Why did Branson sit on bribe story for so long?

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The Independent Online
On Panorama on Monday night, Richard Branson made remarks that were clearly grossly defamatory, accusing our chairman, Guy Snowden, of attempting to bribe him to drop his bid to run the National Lottery.

Mr Branson has a lot of questions to answer. Why didn't he make these allegations immediately? Then he could have caused a great deal of damage to Camelot's bid. Why did he not pursue the alleged bribery to Oflot, the lottery regulator, when the bids were made?

He claims he offered to complain to Peter Davis, the director-general of Oflot. Mr Davis says this never happened.

A closely researched book about Mr Branson published this year contains a detailed account of the lunch with Mr Snowden, yet contains no mention of any bribery attempt. In fact, the suggestion is that Mr Snowden tried to frighten the Branson team from bidding.

Why did Richard Branson not go straight to the police? Surely, as a citizen of the United Kingdom, he had a duty to report any wrongdoing? Yet he waited two years before unveiling his story on television - surely an inappropriate place to make such serious allegations.

I would like an answer from Mr Branson to all these questions. At the moment his allegations are tainted by the way they have been made.

We at GTech are considering whether to sue. As Mr Branson has taken two years to emerge with his damaging story, we surely deserve a few days to consider our response.

As for the flights that we provided for Peter Davis when he visited the United States, everything was in strict accordance with all the laws, rules and regulations. There was nothing improper at all. Mr Davis, at his request, flew to five cities in three days, visiting GTech sites and our competitors. There is simply no way he could have covered so much ground so quickly on scheduled flights.

Since the lottery was introduced in Britain, lottery-bashing has become a favourite pastime of some sections of the media. Camelot - in which we hold a 22 per cent stake - is attacked for its great success. I discount those attacks because I think those who matter are the people who play the lottery - and virtually everyone in Britain is joining in, at least occasionally, to have a little flutter. That's what really matters.

The writer is director of public relations for GTech.