Keith Vaz was earlier probed over his financial matters in 2000 and 2001.
LONDON – Is Keith Vaz, a British MP of Goan origin, being investigated for making illegal earnings of half-a-million pounds? While Britain’s leading mainline newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, said as much, sources in the Scotland Yard told Times Of India that £500,000 of “suspicious nature” were paid into various bank accounts held by Vaz over the last six years.
When contacted by TOI, Vaz strenuously denied wrongdoing. Pressed for an official comment, Scotland Yard’s spokesman told TOI, “It would not be appropriate for the Metropolitan Police Service to comment on any individual’s historic financial investigations that may or may not have been conducted.”
“These weren’t suspicious in any way,” Vaz said. “They relate to the sale of a family home in London, the purchase of a new family home and a drawdown of equity from my bank.”
The pro-Conservative party Daily Telegraph claimed the source of the funds was not declared publicly and the evidence gathered by the police may contradict assurances given by Vaz during the earlier investigation into his finances between 2000 and 2001.
“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.”
Vaz added, “All ministers (and he was a minister then) 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.”
Vaz resigned as minister for Europe in 2001 in Tony Blair’s government and was never re-appointed. The immediate cause of his stepping down was an allegation that he had received money from the billionaire Hinduja family relating to an application for a British passport by one of the brothers.
The MP, who has a high profile role as chairman of the House of Commons’ select committee on home affairs, was investigated by the parliamentary commissioner for standards between 2000 and 2001. He was cleared of receiving illicit funds. As chairman of the select committee, Vaz has been putting the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat government through tough scrutiny. His wife, Maria Fernandes, has also been dragged into the controversy.
Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative MP told media Vaz had “questions to answer”. He continued,: “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.”
Axe-happy developer will pay, says furious Surrey mayor
The City of Surrey is livid over the excessive clearcutting at a housing development in Newton after one company violated city bylaws by axing more than the approved 39 trees on the property.
A developer on a project at 5904 144th St. went beyond the permitted zone and sawed through trees in a city park near Hyland Creek, as well as on some environmentally-protected land and private property.
“The amount of clearing was quite substantial – I’d say more than twice what they were permitted to clear,” said Don Luymes, acting general manager of planning and development for the City of Surrey.
Mayor Dianne Watts called the extra tree felling “totally unacceptable” and said whoever’s at fault will pay for the mistake.
“There’ll be significant fines and a significant mitigation package that will have to be implemented on the riparian area and on the neighbour’s land that was cut as well,” Watts said.
When neighbours in the area realized the company had gone out of bounds, they alerted officials and the city immediately issued a stop work order. Several different city departments, in addition to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, are investigating the matter.
“We actually sent survey crews out there to figure out exactly how many trees were illegally cleared,” said Luymes. “We’re also trying to figure out how many of those trees were on private property, how many were in the park and how many of them were in the protected area for the creek because there’s different implications for each of those situations.”
Luymes said the city doesn’t yet know whether or not the excess tree felling was a mistake, but hopes to have some answers by Friday.
After the land is surveyed, the city will issue fines and restitution work to repair the landscape.
Council recently heard a plan by Morgan Place Developments Ltd. to build on a 25-acre property on 20th Avenue near Highway 99 in South Surrey. They expressed concern for the plan’s request to chop down 417 trees on the property.