The Hamilton Affair: Fayed demolishes Hamilton in the sleaze trial of the century

NEIL HAMILTON was last night facing up to financial ruin, a reputation destroyed and public humiliation after a jury decided that he was indeed corrupt.

The former Conservative minister's final defeat came as he lost his high- profile libel case against Mohamed Al Fayed, the Harrods owner, over cash- for-questions allegations.

At the end of a bitter five-week case, the jury unanimously agreed that Mr Fayed was justified in claiming that Mr Hamilton was a corrupt politician who was prepared to sell his parliamentary services.

Mr Fayed was not present in court for the verdict, but issued a statement within minutes saying: "Christmas has come early. This is total vindication."

The verdict is further embarrassment to William Hague coming in the wake of damaging events involving Jeffrey Archer, Michael Ashcroft, Steven Norris and Shaun Woodward. The case highlighted the claims of sleaze in the Conservative Party which helped bring down John Major's government.

Afterwards, the Conservative Party chairman, Michael Ancram, said in a statement that he hoped "that this is the end of a sad and unpleasant episode which has been damaging to our party". And he added: "I trust that the personalities involved will now retire from the scene."

Legal costs are believed to be in the region of pounds 3.5m, making it the most expensive libel action ever staged. The majority of the costs were borne by Mr Fayed, but costs of around pounds 1m were awarded against Mr Hamilton. He said last night that he was "broke". A fund set up by a group of right- wing sympathisers of the former MP for Tatton had raised pounds 410,000. Looking shattered, Mr Hamilton said he may have to go bankrupt to pay off the rest.

Mr Fayed, who had pleaded justification during a vicious contest, did not have any kind words for his adversary in the libel action who he said should be spending Christmas with another former MP, Jonathan Aitken, who had taken up the "sword of truth and shield of justice" and was now serving a prison sentence for perjury.

Of Mr Hamilton he said: "He knows he is corrupt. People like that should never be in power. He is nothing to me. How can we elect crooks like that?"

His spokesman, Laurie Meyer, said: "Mr Al Fayed regards this verdict as a great victory for honesty in public life. He was vilified for being a Jekyll and Hyde character but the jury saw through it. I think there will be a few bottles of bubbly on ice back at Harrods where Mr Al Fayed will go back to relax. It has been quite an ordeal."

George Carman, Mr Fayed's QC, in a rare public statement by a barrister, said after the verdict: "I am very pleased indeed for Mr Al Fayed. I think this jury has given this case very great and careful consideration and it has confirmed my belief in the value of the jury system."

The decision means that the jurors were satisfied "on the balance of probabilities" that Mr Fayed had established "on highly convincing evidence" that Mr Hamilton was corrupt in his capacity as an MP.

A crucial factor in their decision was a late allegation that Mr Hamilton had corruptly demanded a pounds 10,000 payment from the Mobil oil company for tabling an amendment to the 1989 Finance Bill. Mr Carman said that if it was well-founded, Mr Hamilton's claim "falls and falls completely on Mobil alone because it establishes corruption on the part of a Member of Parliament".

Mr Hamilton had sued over allegations on a January 1997 Channel 4 Dispatches programme that he had corruptly demanded and accepted cash payments, gift vouchers and a free holiday at the Paris Ritz in return for asking parliamentary questions on behalf of Harrods.

Mr Hamilton said: "I do not regret bringing the case, of course, because I could not have gone through life without straining every sinew to do everything that was possible to bring the truth out. Sadly the jury were not convinced."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Developer

£50k - 60k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting Seni...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Front End Developer

£50k - 70k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting Seni...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Digital Designer

£50k - 55k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Vertical Sales Director

Market related: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game