested to Mr Pathan that Mapesbury Communications
had booked the Room for the Asian Business Network on 23 June
1999. I asked him whether he was involved in booking the event.
He replied "No, nothing I know about, no".
328. In my letter of 19 October I put to Mr Vaz
information I had received about the Into Leadership Conference
and the Asian Business Network and asked him a number of detailed
329. Mr Vaz replied to my questions in his letter
of 3 November as follows:
"MS FILKIN: Whether
Mr Pathan was solely responsible for organising the Into Leadership
Conference; and if so, was this on your instructions, or with
MR VAZ: Mr Pathan was not solely responsible for
organising the conference. He was not acting on my instructions
or with my authority he acted on behalf of the organisation. You
ask me to comment on your conversation with Mr Pathan. You put
to him that Mapesbury Communications booked the event for the
ABN. He rightly said that it did not and expressed surprise at
this suggestion. I am not aware of any involvement by this company
in this event.
MS FILKIN: Whether you were aware while Mr Pathan
was working for you, of his connection with either Mapesbury Communications
or the Asian Business Network?
MR VAZ: Mr Pathan was not working for me (see
paragraph 121 above).
MS FILKIN: Who collected the cheques
for the event, into which account were they paid and was your
office used to receive and process these cheques?
MR VAZ: The organisation dealt with all financial
matters. My office was not used in this way and I would have been
very concerned if it has been so used.
MS FILKIN: How much was raised by the event?
MR VAZ: I do not know.
MS FILKIN: What do you know about Coleridge House,
and in particular if you have attended meetings there?
MR VAZ: Coleridge House is the office of the ABN
which organised the conference as far as I recall, I have attended
one AGM there.
MS FILKIN: If you know a Mr David Barnes and,
if so, in what capacity?
MR VAZ: I know two persons called David Barnes
one has been the Assistant Private Secretary to successive Immigration
Ministers and the other has been involved in media marketing.
MS FILKIN: If you know a Mr David Golding and,
if so, in what capacity?
MR VAZ: I know two persons called David Golding
one who was at University with me, he is a lawyer with a City
firm, the other is a businessman.
MS FILKIN: Whether you have organised any other
events for the Asian Business Network since May 1997 and if so
please list them?
MR VAZ: I have attended many events for the Asian
community over the last 14 years I cannot give you a definitive
list of each organisation's events.
MS FILKIN: What is your relationship to the Asian
Business Network? If you were not actively involved in its work,
can you suggest why it should be registered at your home address?
MR VAZ: I have already told you in paragraph 76
that the information supplied to you by Mr Syal and Mr Hastings
is inaccurate. The information does not appear as they suggest
on the BT Website. British Telecom has nothing to do with the
publication of this information. The ABN has never been "registered"
at this address. I have lived at this address and I have been
the President of this organisation a position that as you say
I have registered. It has always as far as I am aware operated
from Coleridge House, Coleridge Gardens. They do a fine job. If
you forward to me the information from the "BT website"
I will explain my understanding of why this information has appeared
in this way. It is a matter of public record that Mapesbury was
registered there, and the then Commissioner was fully informed
about the structure of the company the fact that it remained registered
there after we have moved shows how inaccurate the information
is. That also applies to the fact that the ABN was still publicised
as being there until February 2001. If you let me have the information
you have been sent I will gladly do my best to clear this up.
MS FILKIN: Whether you had an additional telephone
line installed in your office at Norman Shaw North; and if so,
for what purpose?
MR VAZ: I have worked with a number of Black and
Asian organisations over a number of years. When I was first elected
along with the late Bernie Grant MP and Diane Abbott MP and the
late Lord Pitt we asked the then Serjeant at Arms for permission
to have an extra room and extra passes to enable the employees
and volunteers of the Black Caucus to work from the Commons.
The Advice that has always been given is that
if any space is being provided that the public purse should not
bear any cost. As I was chairing the Conference I agreed that
access should be given to my office (I had offices elsewhere)
for the organisation provided they had their own telephone line
and paid their own bill and that they did not use Commons facilities.
I had checked the propriety of this with the House authorities
on a number of occasions.
MS FILKIN: Whether and over what period you were
actively involved in seeking contributions to the Asian Business
MR VAZ: I cannot identify a precise period when
I wrote letters in support of the ABN but I would have treated
them in the same way as other organisations.
MS FILKIN: To whom any resulting cheques were
made out, who collected them and into which account they were
paid; at which bank; and who were the authorised signatories on
MR VAZ: As with any other organisation any request
for support would have been payable to the organisation and sent
to them at their offices and they would be responsible for financial
management. I would not consider it appropriate to ask them for
any financial information in the way you suggest. They would regard
it as presumptuous if I asked for details of their bank and bank
As I explained to the Committee when I appeared
before them, that many organisations within the Asian community
ask me for support. You will recall that I handed the Committee
a letter from a Member (now a Minister) which specifically asked
me to write a letter to get financial support for an organisation
in his constituency. Members respond positively when asked for
help in this way."
330. Despite numerous requests for detailed profit
and loss accounts the only details available to me which relate
to Mapesbury Communications Limited form part of the accounts
for the year ended 31 October 1997 and shows a cost of £1,012
incurred for moving the office in 1996.
Payments in and out
331. Mr Vaz, Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan were
adamant in maintaining that no money had been channelled to Mr
Vaz or his parliamentary office through Mapesbury Communications.
332. During the oral evidence session for the
previous inquiry Ms Shona McIsaac, then a member of the Committee,
asked Mr Vaz on 30 January 2001 "Since its inception Mapesbury
has not provided you with any form of benefit or support for your
constituency office?" and Mr Vaz replied "No".
The exchange continued "No benefit whatsoever?".
"No". "No money has been drawn by anybody?".
333. The accountants were unable to supply the
underlying records as they said these had been returned to the
company. Ms Fernandes has been unable to provide the underlying
records following the death of Mr Mahmoud.
334. When I interviewed Ms Fernandes I asked
"...am I right that you would confirm, that no money as
far as you know went out of Mapesbury Communications to support
Mr Vaz in his role as an MP?" and she replied "That
is right, yes. Of course, you have had independent evidence from
two accountants stating that."
335. Ms Fernandes had supplied the Committee
with copies of two letters from accountants. In a letter dated
29 January 2001, Mr Gerry Cheung wrote "We confirm that
we acted as accountants for the company since its inception until
31 October 1996. We must point out that these matters do go back
7 years. Having reviewed our files, which were based on the information
and explanation supplied by the company, we are happy to confirm
that there were no payments made to Mr Vaz personally or to his
parliamentary office for the period to 31 October 1996".
Hard Dowdy wrote on 26 January 2001 "We commenced acting
as Accountants for the company in May 1998 and confirm that as
Directors considered that the Company was exempt from an audit
under section 249(2) of the Companies Act 1985 we compiled unaudited
accounts for the years ended 31st October 1997, 1998 and 1999
from the accounting records, information and explanations supplied
to us. During the course of this work we found no payments to
Mr Vaz personally or to his office". 
This does not confirm that Mr Vaz received no benefit from
the companyonly that, according to the information supplied
to the accountants, no payments were made to him personally or
to his Parliamentary office.
336. I note that Hard Dowdy did not begin to
act as accountants for the company until May 1998 and therefore
may have had no direct knowledge of it from 31 October 1996 until
337. Mr Pathan's letter of 30 August 2001 included
the words "Can I repeat again what was said by our certified
accountant have stated namely that Mr Vaz did not receive any
payments from this company".
338. According to the figures submitted to Companies
House in the years of its existence the turnover of Mapesbury
Communications Limited varied from zero in the year 1996-97 to
£73,000 in 1997-98. Profit and loss varied from £5,149
in the year of zero turnover (with a loss of £616 in 1994-95,
the year of the Swami Vaswani event) to £48,649 in 1997-98.
These, as I said in my memorandum to the Standards and Privileges
Committee of January 2001, are not negligible figures.
Payments to personnel
339. Company expenditure includes payments to
directors and staff, and some items on the list provided by Ms
Fernandes refer to these. Indeed the letter from Hard Dowdy, Accountants,
dated 19 February 2001,
said "I confirm that all expenditure appearing in the
above-mentioned accounts over £1,000 solely relate to salaries,
PAYE and National Insurance Contributions" (reference
to the list of payments suggests that this may be incorrect).
Among the pieces of information Mr Pathan undertook during
our interview to try to provide was the amount paid in salaries
and fees to directors and employees for each year. On 30 August
2001 he wrote "These are in the company accounts for each
year, which I understand that you have. If you would like me to
total these up I will do so". The company accounts do
not (with the exception of those for 1996/97 which make no mention
of any such payments) contain information in the detail I needed.
340. In my letter to Mr Pathan of 13 September
2001 I asked him to provide the totals, as he had offered, and
reminded him of this question in my letter of 25 September 2001.
341. On 27 September 2001 Mr Pathan wrote to
me (Annex ii92) "The company accountants have provided
me with a copy of the published accounts, which I enclose a copy
for your information so that you can extract the totals you require".
On 4 October 2001, Mr Pathan wrote to me, stating that he had
answered my question in his letter of 27 September 2001.
342. In her letter of 20 April 2001, Ms Fernandes
said she was asking the accountants to provide the VAT records,
but in the event these were not forthcoming.
343. I attempted to establish what happened to
the profits of the company in the years when there were any. Mr
Pathan told me that Mr Mahmoud had insisted that all profits be
retained and reinvested in order to expand the company. He said:
"That was how it was because Mr Mahmoud wanted it, that
we should all leave it in there and just only take expenses out
that we have to take out." Ms Fernandes told me that
she had not drawn a salary and Mr Vaz had said at our meeting
on 26 March that Mr Pathan had never been paid a salary for his
work for Mapesbury Communications. Mr Pathan drew a salary from
the House of Commons Office Costs Allowance from 1990 to 1996,
with a break in 1994.
The basis on which events were run
344. The uncertainty of Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan
about details of the company extended to the basis on which it
operated, as when I asked them "Were all those conferences
that we have just talked about, other than the Dada Vaswani event,
run on a commercial basis, an ordinary commercial basis?"
The exchange continued:
"MS FERNANDES: I
could not answer that to be honest. I chaired them more than was
involved in the day-to-day collection of fees or whatever. I was
a speaker at them and I did chair one of them. I was a speaker.
MS FILKIN: You were the sole shareholder of Mapesbury,
MS FERNANDES: But I did not run the company.
MS FILKIN: No, no, no.
MS FERNANDES: I own the company and I am director
but, to be quite honest, that was my involvement in the company.
I did not deal with the day-to-day work.
MS FILKIN: So they would not be consulting you
about any conference where they were not going to try to make
MS FERNANDES: On the work permit side, it would
be something that I would have thought about and it would have
been something that I probably raised.
MS FILKIN: Yes.
MS FERNANDES: And then it was assessed probably
and they worked out whether it would make a profit or not.
MS FILKIN: And would run it on a commercial basis
MR PATHAN: Yes. This goes back to Mr Mahmoud because
he used to do the paperwork."
345. Benefits may be received in kind as well
as cash. Knowing that Mapesbury Communications had a car, I discussed
with Ms Fernandes whether it had been used for Mr Vaz or for Mr
Vaz's benefit. She told me that it had not. The company's car
had been bought for Mrs Vaz senior, the company secretary
The involvement of Mr Vaz
346. Although the company had been set up by
Mr Vaz, in his evidence to the Committee he distanced himself
from it in its current form, explaining in his letter of 17 June
2000 (Annex ii93) that "after the calendar project was
abolished the company continued to trade with new officers and
its own activities. I was neither a shareholder nor director [he
never had been] and I derived no personal benefit from it.
I do not have the accounts, but you may obtain them from Companies'
House". Mr Vaz described it in his evidence on 30 January
2001 as now [my emphasis] being "a public relations
company and publishing company that is run by my wife".
347. When the Committee questioned Mr Vaz about
the current status of Mapesbury Communications he referred to
the new director in vague terms, saying "there is a new
director who is not a member of the family"
and "my mother-in-law died and someone else took over
with my mother, I do not know. Another director"
and "I do not know who manages the company. I would imagine
it is the new person they have brought in when they changed".
348. Equally, in the current enquiry Mr Vaz made
it clear to me that the company was now his wife's. At our meeting
on 21 March he said that:
"he was working with his wife to look at
the details of this [Swami Vaswani]
event and he hoped she would help him find this information but
he did not want anyone to think he was the person running the
349. On 26 March 2001 he wrote to me: "I
have taken it upon myself to obtain as much information as possible
from the company to save you having to go through this process".
350. There is, nonetheless, some evidence that
tends to suggest a continued link between Mr Vaz and Mapesbury
Communications. Mr Vaz told the Committee that the company
"continued to trade with new officers", whereas
in reality his mother-in-law remained secretary until her death
and was then replaced by his mother, his wife remained a director
and, almost certainly, the sole shareholder and the "new
person they brought in when they changed' was Mr Mohammed
Pathan, who worked in Mr Vaz's constituency office as his Director
of Events and Communications and is described by Mr Vaz (Annex
i6) as "a family friend".
