Mates 'lays out facts' that led to resignation: This is an edited text of the personal statement by Michael Mates, the former Minister of State for Northern Ireland

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Indy Politics
I DO NOT know whether Mr Asil Nadir is innocent or guilty, and no part of any of my representations have sought either to plead his innocence or try to establish it. That is for the courts, and those who have alleged that I was trying to help him escape from the consequences of any of his actions have totally misunderstood what I have been trying to do.

The House may have heard how my involvement began in the autumn of 1991, through a constituent who brought me details of alleged wrong- doing by the authorities in the case of Mr Nadir. I asked to meet Mr Nadir himself. This was the first time I had met him or anyone associated with his businesses. He gave me his account of what had happened and was able to corroborate most of what he said.

Some of his complaints concerned his advisers in the City; others concerned official institutions, the Inland Revenue, the Serious Fraud Office and the police. There have been many more allegations over the past weeks of involvement by others: other national agencies, international agencies and other arms of various governments. Many of these allegations have been wrongly attributed to me. I shall not pursue this line this afternoon, but of course I will be happy to tell anything I know on these matters to an independent inquiry. With Mr Nadir's permission, I spoke to Mr Anthony Scrivener QC, until recently Chairman of the Bar. It as clear that the defence team were concerned at some of the matters which had arisen during the course of the prosecution. He confirmed that he and the Attorney General should be made aware of what was going on.

I met the then Attorney to express my concern. At his request I then wrote to him the first of the letters that have brought me to the position in which I find myself today. The only person who had copies of those letters are the Attorney General, Mr Nadir and the SFO. It is a matter perhaps of speculation as to who leaked the letter to the press last week.

It was claimed that I was embarrassed by this leak. Far from it. Three days previously I had asked the Attorney General's permission to publish all of the correspondence between us because I felt it was the only way to bring out into the open the reasons for my involvement.

The Attorney General indicated that this might give him some difficulty. I respected that view and will continue to do so, although I would readily make this correspondence available to any inquiry.

Of course I understand why the press would publish a letter or any other material that was leaked to them. I make no criticism of them for that. I just ask that, with me gone, inquiring journalists will now ask the question: why was material being selectively leaked to them? Whose agenda was being served by its publication?

Why were the SFO talking to the press? The other law departments remain commendably tight-lipped and leak-proof while the SFO speak to the press and are even prepared to be quoted. For example, and I quote: 'We kept asking why is he doing all of this?', a senior SFO source said to a newspaper. 'There is growing irritation at the repeated need to provide information enabling the Attorney General to respond to the points raised by Mates.' Let me simply lay out the facts . . . I start with the raid on South Audley Management, a property management company controlled by Mr Nadir's family, on 19 September 1991. This raid was highly publicised; the press and television had been warned in advance and were in attendance when the raid took place. Inevitably, the publicity surrounding the raid had a serious effect on the share price of Polly Peck International, or PPI as I shall now call it. The following day, the 20th, Mr Nadir was asked to go to the SFO headquarters in Elm Street for an interview during which time his presence was announced by the SFO to the press. This resulted in an inevitable blaze of publicity as he left the building. On 30 October, the SFO mounted a highly publicised raid on the headquarters of PPI in Berkeley Square. In fact, 10 minutes before the police arrived, journalists had knocked on the door and told PPI staff they were there in answer to an invitation from the SFO.

By that time, PPI was already in administration. By arrangement with the administrators, the SFO had already had full access to PPI headquarters and to all the documents there. Their people were already working inside the building. The SFO were effectively launching a raid, in the full glare of publicity, against the administrators.

And when Mr Nadir returned from a trip abroad to assist the administrators, the media were given advance warning of the intention to arrest him at the airport so they were there in force to watch the event. A process of what some might call 'trial by media' had begun aided and encouraged by the SFO.

For their part, the SFO have consistently maintained that their investigations and thus their ability to bring the case to trial have been hampered and delayed by their inability to operate in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus.

The defence therefore offered an opportunity to short-circuit this problem. In June 1991 they commissioned Binder Hamlyn, one of Britain's leading accountancy firms, to carry out their own investigation into the relationship between PPI in London and its subsidiaries in northern Cyprus, which formed the basis of the charges.

