Fowler pressed over Nadir meeting: Tory chairman asked to explain deputy's links with fugitive

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The Independent Online
THE CONSERVATIVE Party chairman has been asked to clarify the relationship between his deputy, Gerald Malone, and the fugitive businessman Asil Nadir.

The Independent on Sunday disclosed at the weekend that, despite repeated denials, Mr Malone did have dealings with the founder of Polly Peck. He attended a lengthy meeting at Nadir's house last December, during which details of Nadir's case were allegedly discussed.

Mr Malone has previously denied any involvement with Nadir. The apparent contradiction between his earlier statements and the fact of the meeting is likely to heap yet more embarrassment onto a Tory party keen to shed its identification with Nadir.

In a letter to Sir Norman Fowler, the party chairman, Frank Dobson, Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, yesterday demanded an urgent explanation of Mr Malone's involvement with Nadir. 'Relations between Mr Asil Nadir and the Tory party become more mysterious by the day,' writes Mr Dobson. He asked Sir Norman to confirm that 'contrary to statements (Gerald Malone) previously made to several newspapers, Gerry Malone has had dealings with Asil Nadir; that, while he was deputy chairman of the Tory party and while Asil Nadir was out on bail, Mr Malone met Mr Nadir at Mr Nadir's house in Eaton Square; that the meeting lasted several hours and was attended by Mr Christopher Morgan.'

Mr Morgan is a partner in the PR firm Morgan Rogerson, which acts for Nadir. Mr Malone worked as a parliamentary consultant to the firm until 31 May this year. Nadir, charged with theft and false accounting involving more than pounds 30m, jumped his pounds 3.5m bail three weeks earlier.

Mr Malone said at the time that he had no knowledge that the firm acted for Nadir and that he had never had any dealings or been involved with him. He told the Independent that he had no 'recollection' of meeting him.

In a statement issued at the weekend, Mr Malone has denied lying. The statement said: 'Mr Malone stated that he had never met Nadir with a view to making representations on his behalf. That is true . . . he has not at any time made representations on Mr Nadir's behalf.'

Nadir claims that the meeting at his home was intended to discuss his allegations that the Serious Fraud Office was attempting to pervert the course of his trial. He said: 'To say that he is not involved in the matter is not correct.' He claims that Mr Malone, who is on holiday in Europe, offered to discuss his case with other authorities.

Mr Dobson's letter asks: 'Could you please tell me whether Mr Malone discussed Mr Nadir's court case with him and, if not, what did he discuss? Could you also tell whether Mr Malone was one of those Tories, hitherto unnamed, who wrote on Mr Nadir's behalf to the Attorney General.'

Mr Malone has denied making representations to the Attorney General. Only Michael Mates, the former Northern Ireland minister, Michael Heseltine, the President of the Board of Trade, and Peter Brooke, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, have so far acknowledged doing so. Four other MPs have chosen not to identify themselves.