Government agency read Nadir's mail

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ASIL NADIR'S mail was secretly intercepted and read by an unknown government agency during the investigation into the collapse of Polly Peck International, a letter released by Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney General, disclosed yesterday, writes Steve Boggan.

Correspondence published by Sir Nicholas in the wake of Michael Mates's dramatic resignation speech on Tuesday confirms for the first time that a warrant authorising the interceptions was signed by a minister, probably the Home Secretary.

The documents released by the Government, most of which were heavily censored, reveal a complex web involving allegations against government agencies, the Serious Fraud Office, the Inland Revenue and the security services.

Sir Nicholas wrote to Mr Mates, the former Northern Ireland security minister, saying the 'prosecution' - the Serious Fraud Office - did not initiate the interceptions. The Home Office last night refused to say who applied for the warrant or whether it was signed by Kenneth Clarke, the former Home Secretary, his predecessor, Kenneth Baker, or another Secretary of State. Under the Interception of Communications Act, the minister in charge of the relevant government department may authorise interceptions. If, for example, MI6, the foreign security agency, requested an interception, the Foreign Secretary would be required to approve it.

Nadir has claimed in the past that his mail was being opened and read. Papers released yesterday show Mr Mates met Sir Nicholas on 22 December 1992 to complain about the handling of the prosecution and passed on Nadir's concerns.

In a letter dated 15 February 1993, Sir Nicholas wrote: 'The fact that Mr Nadir's mail was being intercepted was first made known to the SFO during the preparatory hearing in December 1992 during the cross examination of the trustee in bankruptcy (Neil Cooper). The prosecution had no part in the application for the order which empowered the interception, and has no knowledge of its operation or its results.'

It is highly unusual for a senior law officer to release details of a mail interception. Some of the documents, released by Sir Nicholas at the request of the Government, voice Mr Mates's concerns about the SFO's handling of the case and the Attorney General's satisfaction with it.

The bundle should run to 97 pages, but about half are missing. Among those excluded are thought to be pages identifying the then four unnamed MPs who wrote to the Attorney General raising questions about the prosecution of Nadir. Missing, too, are any documents relating to court allegations that there may have been a plot to attempt to bribe the trial judge, Mr Justice Tucker.

Included is a report by a solicitor for Nadir about details he was shown of a telephone conversation purporting to be between Michael Chance, a senior SFO official, and a Mr Parrott, an Under Secretary at the Inland Revenue. Peter Knight, of Vizards, said Mr Parrott made a note of the conversation in which he told the SFO officer he thought the department was on a 'fishing trip and was unlikely to find anything'. According to Mr Knight, Mr Parrott's notes said the SFO official agreed.

David Mellor, the former Secretary of State for National Heritage, has asked police to investigate a forged letter smearing him and the former Home Secretary Kenneth Baker. Mr Mellor said last night: 'This is a dirty trick . . . somebody needs to get to the bottom of it.' The letter, dated March 1991 purported to be from him to Nadir, thanking him for a pounds 440,000 donation to the Tory party.

MI6 claim rebutted 3

Letters 23

Law Report 27

(Photograph omitted)