The SFO's first response to this was that Binder Hamlyn must have been shown forged documents. When the defence then presented the SFO with a report from an independent forensic expert, on the SFO's approved list, saying this was not so, they changed their ground and, despite requests from the defence to go to northern Cyprus to check the accounts, they have maintained that this would be impossible because northern Cyprus was not a recognised country.

It is well known that the police have on occasions visited northern Cyprus to make inquiries in connection with criminal proceedings in this country, and I simply do not understand why they could not follow the usual practice.

There seems to be some inconsistency over who made the complaints which the SFO were investigating. The present charges do not arise as a result of a complaint by the Stock Exchange, and there is evidence of improper collusion between a senior officer of the Inland Revenue and the SFO.

While the SFO deny any such collusions, the officer involved has admitted it to a journalist, whose name I know, and who would be happy to give the details of this illegal collusion to an independent inquiry.

Mr Nadir and his advisers believe that he has been denied the opportunity properly to prepare his defence. They also believe that he has in the process been denied his rights under the law. During the raid on Polly Peck's headquarters in October 1990 many documents were seized. Professional privilege was claimed by Mr Nadir's lawyers and it was agreed that these documents would be placed in sealed bags until the issue was resolved by independent counsel. He found that the vast majority of the documents in the sealed bags were privileged documents. But before counsel saw these papers the SFO had opened the bags. They have admitted that two bags were opened but they claim it was due to a misunderstanding.

But this was not the only occasion on which privileged papers vital to Mr Nadir's defence have been mishandled. In March of this year, his house was raided by the solicitors for the trustees in his bankruptcy. As well as taking various personal effects - one of which I was later to replace in inscribed form - they took away all of his privileged defence papers. He protested and he was informed in writing that, if he wished to see the papers, he should make an appointment to see them. He was told to specify in advance which papers he wanted to see and to call at the trustees' offices when he could examine them - and I remind the House that these are his own papers - but not take them away. I turn finally to what the House may view as the most serious aspect of this whole affair, namely that quite improper pressure has apparently been exercised by the SFO upon the trial judge, Mr Justice Tucker. It is this sequence of events above all which demands independent inquiry. On 6 November, in court during the hearing of an application to vary Mr Nadir's bail, counsel for the SFO said in court that police were investigating a complaint that there was a conspiracy to bribe Mr Justice Tucker, the trial judge, and that he should consider standing down because it might be necessary to interview him. The allegation was that a sum of money would be paid to the judge following the success of the application to vary bail.

And at a subsequent hearing in December, the chief superintendent responsible for investigating the allegation of attempted bribery told the court, when cross-examined, that he had never had evidence which would justify interviewing the judge, nor had the police ever declared their intention to do so.

The only conclusion is that the SFO misled the judge about the intentions of the police. The House will also realise that the mere making of such an allegation in court could compromise any chance of the judge being seen to be impartial. Quite rightly, he refused to give up the case. Then at a hearing in March 1993 another bizarre suggestion was made by counsel, namely that the police were investigating a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The suspected conspirators were, said counsel, Mr Nadir, Mr Wyn Jones - Assistant Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, Mr Anthony Scrivener QC, and the judge himself, Mr Justice Tucker.

Needless to say the police have not ever questioned the judge, Mr Wyn Jones or Mr Scrivener. This appears to have been a deliberate attempt to destabilise the defence.

The day before, as on the day before so many preparatory hearings, Mr Nadir was arrested. He was cautioned and interviewed on suspicion of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and the co-conspirators I have mentioned were named. At the end of the interview his solicitor inquired as to whether any other of the suspected conspirators had been arrested or interviewed. The House will not be surprised to learn that the answer to this was 'no'. I have got verbatim transcripts which substantiate everything I have said and I of course will make them available to any inquiry. I reported this to the Attorney General . . . He felt sure I had got it wrong and that the alleged conspiracy was against the judge rather than involving him. He now knows I was right. The cumulative effect of what had happened in March and April - the alleged bribery of the judge, the conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and the seizing of his defence papers - left Mr Nadir in a state of severe depression and despair. . . . A decision was taken to meet to raise his spirits and that was the context in which I made the fateful decision to give him the watch. I must emphasise that none of us had any idea that he might leave the UK. It was a complete shock and an action of which I strongly disapprove.

I have asked myself two questions: first, do I regret doing what I did? Well, given the effect that my actions have had on me and all around me, I bitterly regret what has happened. The second question is: in the same circumstances would I get involved again? I hope I would have the courage to do so.

(Photograph omitted)

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