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Neil Hamilton
"For the last five years I battled to clear my name"
 real 28k

The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg
"Neil Hamilton is now a broken man"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jane Peel
"The allegations first emerged in the Guardian in 1994"
 real 28k

The BBC's Catherine Marston
"The jury has been fastidious in ensuring it understood the law"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 22:37 GMT
Hamilton loses libel case

Neil and Christine Hamilton The Hamiltons battle past assembled photographers

The former Tory MP Neil Hamilton faces financial ruin after losing his libel case against Harrods boss Mohamed al-Fayed.

Christmas has come early. This is a total vindication
Mohamed al-Fayed
A High Court jury unanimously dismissed Mr Hamilton's claim that the Egyptian-born businessman had libelled him on the Channel 4 programme Dispatches, shown in January 1997.

Mr al-Fayed immediately issued a statement in which he said: "Christmas has come early. This is total vindication."

Mr Hamilton, 50, has been ordered to pay both sides' legal costs, estimated at more than 1m.

Mr Hamilton looked stunned and put his head in his hands as did his wife Christine, who had wept when the jury retired on Monday.

Libel Trial
The Hamiltons, who are believed to have a fighting fund of about 410,000 contributed to by at least one multi-millionaire, now face the possibility of losing their 700,000 home near Macclesfield, Cheshire.

'Stunned and devastated'

Mr Hamilton has been given 28 days to reveal the names of his financial backers.

Christmas has come early for Mr al-Fayed
Later he made a statement in which he said he was "stunned and devastated" by the verdict.

Mr Hamilton denied acting corruptly and said he did not regret taking the action.

"I couldn't have gone through life without straining every sinew within me to bring out the truth," he said.

Asked why the jurors had reached their verdict, he claimed the "waters had been muddied" by the introduction of the Mobil evidence.

Mr Hamilton claimed the said the trial had shown Mr al-Fayed's "true colours".

His wife said: "The jury are wrong is all I want to say - we are not corrupt."

Mobil evidence

The crucial question which the jury answered "Yes" to was: "Are you satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Mr al-Fayed has established on highly convincing evidence that Mr Hamilton was corrupt in his capacity as a Member of Parliament?"

Crucial to the case was an allegation that Mr Hamilton had corruptly demanded a 10,000 payment from the US oil company Mobil for tabling an amendment to the 1989 Finance Bill.

I am stunned and devastated by this verdict...justice has not been done today.
Neil Hamilton
George Carman QC, for Mr al-Fayed, said if it was well-founded, Mr Hamilton's claim "falls and falls completely on Mobil alone because it establishes corruption on the part of a Member of Parliament".

Mr Hamilton said that he had a legitimate consultancy which he had duly declared.

On Monday the jury had returned to seek clarification on the Mobil evidence.

After the verdict, Mr al-Fayed said: "I was called a Jekyll and Hyde character. There was only one Mr Hyde who tried to hide everything and the jury saw through him."

The Hamiltons' solicitor, Rupert Gray, said: "We need a chance to regroup and recover our thoughts. This is a surprise result to the Hamiltons."

Mr Carman said: "This jury has given this case very great and careful consideration and it has confirmed my belief in the value of the jury system in this country."

Cash and gifts

The allegations followed on from similar claims made about Mr Hamilton and another Tory MP, Tim Smith, in The Guardian in 1994. Mr Smith admitted asking questions for cash and resigned as a junior Northern Ireland minister.

During the programme Mr al-Fayed said Mr Hamilton, then MP for Tatton in Cheshire, received up to 110,000 in cash and other gifts from him in the mid-1980s in return for asking questions in the House of Commons.

At the time Mr al-Fayed was engaged in a bitter battle for the House of Fraser chain, which included Harrods, with the late Tiny Rowland.

Mr Hamilton, who later resigned his position as junior minister at the Department of Trade and Industry, strenuously denied the allegations and sued for defamation but Mr al-Fayed denied libel and pleaded justification.

During the trial a number of witnesses told the trial they had seen him or heard about him receiving brown envelopes filled with cash from Mr al-Fayed.

The "cash-for-questions" scandal was part of a tidal wave of sleaze allegations which undermined John Major's government in the run-up to the 1997 General Election.

At the polls Mr Hamilton lost his safe seat to Martin Bell, who ran as an Independent but campaigned on a "clean up government" platform.

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See also:
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton: I'm broke
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Fayed's faith in British justice restored
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton verdict - reaction at-a-glance
21 Dec 99 |  UK
'Invincible' Christine battles on
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Mobil may have sealed Hamilton's fate
21 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Profile: Neil Hamilton
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Profile: Mohamed al-Fayed
21 Dec 99 |  UK
George Carman: King of the court

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