Yard confirms Archer aid inquiry

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard confirmed last night that it would investigate allegations that millions had gone missing from a fund-raising campaign for Kurdish refugees run by Jeffrey Archer.

After Archer's conviction at the Old Bailey last week, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, a Liberal Democrat MEP, said she would lodge a complaint over the £57m he claimed to have collected for Kurds in Iraq through the "Simple Truth" campaign in 1991.

She also intends to give information to the Serious Fraud Office and the Commons' Public Accounts Committee. Scotland Yard said it had received a letter from Lady Nicholson, and that officers were carrying out a "preliminary assessment" of the facts. "A decision will be made in due course as to whether future action may or may not be appropriate," the spokesman said.

The Simple Truth appeal centred on a high-profile charity concert staged at Wembley Arena in London. The event attracted support from singers including Chris de Burgh, Paul Simon and Sting, and was watched by a worldwide television audience of 50 million. John Major, the Prime Minister at the time, pledged £10m for the Kurds from the Government. He also recommended Archer for his peerage on the strength of the money raised for the Kurds.

But although Archer said that £57m had been raised, and that letters from the United Nations supported it, he has never made the evidence public.

Lady Nicholson, who defected from the Tories in 1995, claimed "practically nothing" had reached the Kurdish people. When Archer was jailed, she said: "This is a matter that has been long-running for me and I am delighted that it is possible to get the spotlight on it, because I think the Kurds have been treated very badly."

An official for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said the money appeared to have vanished into "thin air".

Meanwhile, the man whose revelations brought about Archer's downfall said he planned to write a book about his experiences with the peer. Ted Francis, 67, who was cleared of perverting the course of justice at the trial, said the book had the working title Journeys Around Jeffrey.