Nadir gave Mates draft for plea to Attorney: Fowler will offer to repay pounds 440,000 from Nadir as expectations grow that minister will resign

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MICHAEL MATES used a draft drawn up by Asil Nadir as the basis for his letter to the Attorney General when complaining about the investigation into the fugitive tycoon's business affairs.

The Independent has been told by well-placed sources that a letter by Mr Mates, now a Minister of State for Northern Ireland but then a backbench MP, to the then Attorney in October 1991, bears close textual resemblance to a draft letter sent to Mr Mates shortly before by Nadir.

This letter to Sir Patrick Mayhew was the first of three admitted by Mr Mates. He wrote the letters after being approached by Mark Rogerson, of the public relations consultant, Morgan Rogerson, which now acts for the Turkish Cypriot businessman. Mr Rogerson is a constituent of Mr Mates, but Nadir was not.

Copies of all the correspondence involving the Attorney General - Nadir's original, Mr Mates's letter to the Attorney General, and the Attorney's response - are thought to be among correspondence seized during a raid on Nadir's London home on 6 April. Nadir's trustees-in-bankruptcy refused to confirm or deny that.

However, copies of other similar letters have been seen by sources close to the authorities examining the collapse of the Polly Peck empire.

Mr Mates wrote on two more occasions - the last time just before Nadir left the UK.

The first letter is understood to question the conduct of the Serious Fraud Office investigation, and its origins. Mr Mates was concerned about the role MI6 played in the investigation. Nadir has alleged there was a conspiracy involving government ministers to undermine his business because he posed a threat to an early settlement on the divided island of Cyprus. He has yet to produce evidence to support that claim. The present Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, has refused to identify the seven MPs who raised Nadir's case. Yesterday he blocked MPs from tabling further questions about Nadir, or making representations on his behalf.

Mr Mates is expected to resign as a minister shortly while in the Commons today, Sir Norman Fowler, the Tory party chairman, will offer to repay the pounds 440,000 the party received from Nadir's companies to end the damaging row over funding.

Sir Norman is planning to intervene in a debate in the Commons, which was forced by Labour, in an attempt to avoid further damage to the Government. Sources close to the party chairman said he would make it clear the party will return the money, if it is demanded by the liquidators of Polly Peck. 'The ball is in the liquidators' court,' the source said.

Touche Ross, the accountants winding up Nadir's business affairs, are believed to have written to the party seeking the return of the donations. Party leaders said last week the money would be returned if it was proved to be stolen, but the Prime Minister shifted the ground by saying in Copenhagen that it would return money 'dishonestly remitted'.

The weight of Tory backbench opinion hardened after the disclosure in the Independent that Mr Mates borrowed a car from Nadir's PR consultants in apparent breach of ministerial guidelines. 'He should have gone last week,' said a member of the Tory 1922 Committee executive. 'Something will happen, and it will happen soon,' said another Tory grandee.

Mr Mates accepted the loan of a car from Morgan Rogerson after Nadir had jumped his pounds 3.5m bail and fled the country for northern Cyprus. Mr Mates approached the PR consultant about borrowing the car for his estranged wife to use.

He selected the car in a showroom near his home in Petersfield, Hampshire. The second-hand Volvo estate was then bought by Mark Rogerson, a partner in the consultancy.

Mr Mates said the loan was for only 10 days; and that there was no impropriety. However, it appears to breach guidelines which state that government ministers should not accept 'gifts, hospitality or services' which could place them under an obligation.

MPs' Cyprus trips, page 2

Inside Parliament, page 7

Mark Lawson, page 20

Take the money, page 20

(Photograph omitted)