351. Another link comes in the form of the sole
other recorded employee of the company, Ms Laura Coco, who was
a member of Mr Vaz's parliamentary staff between December 1998
and July 1999. When Mr Pathan mentioned Laura Coco as a member
of Mapesbury's staff I asked him when she was an employee. He
replied "I do not know the precise dates, sorry. I do
not know the precise dates or anything?" I asked him
for approximate dates and he replied "I was there in 1988sorry,
not 1988, 1998 sometime, yes". The implication of that
is that Ms Coco was employed at that time.
352. In an attempt to establish whether Mapesbury
Communications provided benefits (whether material in terms of
publicity) to Mr Vaz or his office, I had asked Ms Fernandes in
the previous inquiry, to provide me with a list of any publications
of the company which included Mr Vaz's name. This request was
reiterated by the Chairman in a letter dated 7 February 2001.
On 13 February 2001, Mr Peter Bottomley, a member of the Standards
& Privileges Committee, asked Ms Fernandes:
"MR BOTTOMLEY: So
beyond that [the calendar] you would not be able to list
the publications which would mention Keith Vaz's name which were
produced by the company pre-1996?
MS FERNANDES: Pre-1996...
MR BOTTOMLEY: Say, pre-1997, so you include 1996?
MS FERNANDES: There is a book which I wrote which
has a dedication but it has only the first name.
MR BOTTOMLEY: That is a post-1996 publication?
MS FERNANDES: No, it is 1995-96.
MR BOTTOMLEY: Beyond the dedication there are
no other publications of Mapesbury you are aware of which were
linked to Keith Vaz?
MS FERNANDES: Not as far as I am aware."
I have received no evidence that any further publications
of Mapesbury Communications Limited carried the name of Mr Vaz.
353. The question as to whether Mr Vaz was in
the habit of visiting, or indeed had ever visited, the offices
of Mapesbury Communications is clouded by the uncertainty as to
where those offices were (see paragraphs 291-304) and the extent,
if any, to which they overlapped with those of the solicitors'
practice Fernandes Vaz.
354. Mr Vaz said in evidence to the Committee
on 30 January 2001 that he had visited his wife's office "five
times in the last five years".
When I put the same point to Ms Fernandes the following exchange
"MS FILKIN: When
Mr Vaz described the times he went into your office I suppose
I had a picture in my head, oh that is quite understandable, it
was in their home and Mr Vaz would have popped in and out. Which
office would he have gone into then?
MS FERNANDES: I work from home in my firm.
MS FILKIN: Yes, I understand that.
MS FERNANDES: My solicitor's practice.
MS FILKIN: I understand that, I mean Mapesbury.
This is talking about Mapesbury.
MS FERNANDES: I do not know what he said but it
did not operate from * * *
MS FILKIN: Did he ever go into either of those
offices, either the one you have talked about at Savant House
MR PATHAN: No, never.
MS FILKIN: Or Mr Mahmoud's office?
MR PATHAN: No he never went to our offices."
"MS FILKIN: ... I
am asking another question which is if he did not go into the
Mapesbury office in your home, which office did he go into that
was Mapesbury's and when was that?
MS FERNANDES: You will have to
talk to him.
MS FILKIN: You cannot remember him going into
MR PATHAN: No, I cannot, but I was not there every
day so I cannot say that he has been there or he has not been.
He has not been when I was there."
355. Mr Vaz said in a letter dated 31 August
2001, that he had never visited 63/65 Camden High Street, London
NW1, the last registered address of Mapesbury Communications Limited.
The winding up of Mapesbury Communications Limited
356. The last annual return of Mapesbury Communications
lodged at Companies House is dated 31 October 1999. On 24 March
2001 the directors requested a voluntary strike-off of Mapesbury
Communications. On 27 June 2001 a request was received from the
Inland Revenue for the strike-off to be suspended. A letter to
this effect was sent by Companies House to the registered address
at Savant House, Camden High Street, on 28 June 2001. The suspension
took effect on 3 July 2001. The objection was withdrawn on 5 October
2001. On 9 October 2001 Companies House received a first gazette
notice for a voluntary striking off of the company. Notice appeared
in the London Gazette in the week of 15 October 2001 and winding
up was expected to be complete within four months.
357. I asked Ms Fernandes in our interview of
4 July 2001 why she had decided to wind up the company at this
juncture. She said that it had not "been trading
as such for a while as she had become more interested in her practice"
and did not know what was going on, that Mr Mahmoud had died and
that in view of the publicity it was receiving she "did
not feel it could get back on its feet". She added:
"I am fed up with it, frankly speaking. It has taken up a
huge amount of my time which is disproportionate to what it is,
which is a small company."
358. Elsewhere, in her letter of 20 April 2001
to the Chairman of the Committee, Ms Fernandes said "the
issue of dissolution has only arisen because of the disproportionate
amount of time I have spent on these [enquiry] matters
and a quarter of the company's assets have been spent on professional
advice to assist the enquiry".
359. Ms Fernandes told me on 4 July 2001 that
the winding up of the company was "very close to being
completed" and that she expected it to be finalised within
the next month or six weeks.
360. Ms Fernandes's claim of 4 July 2001 that
the winding up of the company was proceeding smoothly is contradicted
by the information supplied by Companies House, who had written
to the registered offices of the company on 28 June telling them
that an objection had been lodged. Even allowing for time for
transmission of the information it would be odd if the directors
were not aware of the stay on 4 July 2001.
361. Even more surprising, perhaps, is that when
I told Ms Fernandes in my letter of 10 September 2001 that I understood
there had been a stay placed on the winding up of Mapesbury Communications
Limited and she passed those parts of my letter that dealt with
the company to Mr Pathan, he replied on 12 October 2001:
"I have today
spoken to the Accountants and they have confirmed that there is
no stay on the winding up process of the company, and the process
is being dealt with in a professional manner. None of the directors
are involved in the process it is being handled directly by accountants".
He provided no information about the discrepancy
in the information provided on 4 July or asked for in my letter
of 10 September.
362. The company filed its last set of accounts
within the timescale then legally required and is not obliged
to file any more information for the period up to its winding
363. Ms Fernandes has not explained the discrepancy
between her account of the progress of the winding up of the company
and the information I have received from Companies House.
Mapesbury Communications Limited and the Asian
364. Mr Vaz has registered his interest as honorary,
unremunerated, President of the Asian Business Network. The entry
appears in the Registers of 1999 and 2000.
365. I received some information suggesting that
Mr Vaz was actively involved in fund-raising for the Network.
There would be nothing improper in this provided that any benefit
or sponsorship he received in return was registered and declared,
as appropriate, and that parliamentary facilities were not used
for that purpose.
366. Mr Vyan Gresty, husband of Mrs Rita Gresty,
who was Ms Fernandes's practice manager in her law firm from August
1998 to May 2000, told me on 15 February 2001 that his wife was
responsible for liaison with "the various organisations
with which the Vaz family were associated, including the Asian
Business Network and Mapesbury". He explained that contact
with the Network was effected through Mr Golding at Coleridge
House, 4/5 Coleridge Gardens, London NW1, that Mr Pathan was also
a contact and that he himself had been engaged to play the piano
at a function organised by the Network at the Connaught Rooms
on 18 February 1998 which was chaired by Mr Vaz and at which Ms
Fernandes was a main speaker.
