Arab businessman gets pounds 4m in legal aid

AN ARAB businessman, accused by a Middle East financial institution of siphoning funds, is defending himself in the British courts at a cost to the taxpayer of more than pounds 4m so far, the Government disclosed yesterday.

The Lord Advocate, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, told the Lords at Question Time that pounds 4,010,367.95 had been spent in legal aid to date for Dr Jawd Hashim to fight a case brought against him by the Arab Monetary Fund.

'The proceedings are continuing and it is therefore impossible to state at present what the final cost to the taxpayer will be. Costs paid to the Legal Aid Board may be recovered at the end of the proceedings through the statutory charge, should Dr Hashim be successful,' he said.

The news was greeted by outrage from peers on all sides, with the Conservative Lord Clark of Kempston condemning the spending as 'a complete and utter waste of taxpayers' money'.

He demanded to know when the Government intended to change legal aid rules to stop supporting such people.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the Tory former Treasury minister, said it was 'very disturbing indeed to know that so much in taxpayers' money is being made available to litigious Arabs at a time when the Government was keeping a tight rein on public expenditure'.

Lord Rodger told him people were entitled to legal aid 'irrespective of nationality' if they were a party to proceedings in the courts.