Exclusive: QC fuelled Mates campaign: Mates says Nadir's counsel told him authorities had been acting oppressively and illegally

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The Independent Online
ANTHONY SCRIVENER QC, a former chairman of the Bar Council and Asil Nadir's defence counsel, was the driving force behind Michael Mates's allegations of Serious Fraud Office impropriety.

Mr Mates told the Independent last night that he had pursued his campaign to the point of sacrificing his job as a Northern Ireland minister because Mr Scrivener had alleged that the authorities had been acting in a way that was 'unjustified, oppressive and on occasions illegal'.

He also said that confidential claims he had made to Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney General, about a security services plot to undermine the economy of northern Cyprus had been leaked to a Sunday newspaper 'to destabilise me - just as somebody leaked my letter to the Attorney to make my position impossible.'

Mr Mates indicated that he knew the source of that leak, which led directly to last week's resignation.

Meanwhile, Sir Nicholas added fuel to Mr Mates's concerns by, in effect, censuring the SFO. He made it known at Westminster that he deplored some of the advance media tip-offs about its raids and arrests, claiming some of the seconded lawyers and accountants did not appear to have the same esprit de corps as permanent SFO staff.

He is expected to order the SFO to put a stop to such leaks - implying a presumption that the office had been guilty as charged by Mr Mates. Last night George Staple, the SFO director, issued a notice reminding staff: 'Unguarded words damage the reputation of us all.' His note added there was no evidence they had done anything wrong.

It emerged last night that Peter Lloyd, a Home Office minister, was one of seven MPs who raised Nadir's complaints, on behalf of a constituent, with Sir Nicholas. He joins Mr Mates, Michael Heseltine, and Peter Brooke, leaving three unknown.

The involvement of Mr Scrivener in the Mates campaign is bound to add weight to cross-Commons demands for an independent inquiry into growing allegations of SFO malpractice, and may defuse suggestions that Mr Mates had been manipulated by Nadir's public relations advisers.

Mr Mates said that no one was 'pulling my strings'. He had first raised the issues when a backbencher and had later pursued them when Nadir's lawyers had made a complaint to him about 'improper conduct' by the SFO. He said nothing had been done by him without Mr Scrivener's approval.

The barrister's complaints against SFO activities were later confirmed by a dossier of correspondence and minutes of conversations between Mr Mates and Sir Nicholas.

An official note of a meeting between the two 10 May, said: 'Mr Mates had received various overtures from Tony Scrivener QC since his December meeting with the Attorney General, to the effect that 'something has got to be done' and considered that only the Attorney General had the necessary locus.'

Mr Mates said last night: 'He wrote to the Attorney making some of these complaints and got replies. But at the same time he said, 'This must be followed up another way, because I, Scrivener, will only get the answer at the end of the day in court'.

'This has been the Attorney's position, this is the legal position, but if you go on and on depriving a man of his rights, taking away his papers, looking at privileged documents you're not entitled to, arresting him so many times that it becomes at the very least oppressive, what use is the remedy that at the end of the day you will look at all this?

'It was going on all of the time and more and more was being done that was at the very least improper.'

However, when it was put to Mr Mates on Channel Four News last night that Mr Scrivener was counsel for Nadir, and, therefore, an interested party, he said: 'He's a man of impeccable reputation and unimpeachable correctness.'

The Independent asked Mr Mates why the complaints had not been put to the trial judge, Mr Justice Tucker. He went silent, and then said: 'You put me in an impossible position.' Mr Scrivener would only say last night: 'I wrote to the Attorney General expressing concerns about the way the case was being handled. I got a reply.' As for the correspondence published by Sir Nicholas last night, Mr Mates said it showed that the SFO had misled the Attorney.

In a letter dated 15 February, Sir Nicholas told Mr Mates there had been no improper collusion between the Inland Revenue and the SFO leading to the prosecution of Nadir - although it emerged yesterday that a senior tax officer had passed information to the Stock Exchange which, in turn, instigated the SFO investigation.

Mr Mates said: 'I don't think the Attorney was aware that he'd been misled and, therefore, I don't blame him. If you are a minister and officials come to you with advice and facts, you trust them and you act on that.

'If they've made a mistake and you pass on that mistake to a member of Parliament as I have done in my ministerial career, you write and say, 'I'm very sorry, it is my fault but there is a misunderstanding, a

mistake'.'

He wanted an independent lawyer to examine the correspondence, and the conduct of the SFO, and make a report. 'If he says I've been a gullible fool, I will pack my tent and go.'

He emphasised he had no intention of giving up his campaign. 'If I give up, what will people say then? The whole truth will come out, but it may be some time coming.'

(Photograph omitted)

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