367. Mrs Williams, a volunteer at Mr Vaz's constituency
office from April 1999 until January 2000, told me about Mr Vaz's
involvement, and that of his staff, in the Into Leadership Conference,
held at the New Connaught Rooms under the auspices of the Network
on 23 June 1999. In our telephone conversation of 23 July 2001
she told me how "Mr Vaz gave everyone a quick guide round
the building where everyone was going to be positioned and then
gave a last minute briefing as to their responsibilities. Mr Pathan
had overall responsibility as he had made the arrangements for
the conference, booked the rooms and had taken the cheques".
368. Mrs Williams also said there were other
conferences organised by the Leicester office. On one occasion
she had referred to a conference as "being organised by
Mr Vaz" and had been told by one of the workers in Mr
Vaz's London office that "Mr Vaz could get into trouble
if he were seen to be organising conferences".
369. Mrs Williams did say that work for the Asian
Business Network was carried on there, including the organisation
of a conference (or conferences) and the processing of cheques
received in respect of these, and that one of the people who did
this work was a former employee, and a director, of Mapesbury
Communications Limited, Mr Pathan.
370. The only other hard piece of information
about where the work of Mapesbury Communications Limited was done
comes in the accounts for 1996-97 which gave a cost of £1,012
for moving offices.
371. The information provided by Mrs Williams
suggests that work for the Asian Business network was carried
out, certainly in and around June 1999, from Mr Vaz's constituency
office in Leicester by Mr Pathan who, on the evidence of the list
of office phone numbers dated 18 August 1999 was Mr Vaz's 'Director
of Events and Communications'. Mrs Williams had heard the name
Mapesbury mentioned but I have received no evidence that Mapesbury
Communications was involved in this work for the Asian Business
Network, although Mr Pathan had been a director of the company
since April 1999.
372. The journalists Mr Chris Hastings and Mr
Rajeev Syal told me in February 2001 that until that month BT
Directory Inquiries had been giving the address of the Network
as 70a Teignmouth Road, which had been the London address of Mr
Vaz and Ms Fernandes from 1993 until early 1997. On 5 June they
provided me with a print-out from the website 192.com which still
showed the Association as sited at 70a Teignmouth Road. When the
print-out arrived in the office the number 70a, though still legible,
was too faint to show up on a photocopy, so I overwrote it by
hand before sending a copy to Mr Vaz.
373. The journalists alleged that Mr Vaz had
been using House of Commons facilities to raise support for the
Into Leadership Conference and that the contact telephone number
given on the brochure promoting the Into Leadership Conference
was in Mr Vaz's parliamentary office in Norman Shaw North. They
said that Mr Vaz had actively solicited support from a number
of companies and that some had confirmed that the resulting cheques
had been made out to "a Mr David Barnes acting on behalf
of the Asian Business Network".
374. I asked Mr Vaz a number of questions about
his involvement with the Asian Business Network in general, with
the Into Leadership Conference in particular, about the telephone
numbers and about the involvement of Mr Mohammed Pathan in the
Network and conference. I have discussed Mr Pathan's connections
with Mr Vaz, and with Mapesbury Communications Limited, in paragraphs
375. On the matter of the website 192.com entry,
Mr Vaz wrote on 28 September 2001 "The information from
192.com is four years out of date. They [the company] informed
my assistant that information is acquired from a number
of sources and informed her that they only change information
when they get new information". In his letters of 3 and
18 November Mr Vaz told me that 192.com was not, as I had described
it, a BT web-site. On 18 November he wrote "192.com is
a separate company which gathers information from a variety of
sources. Even if it is not accurate it is not altered until someone
writes to correct it, which has now happened".
376. 192.com is, under whatever auspices, an
information website open to the public and until June 2001 it
listed the address of the Asian Business Network as being 70a
Teignmouth Road. Until February 2001, according to Mr Hastings
and Mr Syal, the same information was carried on Directory Inquiries.
377. The current address of the Asian Business
Network, confirmed by the latest version of BT.com and by Mr Vaz
himself, is Coleridge House, 4/5 Coleridge Gardens, the address
given by Mrs Gresty for the meeting attended by herself and Mr
Pathan in October 1998 and by Mr Gresty as the address from which
Mr David Golding would pick up post for the Network.
378. In my letter of 19 October I asked Mr Vaz
a number of specific questions about his involvement with the
Asian Business Network. I asked him to let me know:
with the Network and why, if he was not actively involved in its
work, it should be registered at his home address;
whether he had an additional telephone
line installed in his office at Norman Shaw North, and if so for
whether and over what period he was actively
involved in seeking contributions to the Asian Business Network;
to whom any resulting cheques were made
out, who collected them and into which account they were paid;
at which bank; and who were the authorised signatories on the
379. To these questions Mr Vaz replied (on 3
"I have worked with
a number of Black and Asian organisations over a number of years.
When I was first elected, along with the late Bernie Grant MP
and Diane Abbott MP and the late Lord Pitt we asked the then Serjeant
at Arms for permission to have an extra room and passes to enable
the employees and volunteers of the Black Caucus to work from
The advice that has always been given is that
if any space is being provided that the public purse should not
bear any cost. As I was chairing the Conference I agreed that
access should be given to my office (I had offices elsewhere)
for the organisation provided they had their own telephone line
and paid their own bill and that they did not use House of Commons
facilities. I had checked the propriety of this with the House
of Commons authorities on a number of occasions.
I cannot identify a precise period when I wrote
letters in support of the Asian Business Network, but I would
have treated them in the same way as any other organisation. As
with any organisation any request for support would have been
payable to the organisation and sent to them at their offices
and they would be responsible for financial management. I would
not consider it proper to ask them for any financial information
in the way you suggest. They would regard it as presumptuous if
asked for details of their bank and bank accounts".
380. I also put to Mr Vaz on 19 October a number
of questions arising out of what I had been told about the Network
and the Into Leadership Conference.
381. On the subject of Mr Pathan I put it to
Mr Vaz that I had been told that Mr Pathan had booked the event
whether Mr Pathan
was responsible for organising the Into Leadership Conference
and if so whether this was on his instructions or with his authority;
whether he was aware, when Mr Pathan
was working for him, of his involvement with either Mapesbury
Communications or the Asian Business Network.
382. Mr Vaz replied on 3 November that:
On 18 November he said that I had "answered
your [my] own question about who booked the venue".
