Mates thinks Asil Nadir is 'the victim of plot by MI6'

MICHAEL MATES - the Northern Ireland minister under growing pressure to resign over his links with Asil Nadir - has privately accused MI6 of being behind the prosecution of the former Polly Peck chairman, now a fugitive from British justice.

Mr Mates has told close colleagues that he believes the pursuit of Nadir arose because his economic success in Northern Cyprus was blocking an international settlement between Turks and Greeks which would have unified the divided island.

The extraordinary claims, mirroring those made by Nadir himself, lie behind the representations which Mr Mates made not only to Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney-General, but to his predecessor, Sir Patrick Mayhew - now Mr Mates's boss at the Northern Ireland Office.

Even if Mr Mates's claims about MI6 were proved to be true, they will place his ministerial career in jeopardy. They put a minister responsible for day-to- day security service activity in Northern Ireland at odds with a key intelligence agency.

According to one source who has talked about the case to Mr Mates within the last month, the minister insists that he believes passionately in Nadir's innocence. He also says that the intelligence services 'wanted Nadir out of the way because he was an obstacle to an American-backed plan to unify the island'.

The source said, however, that he believed Mr Mates had ceased to argue Nadir's case to the law officers after the tycoon jumped his pounds 3.5m bail last month and fled to Northern Cyprus. Later, the Prime Minister rebuked Mr Mates for his 'unwise' gift to Nadir of an inscribed wristwatch.

Neverthless Mr Mates, aware of the growing vulnerability of his position, will come under pressure to substantiate claims about MI6's role. He is understood to have made them explicit in written representations to the law officers.

Last night Mr Mates said: 'I have not commented on this affair since it started - and I am not going to start now.'

If the revelations force Mr Mates out of office, the Government knows he would not go quietly, and would be likely to make an explosive personal statement in the House of Commons detailing some of the questions raised in his submission to Sir Nicholas. The persistence of Mr Mates's defence of Nadir has persuaded MPs that the Northern Ireland minister - who has never shied away from parliamentary controversy - is convinced of the case he has made, and has evidence to back his argument.

Labour demanded Mr Mates's resignation yesterday for accepting the loan of a car from one of Nadir's public relations consultants. And new evidence emerged that the Tories solicited funds from the fugitive businessman.

Brendan Bruce, the Tory director of communications from spring 1989 to December 1990, has said that he approached Nadir to 'extract' money from him for party funds. The Conservatives have so far suggested that donations received from Nadir were not solicited by them. John Major told the Commons last week: 'Donations to the Conservative party are freely offered and they are accepted on that basis.'

But in his book Images of Power, published last year by Kogan Page, Mr Bruce wrote: 'A few years ago I was lunching with the industrialist Asil Nadir in a (vain) attempt to extract money from him for Tory party funds. Naturally enough, I was trying to convince him that we needed more money for the party's marketing programme.'

The last of Nadir's donations, which he claims amount to pounds 1.5m, was made in March 1990. It is not known if the lunch occurred before or after the Serious Fraud Office began its investigation into Polly Peck in August 1990.

But there were signs that senior ministers are becoming more anxious about the rows engulfing Tory financing. Government business managers are to allow a debate soon on recommendations by the Select Committee on Members' Interests, which would force MPs to name any clients with which they have connections - rather than simply stating the name of the PR or lobbying firm by which they are retained. Yesterday the Independent revealed that Gerry Malone, Tory party deputy chairman, had worked as a consultant for Nadir's publicity advisers Morgan Rogerson until three weeks after Nadir fled the country. Mr Malone recorded this relationship in the Register of Members' Interests. But he has denied ever meeting or acting for Mr Nadir.

Tory embarrassment over links with Nadir has intensified with the Independent's disclosure that Mr Mates accepted the loan of a car from Mark Rogerson of Morgan Rogerson. The car, a second- hand Volvo 240, was purchased last month after Nadir's flight to Turkish Cyprus.

Mr Mates's decision to accept the loan prompted Frank Dobson, a Labour frontbencher to say: 'Mr Mates should go. He shouldn't get a car from an organisation which is promoting the interests of a fugitive from justice.'

Mr Mates found the Volvo himself in a dealership in Sheet, Hampshire, and recommended that Mr Rogerson, who he said was looking for a new car, buy it. It was bought on a hire purchase arrangement in Morgan Rogerson's name, and lent to Mr Mates's estranged wife and former secretary, Rosellen. Friends of the Mates's said that she asked for a car to tow her horsebox.

Mr Mates insists the car was returned after 10 days, he says. He denied impropriety.

(Photograph omitted)

Inside Story, page 17

Leading article, page 22

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent