Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report


(v)   Complaint against Mr Vaz alleging that he employed an illegal immigrant, Mrs Mary Matin, and held her passport in his constituency office as a means of exerting improper influence over her

799.  Whether Mrs Matin is, or has been, an illegal immigrant at any time is not a matter for me. On the other hand, if Mr Vaz used his position as a Member of Parliament to make representations to officials and Ministers about Mrs Matin's immigration status, and in return she provided domestic or other assistance to Mr and Mrs Vaz at a reduced rate, or free, Mr Vaz might be considered to have obtained a registrable benefit.

800.  The information provided to me about whether Mr Vaz employed Mrs Matin is contradictory.

801.  Mrs Gresty says that Mrs Matin received a wage from Mr and Mrs Vaz. But I have been provided with no hard information which supports Mrs Gresty's statement. Mrs Matin and Mr and Mrs Vaz deny that they were in an employer-employee relationship at any time. Mr Vaz described Mrs Matin as a friend of the family.

802.  In attempting to resolve this conflict of evidence, I am bound to take account of the fact that, as first-hand observers over a considerable period, Mr and Mrs Gresty have attested to Mrs Matin's employment by Mr Vaz and Ms Fernandes, both at their home and in Ms Fernandes's office. In my view, Mr and Mrs Gresty were credible witnesses. They impressed me as truthful and without malicious motivation. Their accounts are supported by two letters signed by Ms Fernandes and referring to Mrs Matin as follows:

803.  By contrast, Ms Fernandes inaccurately denied that Fernandes Vaz had told the Immigration Service that they were representing Mrs Matin.

804.  From the information I have received it is my assessment that, whether she was paid or not, Mrs Matin devoted considerable time to assisting Mr and Mrs Vaz by performing various domestic tasks and by helping out in Ms Fernandes's office. Nor is it in dispute that Mr Vaz helped Mrs Matin with her immigration affairs by making representations on her behalf to Home Office Ministers and the Immigration Service. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, if Mrs Matin was not paid for her services, or if she was paid an unusually low wage, it was the hope of having her immigration status satisfactorily resolved which tied her to the Vaz household.

805.  Mr Vaz has not responded to my questions as to whether he, at any time, held Mrs Matin's passport and, if so, for what purpose.

806.  Similarly, I have not been able to conclude my enquiries as to whether there was an employment relationship between Mr and Mrs Vaz and Mrs Matin, and hence whether any declaration on Mr Vaz's part was necessary when he made his representations to civil servants and Ministers on Mrs Matin's behalf about her immigration status.

Inquiries incomplete

(vi)   Complaint against Mr Vaz that he inappropriately intervened in a criminal investigation by the Intervention Board and that he failed to declare to a civil servant an interest in a company under investigation by the Board

807.  Mr Peene was a civil servant who, in March 1999, was engaged in an anti-fraud inquiry for the Intervention Board into a company in which Mr Peene alleged Mr Vaz had an interest. Mr Peene says that during a meeting about his personal matters at Mr Vaz's constituency office, Mr Vaz raised this anti-fraud inquiry with him.

808.  Immediately after the meeting Mr Peene reported to his superiors Mr Vaz's enquiry about this highly confidential matter. Mr Peene's action in this respect has been confirmed to me by the Intervention Board. Mr Peene says that his wife was present at the meeting with Mr Vaz and confirms that Mr Vaz raised this matter with Mr Peene.

809.  Mr Vaz denies both that he had any connection with the company under investigation and that he raised the anti-fraud inquiry with Mr Peene. Mr Vaz says it was Mr Peene who broached the matter of the inquiry with him during the period when he was helping Mr Peene as a constituent. Mr Vaz's case file, which I have checked, does not record this.

810.  I have no reason to doubt Mr Peene's account of what was raised at the meeting but I have been provided with no information which demonstrates that Mr Vaz had a financial, or other, link with the company under investigation by the Intervention Board in 1999.

811.  I have, however, been most concerned at Mr Vaz's attempts to undermine Mr Peene's credibility rather than to deal with the allegations by providing me with the facts.

812.  I regard Mr Vaz's statement that he did not understand Mr Peene's complaint, which in my view Mr Peene had stated with clarity, as disingenuous.

Complaint not upheld

(vii)   Allegation that Mr Vaz failed to register a remunerated directorship with General Mediterranean Holding or its subsidiary

813.  Mr Vaz says that in 1999 he was offered, and accepted, a non-executive directorship of General Mediterranean Holding (UK) Ltd at an annual fee of $20,000. Mr Vaz made a Register entry to that effect in a letter dated 28 April 1999. That entry did not, however, appear in any regular updated printout of the Register since he withdrew it on 19 May 1999, seven days before the next print-out was published. Mr Vaz's explanation to the then Registrar for this action was that he had resigned from the directorship before receiving any remuneration from, or participating in a board meeting of, the company.

814.  The information provided to me by Mr Vaz concerning the timing of the offer to him in 1999, and his acceptance of the directorship was confirmed by the company secretary.

815.  The only documentary information provided to me about this appointment is an Annual Report and Accounts of the company for the year to 31 December 1998, published after 1 July 1999, which records Mr Vaz as having been a director during 1998 (ie well before Mr Vaz says he was offered a place on the board). Mr Vaz says this listing was the result of an error. I also obtained a Twenty Years commemorative company brochure for General Mediterranean Holding Group covering the period 1979-1999, which also lists Mr Vaz as a non-executive director. I have asked for board minutes, letters of appointment, invoices for these printed reports or notification documents but neither Mr Vaz nor the company has provided them.

816.  Two former employees of the company, Mr Kennady and Mr Sackville, say Mr Vaz was paid by the company. I found Mr Kennady and Mr Sackville credible witnesses on this matter. Both independently said that others in the company with information about payments to Mr Vaz would be, or were, afraid to speak out. I wished to interview Mr Auchi, the Chairman of General Mediterranean Holding, to hear his account first-hand, but he declined to see me.

817.  It is a matter of surprise and concern that General Mediterranean Holding, a large group with many distinguished non-executive directors on its group board or on the boards of subsidiaries, should be unable or unwilling either to provide documentary information to settle this conflict of evidence or adequately to explain how Mr Vaz's name appeared in company publications as a non-executive director at times when they say this was not the case. This is most unsatisfactory.

Inquiries incomplete

(viii)  Complaint alleging that Mr Vaz failed to register a donation from a company (Caparo) owned by Lord Paul

818.  In 1993 Mr Vaz failed to register the first donation of £3,000 to his office from Lord Paul (Caparo) within the time allowed by the rules. His entry in 1994 was 19 months late. Mr Vaz's initial explanation, namely that no Register was published in 1994, was both inaccurate and spurious. He was under a duty to register the donation within 28 days; it would then have appeared in the next updated Register printout. His failure to do so meant that his financial relationship with Lord Paul remained concealed for over a year and a half.

819.  In 1994 Mr Vaz was also late in registering the second donation of £8,777, but on that occasion only by a few weeks. Mr Vaz described these two donations as, in effect, a single gift made in two instalments. Given the long gap between the payments, and the information in the schedule provided by Lord Paul, I do not accept this explanation. I regard it as disingenuous. At the very least Mr Vaz should have sought advice on the matter. He did not do so.

Complaint upheld

171   In Ms Fernandes's letter to Mr Gresty dated 24 May 2001. Back

172   Ibid Annex V15A. Back

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