383. I also asked Mr Vaz on 26 October who collected
the cheques for the Into Leadership event, into which account
they were paid and if his office was used to receive and process
these cheques and how much was raised by the event. To
this Mr Vaz replied "The organisation dealt with all financial
matters. My office was not used in this way and I would have been
very concerned if it had".
384. I further asked what Mr Vaz knew about Coleridge
House and if he had attended meetings there and he replied that
it was the office of the Asian Business Network and that he had
attended one AGM there, as far as he could remember.
385. To my questions as to whether he knew a
Mr David Barnes [suggested to me by Mr Hastings and Mr Syal as
having received cheques for the Into Leadership Conference] or
a Mr David Golding [said by Mrs Gresty to have had an accommodation
address in Coleridge House] Mr Vaz replied:
"I know two persons
called David Barnes; one has been Assistant private secretary
to successive Immigration Ministers and the other has been involved
in media marketing...I know two persons called David Golding one
who was at University with me, he is a lawyer in a City firm and
the other is a businessman".
386. To my question "Whether you have
organised any other events for the Asian Business Network since
May 1997 and if so please list them" Mr Vaz replied "I
have attended many events [my question said 'organised' not
'attended'] over the last fourteen years [my question said
'since 1997']. I cannot give you a list of each organisation's
387. I have considered above (paragraphs 271-275)
the role of Mr Pathan in Mr Vaz's Leicester office. Particularly
in the light of the evasiveness displayed by Mr Pathan about his
role both in Mr Vaz's office and in the Into Leadership Conference
it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mr Pathan was acting on
behalf of Mr Vaz in respect of the Conference or that Mr Vaz's
office facilities were being used for the benefit of the Asian
388. In the course of my previous inquiry into
allegations that Mr Sarosh Zaiwalla had provided support for Mr
Vaz which he had not registered, I eventually established that
Mr Zaiwalla's office cashbook showed a payment (in September 1994)
described as being to "Wildberry (K Vaz calendar)."
389. Wildberry, a company whose principal business
activities were described as "paper and board products"
was incorporated in 1993 and dissolved in 1997. The directors
were Mrs Merlyn Vaz (Mr Vaz's mother) and Paul John Townsend (Mr
390. Both Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes expressed ignorance
of Wildberry. During Mr Vaz's evidence to the Standards and Privileges
Committee the following exchange took place:
"MR BOTTOMLEY: Returning
to the advertisement payments, I think it is a matter of record
that this was made to a company called Wildberry?
MR VAZ: Yes.
MR BOTTOMLEY: Is it agreed that Wildberry were
the printers for Mapesbury who were doing the calendars?
MR VAZ: I do not know, I am sorry. It was such
a long time ago" (Questions 803 and
391. During her evidence it was put to Ms Fernandes
that "the payments that may have been made to or from
Wildberry Printers are not easily available" and she
replied "I do not know who Wildberry are" (Q914).
392. When I met Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan on
4 July 2001 I raised the subject of Wildberry and asked why it
was not included in the list of payments made into or out of Mapesbury.
Both Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan denied knowing anything about
the company. The exchange continued:
"MS FILKIN: I find
that very odd and I wonder if you would explain that to me because
the directors of Wildberry include your mother and brother-in-law.
MS FERNANDES: My mother?
MS FILKIN: Mother-in-law and brother-in-law.
MS FERNANDES: No, I do not know. I do not know
anything about Wildberry, to be quite honest. It certainly was
not my mother.
MS FILKIN: No, your mother-in-law and brother-in-law.
MS FERNANDES: Right.
MS FILKIN: But you have never heard them talk
MS FERNANDES: No.
MS FILKIN: You have never heard them mention it?
MS FERNANDES: No, never.
MS FILKIN: So can you tell me anything about the
relationship between Mapesbury and Wildberry?
MS FERNANDES: No".
393. Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan further told
me that they did not think that there was any way of finding out
from the Mapesbury records what Wildberry had been paid over the
years by the company. Mr Pathan added that he did not know whether
Wildberry had been used for printing in connection with any events
run by Mapesbury because Mr Mahmoud would have dealt with that.
Ms Fernandes did not know which printers had been used for
her book, saying "I used Hansard Publications which is
a company. I think they might have used their own printers because
they had the company. That is something I could maybe find out
394. Ms Fernandes wrote to me on 4 September
2001 as follows:
"On page 37 you corrected
yourself when you stated that my mother was a director of a company
called Wildberry. Mr Pathan has now obtained a copy of the relevant
documents from Companies House. I did not know who you were referring
to. I have only one brother-in-law who lives abroad and is not
a director of that company."
395. In my letter of 19 October 2001 I asked
Mr Vaz to tell me "if Paul Townsend, the former director
of Wildberry was a family connection". On 3 November
2001 Mr Vaz replied "Paul Townsend is my brother-in-law".
396. If it is the case, as he states, that Mr
Pathan only became an employee of Mapesbury in 1998 (and I have
received no contrary evidence) and if he was not associated with
the company before that (and again I have no evidence that he
was) then it could be understandable that he knew nothing about
a company with which Mapesbury Communications did business and
which had ceased to exist in 1997. That Ms Fernandes should have
no recollection of a company of which her mother-in-law and her
brother-in-law were directors is less easy to understand. Equally
surprising is the fact Mr Vaz should claim so little knowledge
of a company of which the directors were his mother and a brother-in-law,
and that he did not offer to find out. That Ms Fernandes should
say her brother-in-law was not a director is an absolute mystery
unless she used the term to exclude Mr Vaz's brother-in-law but
chose not to explain this to me.
Difficulty in obtaining information
397. In my memorandum to the Committee submitted
following the previous inquiry I explained that I had been unable
to obtain all the information I needed. In particular, Mr Vaz
had eventually refused to answer any further questions from me,
which meant that the Committee had to take a more active role
in an inquiry than is usual. The Committee reported "This
inquiry has taken far too long. If Mr Vaz and other witnesses
whom the Commissioner had asked for information had answered her
questions fully and promptly, the Commissioner would have been
able to complete her report in a much shorter time."
398. I regret that I must report again that Mr
Vaz and others from whom I sought information have failed to answer
my questions fully and promptly, despite the very welcome early
signs that more co-operation would be forthcoming this time.
399. In the letter from the Chairman to Mr Vaz
which began this inquiry, the Chairman expressed the wish that
Mr Vaz should provide to me the required details regarding the
payment by the Hinduja Foundation to Mapesbury Communications
400. When I met Mr Vaz on 21 March 2001, at the
beginning of the current inquiry, I recorded (Annex ii99) that
"Mr Vaz was friendly and helpful throughout the meeting.
He said on several occasions that he was very keen to co-operate
and to co-operate fully". My note of the subsequent meeting
on 26 March gives no hint of the difficulties to come, except
that Mr Vaz told me that his wife "wanted nothing further
to do with Mapesbury Communications and was in the process of
closing it down and he was not sure that he would be able to get
this information from her".
