Sawar to sue over bribery allegation

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The Independent Online
Mohammad Sawar, the Labour MP for Glasgow Govan, yesterday instructed solicitors to issue a writ against the News of the World as he fought to shake off allegations of bribery and election irregularities.

Standing on the steps of his solicitors' office in central Glasgow, Mr Sawar, Britain's first Muslim MP, said the newspaper charges against him were "totally false".

It was claimed that Mr Sawar paid pounds 5,000 to the Independent Labour candidate, Badar Islam, in "compensation" for going easy in his campaign in order not to split Govan's substantial Asian vote.

The normally flamboyant Mr Islam, who polled 319 votes, was not to be found yesterday. As stories of the former professional cricketer's record of debts, gambling problems and business failures emerged, he was said to have left the country.

Mr Islam's absence from Govan was entirely in keeping with the bizarre drama that has been unfolding ever since Mr Sawar, a millionaire businessman, announced his intention to stand for the Glasgow seat more than three years ago.

Mr Sawar welcomed the police investigation called for on Sunday by Donald Dewar, Secretary of State for Scotland, but said it would be wrong of him to comment further until the police inquiry was completed.

"I have no intention of allowing these events to interfere with my duty to represent my constituents," he said. The MP spent yesterday morning in talks with shop stewards and management at the Kvearner shipyard. He was, he said, more concerned with securing Clydeside jobs than "giving these type of stories any time".

Strathclyde Police confirmed they had added the bribery investigation to on-going inquiries into an extraordinary rush of late entries to Govan's electoral roll - more than 200 of the new voters were Asians in the ward represented by Mr Sawar on Glasgow city council.

Police officers yesterday interviewed Peter Paton, an Unofficial Labour candidate on 1 May and long-standing critic of alleged electoral practices in Govan. Mr Paton and Jamil Abassi, who stood as an Independent Conservative, both claim to have been offered four figure inducements by Sawar supporters.

"The politics of the Indian sub-continent is being grafted on to the streets of Govan and it is totally repugnant to me," said Mr Paton. "We have to restore democracy in Govan and root out the wrong-doers in our midst."

If Mr Paton gets his wish and either the police or Labour Party inquiries lead to a re-run of the ballot, the ultimate beneficiaries could be the Scottish Nationalist Party, which twice won the old Govan seat.