Labour ministers got stolen money
Tuesday 19 January 1999
George Wigg, once known as Lord Wilson's "spymaster general" and Harold Lever, his economic adviser, are understood to have been among a number of senior Labour figures who unwittingly received money stolen from Lord Portman, a Conservative.
The Independent revealed yesterday that Lord Goodman of Westminster, one of the most powerful and influential law-yers of his generation, had plundered money belonging to Lord Portman - whose extended family is thought to be worth pounds 275m - while serving as his solicitor over more than three decades.
A member of the Portman family, who did not wish to be named, said Wigg and Lever - who were later ennobled - were given loans at very low rates of interest. According to the family member, the lords did not repay the money.
Details of Lord Goodman's handling of Lord Portman's affairs - and losses of more than pounds 1m - have remained secret since 1994 when the two reached an out-of-court settlement for the return of some of the money taken by the Labour peer. The two men, their lawyers and accountants agreed not to speak about the matter until 2006, so comprehensive details of sums misappropriated are not available.
However, the Portman source said the names of Lords Wigg and Lever were on lists of soft-loan recipients recovered by Lord Portman when his lawyers secured High Court permission to seize documents relating to his assets. Lord Goodman, who died in 1995, was a Portman family friend and had been made sole signatory on Lord Portman's behalf.
Lord Wigg was a former MP for Dudley but he became best known as Harold Wilson's eyes and ears in the Cabinet. He was given access to MI5 files on his colleagues to prevent scandals besmirching the Wilson government. Lord Wigg held the post of paymaster-general. He died in 1983, aged 82.
Lord Lever's appearance on any list will surprise those who knew him, as he was a very wealthy man in his own right, occupying vast and sumptuous apartments in central London's exclusive Eaton Square. He was married to the daughter of a wealthy Lebanese banker and served as economic adviser in the Cabinets of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. He died in 1995, aged 81.
A source close to Lord Goodman's affairs said evidence had emerged of two methods by which Lord Goodman would separate Lord Portman from his money. "He would bill Lord Portman's trust for a specific piece of work, then bill again for a general period, effectively being paid twice. And there was evidence of him securing loans for the trust at commercial levels and then lending the amount back out at lower rates of interest. The difference would be soaked up b y Portman's trust."
There is no suggestion that anyone else at Goodman, Derrick and Co, the firm he founded, knew of his actions.
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