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Thursday, March 11, 1999 Published at 19:20 GMT


Sarwar admits lying

Mohammad Sarwar: Mistrusted co-defendent

MP Mohammad Sarwar has admitted he lied to his lawyer and Labour Party officials when first asked to explain bribery allegations against him.

Mr Sarwar said he lied after seeing his lifetime's goals "shattered" by a newspaper article accusing him of paying rival candidate Badar Islam £5000 to ease off his campaigning at the 1997 General Election.

BBC Correspondent Andrew Cassell: Sarwar lied because of pressure and bad advice
The MP told the High Court in Edinburgh he had originally claimed a post-dated cheque used as a guarantee for the money came from Mr Islam.

Mr Sarwar said that almost six months later he had been forced to change his story and tell his solicitor the truth - that the cheque was given to him by his friend and co-accused Mumtaz Hussain.

The MP denies two charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice after two fraud charges against him were dropped earlier this week.

Mr Hussain denies one count of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Sarwar, a millionaire businessmen became the UK's first Muslim MP when he was elected in Glasgow Govan in 1997. But he was suspended by the Labour Party after the bribery claims surfaced shortly after his victory.

MP under 'tremendous pressure'

Giving evidence for a second day, Mr Sarwar said he originally lied about the cheque because at that time he had doubts about Mr Hussain.

"At that time I was not 100%, or 50%, trusting of Mumtaz Hussain. I was under tremendous pressure," he said.

[ image: Badar Islam: Rival candidate in 1997 election]
Badar Islam: Rival candidate in 1997 election
"I had worked hard for 20 years, 16 to 18 hours a day, working to achieve this goal.

"I was devastated. I thought they were all lies, 99% lies, in the News of the World and I was upset, frustrated, devastated, shattered.

Mr Sarwar also said he had taken some poor advice from a friend who said he should lie about the cheque.

He agreed with Duncan Menzies QC, prosecuting, that at around the same time that he changed his account in December 1997, Mr Hussain also changed his own account to one which did not contradict the MP's version.

Mr Menzies QC Mr Menzies asked the MP why, having changed his story once, the jury should believe him now.

Mr Sarwar replied: "I have the courage, if I have done something wrong, to accept it. My conscience is clear that what is on oath today is true."

The case continues.

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