Secret police probe into Labour MP’s £500,000

A police investigation into a high-profile Labour MP discovered that he apparently held hundreds of thousands of pounds in a series of bank accounts, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The Scotland Yard inquiry said funds believed to have been “of a suspicious nature” were paid into current and savings accounts in the name of or linked to Keith Vaz, a minister in the previous Labour government.

Detectives found that over a six-year period, almost £500,000 was apparently deposited in the MP’s accounts — in addition to his salary between 1997 and 2001.

The source of the funds has not been declared publicly and the evidence gathered by police may contradict assurances given by Mr Vaz during an investigation into his finances between 2000 and 2001 carried out by parliament.

The Labour MP has denied any wrongdoing and claims that any money passing through his bank accounts came from the proceeds of property deals. The Metropolitan Police is facing calls to hand evidence it collected to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, who can reopen an inquiry into allegations first made a decade ago.

Mr Vaz is chairman of the home affairs select committee, charged with holding the police and Whitehall to account. Whitehall sources claimed that he had not been vetted for the role, unlike holders of other senior offices, and a Conservative MP called for him to step down while the matter was clarified.

The Daily Telegraph 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”.

During the period under investigation, Mr Vaz made no formal disclosures in the parliamentary register of interests of any outside sources of income. He said last night that he did not have any outside income.

The Metropolitan Police secretly applied for production orders for seven different high-street banks, which were required to provide details of the accounts they held for Mr Vaz and his wife, Maria Fernandes. Sources claim that Sir Richard Wilson, who was Cabinet Secretary from 1998 to 2002, was briefed by the police about the investigation’s findings. It is not known if Tony Blair, who was prime minister at the time, was also made aware of the information.

Mr Vaz was investigated by the parliamentary commissioner for standards between 2000 and 2001 after it was alleged that he may have benefited from money paid by a solicitor and the billionaire Hinduja brothers.

The minister was forced to resign and was suspended from parliament for seeking to frustrate the investigation by refusing to provide financial information. Elizabeth Filkin, who was the parliamentary commissioner, resigned soon after the inquiry amid allegations that she had been undermined. However, Mr Vaz was cleared of the central allegation of receiving illicit funds.

Andrew Bridgen, a Tory MP said Mr Vaz had “questions to answer” and he would be writing to the parliamentary standards commissioner today. “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,” he said.

The Metropolitan Police refused to comment.

The Daily Telegraph has established that in June 2001, in the wake of the parliamentary inquiry into Mr Vaz, a report on the MP was filed to the National Intelligence Criminal ­Service (NICS). A Scotland Yard document says that a report made to the NICS stated: “News reports have linked Vaz to the Hinduja brothers passport application affair and imply that he may have received payments.

“Investigations into credits in 1998 show in excess of £58k was paid into the savings account and over £24k into the current account. These payments contain significant amounts of cash and do not appear to be salary payments. In view of the allegations against Vaz and reports that he did not fully comply with the standards commissioner when questioned during the inquiry, we believe that the level of funds received during 1998 are of a suspicious nature.”

The police documents claim that before the 1997 election, £13,908 was paid into the HSBC accounts and £9,247 taken out. However, in 1997 the amount apparently rose to £136,566 paid in and £130,427 taken out; rising again in 1998 to £187,103 paid in, including nearly £29,000 in cash, and £191,999 taken out. The following year, £120,394 was deposited and £123,991 withdrawn. In 2000, when the first parliamentary investigation into Mr Vaz’s conduct began, the deposits fell to £8,410.

The police report stated that another account was used for salary payments. It concluded: “There are numerous unexplained payments into the accounts and large transfers between accounts that require further investigation.”

It is understood that Scotland Yard was unable to establish the source of the funds in question or prove any criminal misconduct. A Whitehall source said that what was uncovered was “a matter for parliament rather than for the police”.

During the period in question, Mr Vaz collected an annual salary of between £43,860 and £82,697.

Of central significance is a company called Mapesbury Communications set up by Mr Vaz in 1994 to receive earnings from outside parliament. It was run by his wife. Mr Vaz told the parliamentary commissioner that he had never received any payments from Mapesbury.

However, Scotland Yard stated: “At least one payment has been received into this [HSBC] personal account from Mapesbury Communications Ltd. A point which Vaz has strongly denied.”

Last night, Mr Vaz said this information was incorrect.

Mr Vaz resigned as Europe minister in June 2001 in the midst of the parliamentary inquiry into his conduct and was never reappointed to government by Mr Blair. In a statement last night, he strongly denied any wrongdoing.

“These matters relate to two parliamentary inquiries which began in 1999 and concluded in 2003,” he said. “My finances were discussed by every newspaper in the country for a period of three years and were the subject of extensive examination.

“All ministers have to report all their financial interests to their permanent secretary, which I did. I had no discussions with the then cabinet secretary or the then prime minister about any of these issues. I know of no investigation.”

The MP also added that he “had never banked with HSBC”.

However, in his parliamentary expenses files, copies of which have also been seen by The Daily Telegraph, Mr Vaz refunded money to parliament using a cheque from an account held at First Direct, which is part of HSBC.

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