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Monday, 29 November, 1999, 18:15 GMT
Hamilton took 'wodge' of cash
Neil Hamilton is suing Mohamed al-Fayed for libel

Mohamed al-Fayed's former secretary has told the High Court how her employer left envelopes containing a "wodge" of cash for the former Tory MP Neil Hamilton.

Libel Trial
Alison Bozek made the remarks during the eighth day of the libel trial in which Mr Hamilton is suing Mr al-Fayed over his claims that the Tory MP took cash and gifts for asking parliamentary questions.

Mr al-Fayed denies libel and pleads justification.

Ms Bozek told Mr Justice Morland she vividly recalled Mr Hamilton's name on an envelope containing a large amount of cash.

Her remarks followed those made earlier on Tuesday by the former editor of The Guardian newspaper Peter Preston who said that during discussions with the Harrods owner it became apparent that money was passing to the former MP.

Neil Hamilton lost his seat at the 1997 election
Ms Bozek, who worked for the Harrods boss for 13 years, said that she first met Mr Hamilton in 1986 or 1987 and knew he had been introduced to Mr al-Fayed by the lobbyist Ian Greer.

In her evidence, she said Mr Hamilton visited frequently - she had noted 21 appointments for him in the diary, three of which had been crossed out, and up to 12 of which had taken place at an office in Park Lane.

Hamilton's name on cash envelope

Ms Bozek said that the first time that she found out about what she claimed were Mr Hamilton's cash payments occurred after going into her employer's office after Mr Hamilton had telephoned.

She continued saying on one particular occasion "which sticks very vividly in my mind" Mr al-Fayed "took out a wodge of money and put it into an envelope.

"His briefcase was in front of him and he had a white envelope into which he put the money and he scrawled on the envelope Neil Hamilton's name.

"I can remember to this day Neil Hamilton's name scrawled on the envelope.

"He closed it, gave it to me and said 'leave it downstairs for him'."

Ms Bozek said that she believed the money was in 50 notes.

Earlier, during cross-examination by Mr Hamilton's QC, Desmond Browne, former Guardian editor Mr Preston said: "I am saying that in the context of the meetings with Fayed it was clear to me that money was passing all over the shop...that Hamilton and Tim Smith [a second MP involved for the 'cash for questions' affair] were having money...."

Peter Preston has no doubt that Neil Hamilton took cash for questions
Mr Browne put to Mr Preston that - contrary to his evidence now - he had told an inquiry by Sir Gordon Downey in "the clearest possible terms" that in 1993 Mr al-Fayed had not told him anything about the money passing in brown envelopes.

Mr Preston told the court he had been wrong and that he had "a failure of recollection" in his earlier evidence.

Mr Browne asked: "He [Mr al-Fayed] didn't say that, did he?"

Mr Preston replied: "He said it had been paid over in envelopes. The cash had to be paid over in some form anyway - you don't hand over large bundles of cash."

The former editor said the reference to 2,000 made in his notebook in 1993 was "the sum that Mr al-Fayed told me was the going rate for cash in hand".

Mr Preston also told the court the money had gone directly from the hand of Mr al-Fayed to Mr Smith and Mr Hamilton.

Mr Carman asked Mr Preston if he had any doubt about that. He replied: "Not at all."

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See also:
27 Nov 99 |  UK
The al-Fayed libel trial
26 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed cries in court
23 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed 'threatened John Major'
24 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed accused of false shipping claims
24 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed 'persecuted Harrods staff'
25 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed's fury over cash withdrawal questions

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