Fayed says leading Tory took pounds 30,000 bribe

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The Independent Online
Mohamed al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods whose revelations of bribe-taking have brought down a swath of Conservative MPs led by Neil Hamilton, yesterday made new allegations of Tory sleaze.

A senior Conservative politician, the former chairman of a powerful Commons select committee, received pounds 30,000 in bribes, according to evidence in his possession, he said.

The evidence, detailed in a sworn affidavit by a former assistant to a well-known lawyer in London, will cause anguish within the Tory party, which is hoping to have seen the last of the cash-for-questions controversy with publication of the Downey report last week. Mr al-Fayed said the woman received no payment and had come forward voluntarily, but had been so shocked by what she had seen that she was prepared to speak out.

The woman had told how on three occasions she witnessed the former committee chairman visit the office and receive pounds 10,000 in cash and cheques. The money was supplied by a wealthy Arab client of the lawyer. The lawyer's office contained large amounts of cash which she believed was used to pay off politicians and associates of the Arab.

Another time, she alleges, she was shown pounds 1m belonging to the same Arab client. It was contained in a holdall and, according to her affidavit, was tipped on the floor and she was invited "to roll in it".

Her evidence suggests the problem of corruption in public life goes much deeper than previously supposed. Until now, many commentators, especially supporters of the disgraced former MPs Neil Hamilton, Tim Smith and Jonathan Aitken, have pointed to the fact that the row centred on payments by Mr al-Fayed. Without him, they argue, there would have been no corruption and he should himself be censured for bribing politicians.

These criticisms have so incensed Mr al-Fayed he is promising fresh allegations not involving payments by him. He said yesterday that, following the prominence given to his role in exposing sleaze, he had been approached about the woman's claim and had asked a commissioner of oaths to take an affidavit from her. This had been obtained and what she had said had shocked and appalled him.

He said he was incensed with the former committee chairman because he "is someone who attacked me and I could never work out what he had against me. Now I know that, like so many others, he was being paid".

Tory party chiefs have decided that Neil Hamilton cannot play any further role in Conservative politics. A senior Central Office source said last night: "It is unlikely that he will rejoin the Conservative Party."

A similar view is being taken of Sir Michael Grylls, ex-MP for Surrey North-West, Michael Brown, defeated at Brigg and Cleethorpes, Sir Andrew Bowden, former MP for Brighton Kemptown, and Tim Smith, who resigned Beaconsfield. Central Office chiefs are being carefulhow they express themselves because some of the former MPs may wish to try to clear themselves in hearings before theStandards and Privileges Committee. But there is no doubting their resolve to make a clean sweep of those who brought the party into disrepute.

Reforms being drafted by Lord Parkinson will be "designed to ensure that this sort of thing will not happen again, and if it does, it will be dealt with speedily. The public are not going to put up with what they perceive as financial misconduct."

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