1 Oct 2012

Tory MP asks watchdog to investigate Keith Vaz

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen calls for a probe into the source of £500,000 in bank deposits linked to MP Keith Vaz in a letter to the parliamentary standards commissioner obtained by Channel 4 News.

“It appears Mr Vaz has a number of questions to answer,” Mr Bridgen said.

In a letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards obtained by Channel 4 News the Tory MP requests an investigation into whether Mr Vaz lied or broke any parliamentary rules by failing to declare outside interests “given that the reported police investigation found that outside payments were indeed made”.

Mr Bridgen, citing a report in today’s Telegraph newspaper, also asked for the commissioner to re-open a decade-old investigation to determine whether Mr Vaz received improper payments from the billionaire Hinduja brothers, who pushed the then-Blair government to give Mr Vaz a ministerial role and lobbied for UK passports in the late 1990s. The scandal eventually led to the sacking of Peter Mandelson.

Mr Vaz was cleared of the earlier allegations of receiving illicit funds, but was forced to resign and was suspended from parliament for refusing to provide financial information to the parliamentary commissioner.

Finally, Mr Bridgen asked for an explanation as to what the commissioner knew about the police findings at the time of the earlier probe and whether it was now appropriate for Mr Vaz to resign given the sensitive nature of his current role in government. Mr Vaz chairs the home affairs select committee which holds the police to account.

Position untenable

Should the commissioner agree to investigate, Mr Bridgen said Mr Vaz’s position as head of the committee is untenable.

“I feel that he cannot continue to hold his role with the Home Affairs Select Committee during an investigation and call on him to stand down,” Mr Bridgen told reporters.

Scotland Yard declined to comment. According to the Telegraph, police detectives allegedly found almost £500,000 in “suspicious” funds were deposited into multiple accounts linked to Labour MP Keith Vaz in addition to his salary between 1997 and 2001,

The money was paid into a series of accounts over a period of time. The newspaper also reported that in an internal briefing document circulated within Scotland yard, detectives expressed their belief that “the level of funds received … are of a suspicious nature.”

‘Nothing suspicious’

Mr Vaz denied there was anything suspicious about his banking transactions, noting the money in question related to buying and selling a family home in London and a drawdown of equity from his bank.

In a statement posted on his web site today, the Labour MP said:

“The Telegraph contacted me on Sunday about an investigation which may or may not have occurred 10 years ago. I asked them to supply me with a copy of the report but they did not have one.

“These matters relate to two parliamentary inquires which began in 1999 and concluded in 2003. My finances were discussed by every newspaper in the country for a period of three years and were the subject of extensive examination. I have had no outside interests,” Mr Vaz said.

“When you sell a house and you buy a new house it is normal practice for the money to be paid into your account and the money then paid out,” Mr Vaz added.

Parliamentary standards

A spokesman for Mr Vaz, contacted by Channel 4 News today, declined to comment on Mr Bridgen’s intention to contact the commissioner for information.

The Telegraph report alleged that police evidence may contradict assurances Mr Vaz gave during an investigation into his finances between 2000 and 2001, which was carried out by parliament.

Scotland Yard were facing calls to hand evidence to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, which can reopen an inquiry into allegations first made a decade ago, the Telegraph said.

Furthermore, the Telegraph claimed it has seen a police document in which detectives claim to have established that £28,959 in cash was paid into an HSBC account held by Mr Vaz during a single year. The MP and his wife also held a series of other accounts at different banks that were also examined by police.

In an internal briefing document circulated within Scotland Yard, detectives expressed their belief that “the level of funds received … are of a suspicious nature”, the Telegraph reported.