The Hamilton Affair: The victor - Outsider revels in triumph over British Establishment

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The Independent Online
V APPEARED TO be for vaudeville, as Mohamed Al Fayed's appearance in the witness box descended into farce. In the end it was for victory as the Harrods owner scored a famous triumph over the Establishment.

For it was the British Establishment that he will feel he defeated, as well as the totally dejected figure of the former Tory corporate affairs minister, Neil Hamilton.

Despite Mr Justice Morland's view that he was a man whose "appreciation of what is fact and what is fiction and what is truth and what is fantasy is warped", Mr Fayed won. And winning was everything.

An elated Mr Fayed now wants to use the High Court victory to drive his campaign for a British passport. He will not rest content until a Home Secretary comes along who is prepared to give him the one thing he yearns for more than anything else. Despite his breathless business acumen, his ability to mix with the right people, his wealth and his generosity, the prize of a UK passport has eluded him.

Indeed, as some of his evidence during the trial disclosed, Mr Fayed appears to harbour an indelible grudge against Britain or, more precisely, its Establishment, believing that it has turned against him even though he has poured millions into the economy. The death of his son, Dodi, with Diana, Princess of Wales in a car crash in Paris in 1997 did nothing to temper that feeling. If anything, it fuelled it.

After a hearing in Paris, Mr Fayed emerged from the building and publicly accused Frances Shand-Kydd, Diana's mother, of snobbery.

During the libel trial, he challenged the Duke of Edinburgh from the witness box to sue him over allegations that he masterminded a plot to murder Diana and Dodi.

Mr Fayed also accused Baroness Thatcher of throwing him "to the dogs" by ordering an inquiry into his takeover of Harrods as part of a conspiracy to "cover up" her son Mark's arms dealings.

The Egyptian enjoys massive wealth and many residences, including a fabulous country estate near Oxted, Surrey, to which he can travel in his Harrods- livery helicopter, as well as a penthouse in Park Lane. It is all a far cry from that humble Alexandria tenement block where he was raised before making his money in the construction industry and through brokerage.

He claims to have given pounds 250,000 to Conservative Party funds and was a guest at Downing Street when Lady Thatcher was in office. During the 1985 sterling crisis, he approached the Sultan of Brunei and persuaded him to keep his money in Britain at a time when others were looking elsewhere.

But despite all this, a British passport has still eluded him.

The people considering his application were those, he alleged, who had vilified him in the Commons years before, during his takeover of the House of Fraser group. Some believe this was the final straw that compelled him to go public about allegations of political impropriety.