Mates to fire parting shot at fraud office: As new Minister of State for Northern Ireland is named, Asil Nadir says he feels no guilt over the downfall of previous incumbent

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MICHAEL MATES is planning to use his resignation statement to the House of Commons to step up his attack on the involvement of the Serious Fraud Office in the Asil Nadir affair and his own downfall, friends said yesterday.

'He is pretty certain to attack the SFO. After all, they were at the bottom of the whole business,' one associate said.

Mr Mates has told friends he believes the SFO sought to undermine him from the moment he took up Nadir's complaints about its investigation into the fugitive businessman's company, Polly Peck.

Nadir said last night that he felt no guilt over Mr Mates's resignation, and hailed the former Minister of State for Northern Ireland as a 'man of honour'.

As Mr Mates went into hiding, Nadir told the BBC: 'I see no reason why I should feel guilty at all. I think Michael Mates, having seen what was practised by certain government entities in Great Britain, rightly felt very concerned and tried to help.'

Unlike Norman Lamont after his resignation, Mr Mates has no intention of directing his attack at John Major. But Mr Mates and his friends believe the SFO was responsible for the leaking of Mr Mates's letter to Sir Nicholas Lyell QC, the Attorney General, giving details of the police investigation into Nadir's affairs in Northern Cyprus. The disclosure of that letter ended his battle to stay in office. Scotland Yard said last night that the letter, about the behaviour of two police officers, was based on misinformation.

Downing Street said yesterday there were no plans for a leaks inquiry. The Prime Minister's office said: 'This was not an internal document held entirely within the control of government. There are no present plans to hold an inquiry.'

But Tory MPs continued to protest that Mr Mates was the victim of a 'dirty tricks' campaign. Sir Keith Speed, chairman of the Friends of Northern Cyprus group of MPs, said he believed the Greek Cypriot authorities were connected to a dirty tricks campaign against Tory MPs in his group.

'The Greek Cypriot press were claiming there were 19 Conservative MPs with properties in northern Cyprus financed either by the Turkish Cypriot government or by Asil Nadir. That is simply not true. But interestingly, it has surfaced again this week in the national press,' he said.

Only two MPs owned homes in the region - himself and John Taylor, the Ulster Unionist MP. Sir Keith said he had never met Nadir and had no connection with his affairs. 'I repeat again I have never met Asil Nadir, and have never communicated to him . . . I met his sister once at a reception, but I have never met him.'

Mr Mates has alleged that MI6 was involved in the effort to ruin Nadir to drive the Turkish Cypriots to the negotiating table - the aim being to reunify Cyprus, an important Nato base.

Mr Major, speaking yesterday in his Huntingdon constituency, said Mr Mates had taken the honourable course by resigning and now 'deserves some peace and quiet'.