In 450 pages, the damning verdict on bullying Vaz is laid bare by MPs

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Indy Politics

Keith Vaz's attempts to undermine a witness by calling in the police to investigate her provided MPs on the Standards and Privileges Committee with a compelling reason for suspending him from the House of Commons.

Their 450-page report of evidence, letters and minutes of meetings revealed that senior police officers considered charging Mr Vaz with wasting police time and attempting to pervert the course of justice after he made a false allegation against a woman who gave evidence in the original inquiry against him.

His actions led to a powerful rebuke by the Standards Committee, which said Mr Vaz had "recklessly" made an untrue and damaging allegation against Eileen Eggington. It said he told Leicestershire Police she had tried to harass his elderly and sick mother in a telephone call and concluded Mr Vaz's behaviour had "intimidated Ms Eggington or undermined her credibility".

Ms Eggington, a former Metropolitan Police officer who had received the Queen's Police Medal, made a formal complaint to the Parliamentary standards commissioner, Elizabeth Filkin, that Mr Vaz had employed an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh as a nanny for his two children.

The complaint was not upheld, but the former Europe minister's decision to call in the police and then threaten to report Ms Filkin to the House of Commons Speaker were seen by MPs as an example by Mr Vaz of "wrongful interference with the investigation process".

The report says: "Mr Vaz failed in his public duty under the Code of Conduct 'to act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in (him)'. By wrongfully interfering with the House's investigative process he also committed a contempt of the House."

The minutes of evidence show Mr Vaz made a complaint to police that Miss Eggington had harassed and made a malicious phone call to his elderly mother. Police found the charge had no basis in fact and conflicted with his own mother's account of the incident.

Indeed, a letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Detective Superintendent Nick Gargan, suggested Mr Vaz's complaint to police did not stand up, and that he had changed his story and that wasted police time.

"The nature of the allegations by Mr Vaz appears to have changed subtly as time has gone on," Detective Superintendent Gargan said. "We have found nothing that would lend weight to the allegations originally made by Mr Vaz. Indeed, I am satisfied that no malicious calls were made."

After Ms Filkin spoke to the police Mr Vaz accused her of interfering in a criminal investigation and reported her to the Speaker of the Commons.

But it was not only Elizabeth Filkin that Keith Vaz threatened. The report is littered with evidence of attempts by Mr Vaz to obstruct the inquiry. Even the police were on the receiving end of Mr Vaz's thinly veiled threats. A letter to the Parliamentary watchdog, from Chief Inspector Kenneth Smith, of Leicestershire Police recorded how in a phone call from the MP "Mr Vaz became quite demonstrative" and "audibly agitated".

"At one point in the conversation your role came up," the officer told Mrs Filkin, "and Mr Vaz said that this case has 'nothing to do with her' and stated that 'she has no authority or remit.'" Mr Vaz went on to say that this could get "very messy" and involve the newspapers. He stated that I could end up "giving evidence at the High Court" to which I replied that I was quite willing to do so."

Ms Filkin, who kept notes of all meetings and telephone conversations, records a call she took from Mr Vaz on 23 November 2001. The memo said: "He asked me what my role was in a criminal proceeding. I said I had no role in any criminal proceeding as far as I knew. He said why was I instructing the police to interview his mother. I said I was not instructing the police to interview anybody.

"Mr Vaz said that he thought that the action I had taken by instructing the police to interview his very sick mother and thereby interfere in criminal proceedings was quite wrong. He said I had no role whatsoever and he would be reporting me to the Speaker."

A former employee of Mr Vaz, Rita Gresty, seriously considered withdrawing her evidence against the MP after she was threatened with legal action in a letter from solicitors acting for Mr Vaz's wife, Maria Fernandes. Her husband, Vyan Gresty, wrote to Mrs Filkin: "As you are aware, my wife is presently recovering from severe illness and injury, a fact that is well known to Ms Fernandes and her husband.

"I consider the sending of this letter to be an act of unacceptable intimidation and harassment. Whatever evidence my wife has given, either directly or to you in person, or through interviews with Miss Eggington, she did so entirely in the public interest."

It took soothing letters from both Ms Filkin and the chairman of the Standards Committee to persuade her not to retract her statements to the Commons inquiry team.

Ms Eggington also received worrying letters from Mrs Fernandes' solicitors and wrote to Ms Filkin complaining about attempts to "pressurise" her. "They are interfering in the democratic process by trying to silence me through implied intimidation," she wrote on 19 October 2001.

Mr Vaz faces further criticism for obstructing the inquiry into his affairs by failing to answer questions and misleading Ms Filkin about his financial links to the millionaire Hinduja brothers. The record shows that both Ms Filkin and the Standards Committee had repeatedly to chivvy Ms Fernandes, to provide information to the inquiry. The committee expressed "dismay that that it had taken so long to provide the necessary information about his property interests."

At one stage, after he refused to answer questions about events he organised for the Asian Business Network, which was listed by directory inquiries as being based at one of his former home addresses.

"Mr Vaz has no right to refuse to answer questions," the report concludes. "In his response to the investigation of the complaints against him since February 2000, Mr Vaz failed in his duty of accountability under the Code of Conduct by refusing to submit himself to the scrutiny appropriate to his office."

Complaints upheld

Complaints against Keith Vaz upheld by the Committee on Standards and Privileges

* Mr Vaz failed to register remunerated employment in the Leicester Law Centre when he first entered Parliament in 1987.

* Mr Vaz failed to register a donation from the Caparo Group in March 1993 within the time allowed by the rules.

* Wrongful interference with the investigation process: he committed a contempt of the House.

"We conclude," the panel said, "that Mr Vaz provided misleading information to the former Committee and the Commissioner about the financial relationship between his family and the Hindujas."

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