Tory official denies his own account of Nadir meeting: Brendan Bruce's book refers to seeking money from the tycoon. Now he says that is incorrect. Steve Boggan reports

A FORMER director of communications for the Conservative Party yesterday denied trying to solicit money from Asil Nadir - despite having written about the attempt in a book.

In Images of Power, Brendan Bruce described holding a lunch meeting with the fugitive tycoon 'in a (vain) attempt to extract money from him for Tory party funds. Naturally enough I was trying to convince him that we needed more money for the party's marketing programme . . .'

However, speaking from his home in France yesterday, Mr Bruce said he recalled the meeting but insisted money was never discussed. His initial assertion, that efforts were being made to 'extract' money from Mr Nadir, is potentially embarrassing for the Tories because the party has so far insisted that none of Mr Nadir's donations - totalling pounds 440,000 - was solicited.

In a statement to the House of Commons last week, John Major said: 'Donations to the Conservative Party are freely offered and they are accepted on that basis.'

Mr Bruce's meeting with Mr Nadir took place in May 1990 at Granby's restaurant in the Horseguards Hotel, a stone's throw from Downing Street. Mr Bruce said he was accompanied by an official from the treasurer's department at Conservative Central Office, but he refused to name the official.

'I was not there to extract money out of anyone,' he said. 'I was invited to go by the treasurer's department to explain what the marketing of the party was. Nadir had said he had some ideas and the treasurers invited him to speak to the man responsible, me.

'We didn't talk about money. If he had talked about money I would have stopped him and, if he had gone on talking about money, I would have got up and left. That is the rule. He knew he wasn't supposed to mention money and he didn't mention money.'

Asked whether the Conservative Party was trying to solicit funds from Mr Nadir at the time, Mr Bruce, communications director from spring 1989 to December 1990, said: 'I would not know. You have to understand the nature of the beast. There is a Chinese wall between the treasurer and the rest of Central Office. The rest of Central Office simply does not know about fund-raising. For all I know, you are a contributor.

'I did not solicit funds from Mr Nadir. The person with me (from the treasurer's department) did not solicit funds from him, either . . . Yes, I was lunching with him but no, it wasn't my job to extract money. The other person at the lunch did not mention money. It wasn't discussed.'

Asked why he wrote, apparently clearly, in his book that he was trying to extract money from the tycoon for Tory party funds and was anxious to convice him that 'we needed more money for the party's marketing programme', Mr Bruce said: 'I could have made it clearer that money wasn't discussed. It was my fault.'