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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 19:40 GMT
Al-Fayed denies Hamilton document claims

Neil Hamilton faced financial ruin after libel case defeat
Mohammed al-Fayed has denied paying for stolen legal documents as former MP Neil Hamilton bids to overturn a libel ruling.

Mr al-Fayed told the Court of Appeal that he had no knowledge of stolen legal documents for which he allegedly paid 10,000 at the time of the cash for questions libel action.

He said that he would never involve himself in anything that was not "straightforward and honest".

He was speaking on the third day of Neil Hamilton's legal battle to set aside last year's verdict, which saw the former Conservative MP for Tatton lose his libel case.

Confidential documents

Mr Hamilton claims he would probably not have lost the action, which has left him facing bankruptcy, if the court had known Mr al-Fayed was involved in the alleged fraud.

It is alleged that confidential documents were taken from dustbins outside the chambers of Mr Hamilton's lawyers.

But Mr al-Fayed denies any involvement.

I will never involve myself in anything which is not straightforward and honest

Mohammed al-Fayed

"I have no knowledge of these documents. Nobody mentioned it to me," he said.

"I have never seen it and I have nothing to do with it.

"I will never involve myself in anything which is not straightforward and honest."

Mr Hamilton had sued over claims by Mr al-Fayed in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme three years ago that he had corruptly demanded and accepted cash payments, gift vouchers and a free holiday at the Paris Ritz in return for asking parliamentary questions on behalf of Harrods.

But a High Court jury rejected his case and ordered him to pay Mr al-Fayed's legal costs.

Financial ruin

Mr Hamilton, who dismissed the allegations as a pack of lies, faced financial ruin at the end of the case last year with an estimated 2m costs bill.

Mohammed al-Fayed hits back at accusations

Mr Hamilton's lawyer, Anthony Boswood QC, submitted that if the trial judge, Mr Justice Morland, had been told of the evidence, he would in all probability have discharged the jury, investigated the matter, and struck out Mr al-Fayed's case.

He claimed Mr al-Fayed and his head of security, John Macnamara, had engaged freelance journalist Mark Hollingsworth to help in the litigation - apparently unbeknown to his own legal team.

Mr Hollingsworth was paid 10,000 in cash with the promise of a further 10,000 to come, he told the court.

He said it should be presumed Mr al-Fayed made use of the material.

The case is continuing.

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See also:

21 Dec 99 | UK
Hamilton: I'm broke
21 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Profile: Neil Hamilton
21 Dec 99 | UK
Profile: Mohamed al-Fayed
21 Dec 99 | UK
Hamilton loses libel case
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