Pandora: Star of 'Dragon's Den' offers advice to Pakistan

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The Independent Online

Pakistan is ensuring no diplomatic stone remains unturned as it attempts to repair the damage from last week's assassination of Benazir Bhutto. But there is one surprise name Pandora understands has been lending the country's ruling elite his two penneth.

Entrepreneur James Caan, best known as a panellist on the BBC television show Dragon's Den, has apparently been in regular discussions during the crisis with the country's recent prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, formerly a Citibank executive.

Caan and Aziz are reportedly old buddies, and would regularly meet to speak about Pakistan's economy until Aziz left office in mid-November.

"James knows Shaukat Aziz very well. They go back quite a bit," explains a spokesman. "They often spoke while Aziz was prime minister and they've been in close contact since the tragedy last week. James is a big supporter of his and a great admirer of what he did for the Pakistani economy."

Caan, the chief executive of the megabucks private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw, was a supporter of Bhutto, with whom he was also well acquainted, and is said to be devastated by her murder.

"James reckons that definitely it was time for change in that country," says the spokesman. "Everything is now in turmoil. The baby has been thrown out with the bath water. Now, sadly, it looks like it's back to Musharraf once again."

Fiennes joins the exodus to Switzerland

Following in the footsteps of Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton and singer James Blunt, Joseph Fiennes, left, is the latest British celebrity to quit these shores for the snowy peaks of Switzerland.

The heartthrob actor, best known for his turn in the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love, plans to leave the UK and move there in the new year.

Unlike his fellow countrymen, I'm told, Fiennes isn't emigrating to hide his well-earned dosh from the taxman (or as Hamilton prefers to call it, more privacy from the press). Instead, he's packing his bags to be closer to his girlfriend, former Miss Switzerland finalist Maria Dolores Dieguez.

"Joe's been seeing Maria for nearly two years now and seeing as she's based out in Switzerland the move made sense really," reports a chum. "I don't know whether talk of wedding bells is a little premature, but clearly he's pretty fond of her."

Piper's prenuptial pint

The swell of celebrities expected to descend on the small west Sussex village of Eastbourne for today's nuptials between Billie Piper and Laurence Fox began in earnest yesterday.

Piper and her beau, son of theatrical grandee James Fox, popped into their local pub The White Horse for a Sunday afternoon pint where they were joined by Piper's ex, Chris Evans.

"Chris rocked up in a beautiful vintage Ferrari," a local tells me. "There was lots of hugging and kissing going on between the three of them which was sweet. They clearly all get along."

The couple are reportedly due to hold their reception in the pub this afternoon after politely declining Evans's offer to have it in his nearby boozer, the Lickfold Inn.

Bright spark

Oh dear. Cuddly former Doctor Who actor Colin Baker seems to have inadvertently caused offence to the good people of Blackpool. Befitting his status as a minor celebrity, Baker was invited to turn on the Christmas lights in the Norfolk town of Cromer, where he was appearing in panto.

Being a polite sort of fellow, Baker informed the gathering throng their display was far superior to lights in Blackpool, which he had seen a few weeks earlier. His comments resulted in him being pursued by the Blackpool press for days.

Says Baker: "A Blackpool councillor even suggested that I would benefit from a word with my Doctor Who successor David Tennant, who turned the lights on in Blackpool and declared them to be superb." Calm down!

Freddie is hit for six by punter

There is evidence that cricketer Andrew Flintoff's status as one of England's foremost national treasures doesn't extend across the Severn Bridge.

The crocked all-rounder pitched up at Chepstow racecourse in Monmouthshire last week to watch his horse, Flintoff, run in the Welsh Grand National. Sadly, the nag was withdrawn at the last minute, although it did not stop a slimline-looking Freddie making a dash to the bookmakers to place a bet on the big race.

When the bookie politely inquired why his horse was not running, a discourteous Welsh punter chipped in: "Cos he's fat and his ankle's knackered just like his owner!"