401. In early April 2001 Mr Vaz was taken ill
and when he returned to the House of Commons after the General
Election of June 2001 his approach to my inquiry appeared less
helpful. I also had difficulty obtaining information from the
sole shareholder and a director of Mapesbury Communications Limited,
Ms Maria Fernandes, Mr Vaz's wife, and from a former employee
and director, Mr Mohammed Pathan, who was delegated by Ms Fernandes
to answer my enquiries (see paragraphs 135-242). Mr Pathan was
described by Mr Vaz as a long-term family friend and had been
employed from the House of Commons Office Costs Allowance from
1990 to 1996 with a break in 1994.
402. I list in the succeeding paragraphs some
of the difficulties I encountered.
403. It took a long time to obtain factual information
which I needed from those who held it. As an example, in her letter
of 14 June 2001 Ms Fernandes told me that she had passed my letter
of 12 June 2001 (in itself a letter reminding her that a response
to my letter of 14 May 2001 was still outstanding) to Mr Pathan
who would be contacting my office to arrange a meeting. On 15
June 2001 I received a letter from him and my office wrote back
asking him to contact them to arrange a meeting. On 26 June 2001
I wrote to her as follows:
"You wrote to me
on 14 June in a letter which I received on 19 June to say you
would be present at the meeting with Mr Pathan if you were needed.
I wrote to you on 19 June to ask you to attend the meeting and
to tell you I had asked Mr Pathan to telephone my office to arrange
On 25 June, having had no response from Mr Pathan, nor having
any telephone number where I can contact you, I asked Mr Keith
Bennett [Mr Vaz's election agent] to
obtain a number so that the meeting can be organised.
I am now writing to suggest any of the following times for the
4 July at 10:00
4 July at 15:00
5 July at 17:00
9 July any time between 08:30 - 17:00
10 July any time between 8:30 - 16:00
Please would you or Mr Pathan contact me by return to let me know
the times you are able to come to my office to meet me. I would
also be grateful for a contact telephone number."
404. At no time was my office provided with any
means of contact other than a mobile telephone number for Mr Pathan.
That telephone was usually switched off when my office tried to
reach him. On one occasion when a letter had been returned as
'no longer at this address' my office contacted him and asked
him if they should fax it but he requested that it be posted again.
Neither was I provided with a telephone number at which I could
contact Ms Fernandes until 27 June 2001.
Lack of clarity about where responsibility lay
405. At various times the players passed my requests
for information between themselves. Thus, while at our meeting
on 21 March Mr Vaz said he was trying to find the answers to my
questions about the Dada Vaswani event from his wife, she in turn
eventually invoked Mr Pathan, suggesting that he rather than she
was the appropriate person to answer my questions. Mr Pathan in
turn provided very little of the information which I requested
and said that the only person who could have provided the information
was Mr Mahmoud (who was dead). He also denied things which were
later confirmed by Mr Vaz and claimed he knew little of matters
in which I later found he had taken a key role.
406. Sometimes transactions which should have
been routine were inordinately prolonged.
407. A meeting between myself, Ms Fernandes and
Mr Pathan took place on 4 July. This meeting, as far as I was
concerned, was at their suggestion and was intended to take the
place of their sending a written reply to the written questions
contained in my letter of 14 May 2001. I wrote to each witness
with a copy of the transcript on 10th July asking for their suggested
corrections. The ensuing sequence of events was as follows:
16 July: Mr Pathan wrote
asking for the tape recording made by the shorthand writer.
18 July: I wrote to Mr Pathan suggesting he contact
Ms Fernandes for the only copy of the tape.
23 July: Mr Pathan wrote to me saying he would contact
23 July: my secretary telephoned Ms Fernandes to
ask when her corrections would be received, to be told she was
on holiday until 1 August.
2 August: I wrote to Mr Pathan about the transcript.
2 August: Mr Pathan wrote to me saying he had left
a message with Ms Fernandes asking her to contact him on her return.
3 August: I wrote to Mr Pathan asking him to send
me the corrected transcript "by return".
6 August: Ms Fernandes wrote saying she would return
to London at the end of August.
8 August: Mr Pathan wrote about my letter of 2 August.
9 August I wrote to Ms Fernandes saying I was disappointed
not to have received her additions and corrections as I was anxious
not to delay my work.
27 August: Ms Fernandes wrote requesting deletions
from the transcript in general terms.
30 August: My secretary noted that she had been trying
to contact Mr Pathan since 1 August but that his phone was always
3 September: I wrote to Ms Fernandes asking her to
return the transcript with the corrections and deletions she sought
4 September Ms Fernandes wrote enclosing a corrected
10 September I telephoned Mr Pathan to say that if
no corrections were received by the end of the week I would assume
his corrections were included in Ms Fernandes's reply.
12 September I received a letter from Mr Pathan dated
30 August and containing his comments on the transcript.
408. It took over two months for the witnesses
to return me a corrected transcript of an interview. It is true
that these two months included the main summer holiday period,
but they began well before it.
409. Given this sequence of events, it is hard
to avoid the conclusion that Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan were deliberately
protracting the exchange.
410. I have explained how, at the beginning of
my meeting with Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan I drew their attention
to the shorthand writer and explained her role. At the beginning
of the interview Mr Pathan said "I understand that this is
a sort of casual meeting". I replied "It is not casual,
it is formal". He then said "Is it? Right". At
the end of the meeting, despite the earlier exchange, when Ms
Fernandes took exception to the shorthand writer's tape she said
"I had understood this was an informal meeting and then to
get to the end of the meeting and to discover that I had been
taped and it is for some other purpose, I do not think it is fair
to me actually as a third party". She then drew a distinction
between a 'note' and a 'transcript' in a letter dated 27 August
2001, and returned to the question of formality or informality
in her letter of 13 October 2001 to me, which she copied to the
Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee.
411. There was also disagreement about the question
of deletions from the transcript. At the end of my interview with
Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan I said:
"What I will do is
I will send you a copy and please correct it in any way you think
fit. If there is anything in it that afterwards you think "well,
I would prefer that that was not used", please suggest that
to me and if I do not need to use it to inform the Committee I
will not use it. Indeed, I can always request the Committee that
they do not use information and they do not use information publicly
if they think that there is no good reason in the public interest
to use it. What I have to warn you is that I cannot ever say what
they will think is in the public interest. I have to give them
a full, as best I can, account when I have made a decision as
to what they need to know. You are welcome to make those suggestions
to me if there is anything of that nature."
412. In her letter of 27 August 2001, Ms Fernandes
wrote "I would be grateful if all references to my legal
practice and other personal matters be deleted. If you wish to
have page references I will be happy to provide this".
