Fayed fails in citizenship appeal

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Indy Politics

Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed today lost a key High Court battle in his latest bid for British citizenship.

Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed today lost a key High Court battle in his latest bid for British citizenship.

The Egyptian-born multi-millionaire challenged Home Secretary Jack Straw's 'inappropriately draconian' decision to refuse him a British passport on May 6 this year.

But today a judge ruled that Mr Straw had not acted unfairly or with bias when he decided Mr Al Fayed was not of the necessary "good character" to be granted citizenship, following his involvement in the cash-for-questions political scandal and the break-in to the Harrods safe-deposit box kept by his late business rival, Tiny Rowland.

Mr Justice Ognall said Mr Al Fayed's challenge was 'devoid of substance' and must be refused.

Mr Al Fayed was refused leave to appeal. Later a spokesman for Mr Al Fayed said: "The decision was disappointing but sadly predictable."

He added that, although the judge had refused leave to appeal, an application would be made direct to the Court of Appeal.

During a day-long hearing on Tuesday, Michael Beloff QC, appearing for Mr Al Fayed, said the Home Secretary had "literally lost his sense of proportion" when he allowed the cash-for-questions scandal and the safe-deposit box break-in to tilt the scales against Mr Al Fayed, when there was so much in favour of allowing the well-known and successful businessman naturalisation.

Mr Straw's ruling had been made with a "closed mind" and was "disproportionate, irrational and unfair".

Rejecting those arguments, the judge said: "I am satisfied there was more than sufficient material demonstrating that the conclusion of the Secretary of State was entirely within the legitimate ambit of the nature of the decision required of him."

There was also no question of bias, or apparent bias, in Mr Straw's decision-making process.

A spokeswoman for Home Secretary Jack Straw said: 'Mr Straw is pleased with the judgment. It is what he expected.'

Mr Al Fayed was first refused citizenship by the then Home Secretary Michael Howard in 1995.

Mr Beloff complained to Mr Justice Ognall, sitting in London, that successive secretaries of state had used "any stick they could find" with which to beat him.

Last March, his brother, Ali, was granted naturalisation.

Mr Beloff complained that insufficient weight had been given to the fact that he had paid taxes in Britain for 30 years, had provided jobs for thousands of British employees and supported British commercial interests and charities, while his four children were all UK citizens.

There were also the "compassionate" grounds arising from the death of Mr Al Fayed's son, Dodi, killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 with Diana, Princess of Wales.

But the judge ruled these matters had been properly taken into account by Mr Straw, and the secretary of state had not acted irrationally in deciding that cash for questions and the safe-deposit box scandal outweighed them when it came to deciding that Mr Al Fayed was not "of good character".