Fayed offered me pounds 10m to lie to MPs' committee, says Tiny Rowland

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The Independent Online
Tiny Rowland claims Mohamed Al Fayed offered him pounds 10m to lie to a Parliamentary committee. Michael Streeter, Legal Affairs Correspondent, recounts the latest twist in the long-running feud between the two men.

Even by the standards of the long-running war between Mr Rowland and Mr Fayed, the allegations are startling. In High Court writs Mr Rowland claims that the Harrods boss offered him a pounds 10m bribe to lie to the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges.

The former head of Lonrho also alleges that the Harrods owner was prepared to hand him ownership of exclusive shirtmakers Turnbull & Asser, and tried to blackmail him by promising to return reportedly damaging documents about him if Mr Rowland gave the false evidence.

At the time, Mr Fayed was alleging that the former cabinet minister Michael Howard had accepted a payment of pounds 1m or pounds 1.5m to start a Department of Trade and Industry inquiry into the Egyptian businessman's takeover of Harrods. The claims were firmly dismissed by the committee in March.

The bribery allegations, "categorically" denied yesterday by Mr Fayed, come just after he withdrew a libel action over a Vanity Fair magazine article which accused him of racial and sexual harassment.

The new claims are contained in a civil action brought by Mr Rowland claiming that Mr Fayed and five other people broke into his safety deposit box at the Knightsbridge store in December 1995, allegations first made by the former MP, Neil Hamilton, in October.

In a series of writs lodged with the High Court, it is said that the box was opened to search for material which could be used to put pressure on Mr Rowland to back Mr Fayed's allegation against Mr Howard. The box apparently contained documents and audio tapes, together with jewels and other valuables.

The writ against Mr Fayed alleges that while he was present two of his staff went through the contents of the box and photocopied some of the documents.

More documents were copied, and the tapes removed for copying, after the box was again broken into the following evening. The tapes were replaced after a third break-in. Some of the valuables were "stolen", it is alleged.

The writs are against Mr Fayed, his assistant Mark Griffiths, his director of security John Macnamara, his bodyguard Paul Handley-Greaves, senior security manager John Allen, and the safe deposits manager, Colin Dalman.

Mr Rowland alleges that they conspired together, and with Nancy Bush and Robert Loftus, wrongfully to interfere with his goods by committing trespass and/or wrongful conversion; to induce a breach of the hire contract relating to the box, and to infringe his copyright in letters and recordings.

Mr Rowland claims that before the break-in a series of letters from Mr Al Fayed and his staff had - vainly - tried to persuade him to give false evidence.

The attempts to buy the retired tycoon's evidence came later, according to the writs.

In one it is stated that during a lunch at Harrods in about March 1996, "the defendant claimed he had information and/or documents damaging to the plaintiff, showed him a brown envelope which he claimed contained such material, and told him he could have the contents of the envelope, together with ownership of Turnbull & Asser ... and a cash payment of pounds 10m if he gave evidence to the aforesaid select committee".

Mr Rowland is seeking damages, the return of any property in the defendants' possession, and an injunction to prevent unauthorised copying of the letters and tapes.

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