Fayed agrees pounds 2m to end Rowland feud

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THE LAST battle in the 14-year rivalry between the late Tiny Rowland and Mohamed al-Fayed ended yesterday with the owner of Harrods agreeing to pay damages over the breaking open of Mr Rowland's safe deposit box, which was kept in the store's vaults.

It was a posthumous victory for the tycoon, who died aged 80 on 24 July this year, but a vindication of the decision by his widow, Josephine, to pursue the High Court action against Mr Fayed after the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that there was no criminal case.

Under the settlement, announced on the ninth day of the hearing in London, Mr Fayed and three co-defendants agreed to pay damages and costs estimated at pounds 2m.

Counsel for Mrs Rowland, Christopher Moger QC, alleged that the safety box was opened several times as part of Mr Fayed's campaign to overturn a Department of Trade and Industry report on his takeover of Harrods in1985 in which he was exposed as a "liar and a fraud". Mr Rowland never forgave Mr Fayed for his pounds 615m deal to buy the store and demanded the DTI inquiry into the takeover.

Documents from the deposit box were used by Mr Fayed in attempts to persuade Mr Rowland to sign a statement admitting that he bribed the then DTI minister, Michael Howard, into appointing inspectors to carry out the Harrods inquiry. The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee subsequently rejected Mr Fayed's allegations against Mr Howard.

Mr Fayed has always denied ordering his staff to break into the box, although he admitted seeing documents from it, but he also agreed to pay for missing items including jewels and rare coins said to be worth pounds 200,000.

A spokesman for Mr Fayed said later that he welcomed the opportunity to "draw a line under a bitter vendetta". A statement from Harrods said Mr Fayed's decision to bring the proceedings to an end "is made with considerable regret. Allegations of criminal behaviour are categorically denied."

The Rowland family's legal adviser, Anthony Fincham, said: "I am naturally very pleased that Mr Fayed has finally been driven to admit the entirety of Mr Rowland's claim."

The settlement was against Mr Fayed and three men involved in opening the box in 1995 - his personal secretary, Mark Griffiths, his director of security, former detective chief superintendent John Macnamara, and his chief bodyguard, Paul Handley-Greaves.

Proceedings against former security director Robert Loftus, whom Mr Fayed blamed for the break-ins, were also dismissed by agreement today.