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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 18:19 GMT
Fayed witnesses defend evidence
Mohamed al-Fayed Mohamed al-Fayed: Employees defend 'cash envelope' evidence

Two key witnesses for Harrods boss Mohamed al-Fayed have been defending their evidence in the libel action brought by former Tory MP Neil Hamilton.

Libel Trial
On the tenth day of the High Court case, Mr al-Fayed's former secretary told of her "absolute horror" at being accused of criminal offences by Mr Hamilton.

The court heard another employee tell how Mr al-Fayed once described Mr Hamilton as a "greedy bastard". She also rejected suggestions she had lied for her boss.

Alison Bozek, now a solicitor, has claimed during the "cash for questions" trial that she saw Mr Al Fayed put a "wodge" of money into an envelope for Mr Hamilton and said she herself twice put thousands of pounds into envelopes for the MP to collect.

Neil and Christine Hamilton Neil and Christine Hamilton: He was said to be a 'greedy bastard'
At the end of her cross-examination by Desmond Browne QC, for Mr Hamilton, Ms Bozek was re-examined by counsel for the Harrods chief, George Carman QC.

Mr Carman said: "Ms Bozek, in the course of lengthy cross-examination which has just finished you have been accused of two things of a criminal nature."

One was a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, he said, and the second "a criminal conspiracy to commit perjury on oath in this court".

'Absolutely horrified'

Mr Carman asked her to tell the judge, Mr Justice Morland, and the jury her reaction to those suggestions.

With her voice breaking, Ms Bozek answered: "I am absolutely horrified and I think it is extremely unfair of Mr Browne to have made them."

Mr Hamilton, the former MP for Tatton, Cheshire is suing Mr al-Fayed over a Channel 4 Dispatches programme in January 1997, in which he claimed Mr Hamilton had accepted cash payments, gift vouchers and a free holiday at the Paris Ritz in return for asking parliamentary questions on behalf of Harrods.

'Doesn't bear personal grudges'

Mr al-Fayed denies libel and pleads justification.

Iris Bond, who has worked at Mr al-Fayed's Park Lane office in central London for almost 21 years, told Mr Carman she had never been afraid of her boss.

She said: "I will say that he's not a saint. He is capable of eruptions. He can have a bad temper. But he forgets things very quickly. He doesn't bear personal grudges."

'He's going to want money'

Mrs Bond said she had seen Mr Hamilton at Park Lane once and had spoken to him and his wife on the phone more than once, either to set up a meeting or arrange the collection of documents or an envelope.

She said she remembered one occasion when Mr Hamilton phoned - after he and his wife had stayed at the Paris Ritz in September 1987 - and Mr al-Fayed was not very complimentary about him.

"Mr al-Fayed said `He is a greedy bastard. I know one of the things he's going to come for - he's going to want money'."

'Outrageous'

She said Mr al-Fayed then put 2,500 in a white envelope. On another occasion Mr al-Fayed telephoned her and asked her to bring over 5,000 in cash to Harrods, some of which was for "your friend Neil", she said.

Mrs Bond, a former member of the Monday Club who described herself in court as a "lapsed Conservative", said Mr al-Fayed had "a wicked sense of humour" and used to kid her about Mr Hamilton.

Mr Carman asked for her reaction to Mr Browne's suggestion that she had entered into a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and commit perjury out of loyalty to Mr Al Fayed.

Mrs Bond: "I'd say it is outrageous".

The trial continues.

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