On 3 September 2001, I wrote "so that I may deal accurately
with your request for deletions and corrections would you return
the copy to me showing which sentences/parts you wish to be deleted
and make any corrections which you feel are necessary; and on
4 September she did so. Nonetheless, in her letter of 13 October
2001 to me, Ms Fernandes wrote: "you said [at our
meeting] that I could request matters to be deleted from the
record... ... After I wrote to you specifically on the point you
informed me that it was a matter for the Committee to decide".
413. Another feature of this investigation has
been the nature and extent of the involvement of solicitors.
414. I asked Ms Fernandes at our meeting if [she]
"would approach your [her] clients and ask them
if you are able to confirm the payments they made to you [her],
to your legal practice". She replied "Could you
write to me? That would be helpful", and I understood
that she would do as I requested.
415. On 10 July I did indeed write to Ms Fernandes
asking her "to approach any client who is connected in
any way with the Hinduja brothers, the Hinduja businesses and
Foundation to seek their agreement to disclose to me a list of
the activities carried out for them with dates and the payment
received for each piece of work". Her response was to
ask that all references to her legal practice be deleted from
the record of our meeting.
416. I reminded Ms Fernandes in my letter of
11 October that the matter of my request to her to seek her clients'
permission to disclose information to me was outstanding from
my letter of 11 July.
417. On 13 October Ms Fernandes wrote to me that
she had consulted the Law Society about my request and at their
suggestion had taken further legal advice. She wrote "You
have given me no cogent reason or explained the relevance for
taking the unusual step of departing from my duty of confidentiality".
The reason for this request was, of course, contained in the Chairman's
letter to her of 20 March and the Standards and Privileges Committee's
order of 8 May: the Committee had required it.
418. Mr Vaz told me on 21 March that "he
was working with his wife to look at details of the [Swami
Vaswani] event" and "he hoped that she would
help him to find this information but he did not want anybody
to think he was running the company". He asked me "whether
there was any other information I required" and I said
"that he should bear in mind while the records of the
company [Mapesbury] were being scrutinised and try to draw
a line under this inquiry by providing me with full information
of any payment to him or to his wife's company which was in any
way connected with the Hinduja family or the Hinduja Foundation,
otherwise I was fearful that the allegations might surface again".
He said "he accepted this" and said "he
would do his best and that he would try to provide as complete
answers as he could". On 28 September 2001 however he
"My wife was an experienced
solicitor before I met her in 1992. She has her own practice in
which I have no involvement or role of any kind. She is a leading
specialist in immigration law, she is a member of the Council
of the Law Society and chairs its Immigration Committee. She does
not discuss her clients with me and it would be improper and in
breach of professional rules and confidentiality for her to do
so. I have never introduced potential clients to her".
Delay in replying to letters
419. Some of my letters went unanswered until
I had issued repeated reminders. It is true that my investigation
had to take place over the summer holiday period but that was
due to earlier difficulties I had had in getting answers to my
initial letter which was dated 14 May 2001. If comprehensive answers
had been provided at that point the matter might well have been
concluded in May.
420. When I did receive replies to my letters,
many of the questions contained in them went unanswered, received
oblique answers or answers referring me to previous statements
which were in themselves unhelpful. As an example, on 10 July
I wrote to Mr Pathan asking him, amongst other information, for
details of the work which the company carried out for the Asian
Business Network and the events organised for the Network. When
the reply came, in a letter dated 30 August 2001, it read "See
my reference to page 22 above". That answer read:
"You stated you believed
the company booked an event in central London on 23 June 1999.
The company did not book the event nor was it involved in it.
If you have any information to enable me to enquire further please
let me know".
421. On 26 October I asked Mr Vaz:
"Whether you have
organised any other events for the Asian Business Network
since 1997 [my emphasis], and if so please list
Mr Vaz replied on 3 November 2001:
"I have attended many events over
the last fourteen years [my emphasis]. I cannot give
you a list of each organisation's events".
He did not answer the question I had asked him.
The missing letter
422. On 13 August 2001 Mr Vaz wrote to me referring
to a previous letter from him dated 6 August 2001. On 23 August
2001 I replied that I had not received a letter from him dated
6 August 2001 and asked him to send me another copy. I repeated
this request on 27 September (saying I assumed he meant his letter
of 5 August), 11 October, 19 October, 29 October and 31 October
2001. I received a copy of this letter on 12 November 2001. It
transpired that it was not relevant to this element of the inquiry
but it would have been helpful if I could have been sent it earlier.
423. Sometimes promised information failed to
materialise, as when Mr Pathan offered to add up the total sums
paid to directors and employees and then sent me copies of the
accounts (which I already held) so that I could do it for myself.
Similarly, Ms Fernandes's statements that she had asked the accountant
to find the VAT details or that it would be easy to find out who
printed her book and where the conference in Birmingham took place,
were not followed through .
424. From time to time witnesses denied that
certain things were true which could easily be shown to be the
case. It is hard to understand why Mr Pathan should claim that
he never worked in Mr Vaz's constituency office when the telephone
list, as well as the evidence of Mrs Williams, clearly showed
that he did, or that he had booked the Connaught Rooms for a conference
for the Asian Business Network, when the Connaught Rooms record
system showed that he had (and when Mr Vaz himself confirmed it),
or why Ms Fernandes should deny that Mr Paul Townsend, a director
of the printing firm Wildberry, was a family connection of hers.
Such denials serve to undermine their credibility as witnesses.
A complete picture
425. At our meeting on 21 March 2001 Mr Vaz said
that he had always answered my questions precisely. I said I was
not arguing with that, but answering questions precisely was not
the same as giving a full picture.
426. At various points during this inquiry I
have received the impression that I was being given a literal
answer rather than the whole truth. This has then required me
to ask a follow-up question to ensure I did not misrepresent the
witness or, indeed, Mr Vaz himself. I have then been criticised
by Mr Vaz for asking the follow-up question.
427. A clear example of this literal approach
is the response to my request to Ms Fernandes (dated 10 September
2001) to explain the discrepancy between her expectation (expressed
on 4 July) that Mapesbury would be wound up within four to six
weeks and the information I had received that a stay had been
put on the winding up. I finally received a reply from Mr Pathan,
dated 12 October, saying that he had that day spoken to the accountants
and the winding up was proceeding normally. So indeed, by then,
it was: the objection had been withdrawn on 5 October.
428. Mr Pathan also persisted in telling me that
the company had not booked the Connaught Rooms for the Asian Business
Network on 23 June 1999. It may be strictly true that the company
did not book it, but I have no doubt that he himself booked it,
and if he did not book it on behalf of the company he has failed
to tell me on whose behalf he did so.
