Heseltine challenged over Nadir money

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MICHAEL HESELTINE was challenged yesterday to explain why no charges had been brought against Asil Nadir for the failure to declare donations of pounds 440,000 to the Conservative Party.

The President of the Board of Trade said he approached Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney-General, about the handling of the Serious Fraud Office investigation into Nadir after being assured by his private office that there 'was nothing going on' at the DTI in connection with Nadir's Polly Peck empire.

But Robin Cook, the Labour spokesman on trade and industry, yesterday wrote to the President of the Board of Trade, demanding to know why the DTI had not been pursuing action against Nadir at the time for failing to declare donations to the Tory party.

Mr Cook listed seven payments totalling pounds 440,000 over five years by Nadir's companies, in breach of laws requiring disclosure of the amounts. Mr Cook said that under the Companies Act 1985, it was an offence to make a political donation over pounds 200 without declaring it in the company accounts. He said the DTI investigation unit, which was responsible for monitoring the rules, was reported in March last year to be aware of the donations.

Mr Cook asked Mr Heseltine to confirm that there were prima facie grounds for proceedings on a breach of the Companies Act, and whether the investigation unit still had this case under active consideration.

'Seven Tory ministers including Michael Heseltine have now spoken up for Asil Nadir. The only way Michael Heseltine can wash away the bad taste this leaves behind is to show he is willing to bring Asil Nadir to book for unlawful donations,' Mr Cook said.