429. Other examples of this apparent evasiveness
are Mr Pathan's claim that he had never attended a meeting at
Coleridge House on behalf of Mapesbury Communications
or Ms Fernandes's statement when asked if the former director
of Wildberry Printers was her brother-in-law that "I have
only one brother-in-law and he lives abroad". These statements
are also capable of being factually accurate but nonetheless misleading,
as it would be possible that Mr Pathan attended a meeting at Coleridge
House in some other capacity (a role in respect of the Asian Business
Network, perhaps) or that Ms Fernandes had a former brother-in-law
who had indeed been a director of Wildberry or that he is Mr Vaz's
brother-in-law to whom she chooses not to refer as her
brother-in-law. Similarly, Mr Pathan's denial that he had an office
in Mr Vaz's constituency office in June 1999 or was employed there,
though contradicted by the evidence of Mrs Williams and the staff
lists, might be the literal interpretation in that he only appears
on the August telephone list with a mobile telephone number and
a fax number and that the Fees Office records do not show him
being paid through the Office Costs Allowance after 1996. In relation
to a separate complaint (see paragraph 417) Ms Fernandes's denial
that she had ever employed Mrs Matin might come into the same
category if Ms Fernandes was interpreting the term 'employed'
to mean a paid employment.
Refusal to provide information
430. On other occasions I was finally refused
an answer only after I had issued repeated requests and a great
deal of time had passed. Thus, in my letter of 10 July 2001 to
Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan I reminded them that they had undertaken
to try to provide the total amount in round numbers covered by
the entries on the list of payments into and out of Mapesbury
Communications, with dates, and the total income received by the
company in each of the years covered by the list. Throughout July
and August I issued repeated reminders (see chronology). On 30
August (in a letter received on 12 September) Mr Pathan replied:
"For the reasons
given to you it is not possible to do so without the benefit of
Mr Mahmoud's help. I would not like to guess and give you an inaccurate
431. On 13 September I asked Mr Pathan for an
estimate if he could not provide exact figures. On 27 September
2001 he wrote "see above answer" [this read "I
am still trying to work out an answer by studying the published
accounts, but as you will appreciate it is extremely difficult
and I doubt this can be done"], and on 4 October , he
referred me to his letter of 27 September 2001. On 8 October I
wrote saying if he could not give me an estimate I would be grateful
for confirmation in writing. On 12 October 2001 he wrote:
"You are asking me
to guess the figures. We cannot do so. If the guess turns out
to be wrong we will be accused of giving misleading information.
The information we have is in the published accounts. Only Mr
Mahmoud would be able to give individual totals. As you have said
in your letter of 8 October 2001 I have concluded that we cannot
provide this estimate."
Conflicts of evidence
432. When information was forthcoming
it contained a number of discrepancies. In some cases there was
a direct conflict of evidence. These include:
the role of Mr
Vaz in the company (see paragraphs 346-355);
the location of the work (see paragraphs
the role of Mr Pathan in Mapesbury (see
the role of Mr Pathan in Mr Vaz's office
(see paragraphs 271-275);
the position of Mr Vaz in relation to
the Asian Business Network (see paragraphs 364-387).
Mr Vaz and Mapesbury
433. There is a conflict of evidence about the
extent to which Mr Vaz remained involved with the affairs of the
company after 1996. He and Ms Fernandes deny any involvement but
Mrs Gresty claims that, for instance, he prepared the guest list
for the 'Work Permits for Chefs' conference.
434. Although Mr Vaz told me that he had had
no dealings with Mapesbury Communications since the calendar project
failed, it was a company that he had set up originally, his wife
continued as a director, his mother took over from his late mother-in-law
as secretary and a member of his constituency staff became another
director. I find his claim in vague terms that the company was
reconstituted with new officers disingenuous.
435. During this second inquiry very few hard
facts about Mapesbury Communications have emerged beyond what
I had already established from published sources (see paragraphs
121-134). In the absence of detailed records (which I was told
only Mr Mahmoud could have produced), Ms Fernandes and Mr Pathan
were unable to supply even the approximate figures I had requested
which might have enabled me to establish whether the recorded
outgoings of the company equalled its income or whether there
was any unexplained discrepancy which could have funded Mr Vaz
or his office. There are very few individual payments at all on
which a figure can be put except for the year 1996-97: the only
ones which have emerged are the payment of £3,509.83 to Acacia
Holdings in respect of rent up to September 2001 and the £1,196.10
in respect of the Dada Vaswani event.
436. It has proved impossible to establish what
payments were made into Mapesbury Communications and from what
source. It has proved equally impossible to establish how much
was paid out and to whom. This must therefore call into question
the list provided to the first inquiry by Ms Fernandes. However,
I have found no evidence that money was channelled through Mapesbury
Communications to support Mr Vaz's parliamentary office.
437. If the evidence of Mr Vaz, Ms Fernandes
and Mr Pathan is accepted, Mapesbury Communications Limited:
was a company
set up for one purpose (receiving Mr Vaz's extra-parliamentary
income to support his work with the Asian community);
was taken up for another purpose (publishing
and public relations) as a side line by a lawyer (Ms Fernandes)
who subsequently lost interest but remained the sole shareholder
and a director;
fell into disuse when the man who was
most actively involved (Mr Mahmoud) died (since when the records
have disappeared), and an ambitious former employee and subsequently
a director decided that there was no future in the company;
had no connection with the Asian Business
Network other than through personnel;
provided no benefit to Mr Vaz or his
438. On the other hand, Mr and Mrs Gresty and
Mrs Williams were persuasive witnesses. Their credibility was
supported by the records of the New Connaught Rooms, letters from
Ms Fernandes to Mr Gresty and Mr Vaz's staff list. The cumulative
effect of the delays and failures in providing information makes
it hard to avoid the impression of deliberate obfuscation on Mr
112 eg Annex i15, p 26, Annex ii74. Back
HC (2000-01) 314, Q949. Back
HC (2000-01) 314, Q905. Back
HC (2000-01) 314, Q812. Back
HC (2000-01) 314, Q935. Back
eg Annex i26, Annex ii65. Back
Annex i15, p 24. Back
Which reads "On the conference, please see paragraph 110
above concerning Rita Gresty." Paragraph 110 in turn reads
"Your letter of 19th October raises further questions
which I will endeavour to answer as fully as I can, although I
have not received all the documentation that you have. It is
clearly impossible for me to comment on what I have not seen." Back
HC (2000-01) 314, QQ 319-20. Back
HC (2000-01) 314, Appendix 31, Annex A. Back
Ibid Appendix 31, Annex B. Back
HC (2000-01) 314, Appendix 35. Back
Annex i15, p 25. Back
HC (2000-01) 314, Q311. Back
HC (2000-01) 314, Q313. Back
Ibid Q351. Back
Ibid Q353. Back
HC (2000-01) 314, Q311. Back
Annex i15, p 37. Back