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Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 14:47 GMT
Al-Fayed witness denies 'plot'
Ian Hamilton (left) is suing Mohamed al-Fayed

A senior American lawyer has told the Neil Hamilton libel trial he was not involved in a "sinister plot" to set up the former Tory MP.

Libel Trial
Douglas Marvin said there was no hidden agenda when he took statements from Harrods employees who alleged former Tory MP Neil Hamilton took cash from their employer Mohamed al-Fayed

Mr Hamilton is suing Mr al-Fayed over a Channel 4 Dispatches programme in January 1997, in which he claimed Mr Hamilton had 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.

Mr Marvin, who has a practice in Fairfax, Virginia, and who has known Mr al-Fayed for more than 20 years, said he became involved when he was in London working on the Harrods flotation in September 1996.

He told Mr Justice Morland and a High Court jury he met lawyers for the Guardian 10 days before the expected start of a libel action brought against the newspaper by Mr Hamilton and lobbyist Ian Greer, in which Mr al-Fayed was to be called as a witness.

Mr Marvin said the issue of Harrods diary entries was mentioned and he volunteered to interview Harrods secretary, Iris Bond, on a professional basis.

I made it very clear that I wanted to know only the truth. I didn't want speculation. I wanted to know what the facts were
Douglas Marvin
Mr Marvin said he applied strict rules to the process, which also included executive personal assistant Alison Bozek and security officer Philip Bromfield.

Mrs Bond and Miss Bozek have both told Mr Justice Morland and the jury in the former Tatton MP's libel action over "cash for questions" allegations that they had seen Mr al-Fayed put cash in envelopes for Mr Hamilton.

Mr Bromfield has said he twice handed envelopes over to Mr Hamilton at Mr al-Fayed's Park Lane office.

Mr Marvin said: "I made it very clear that I wanted to know only the truth. I didn't want speculation. I wanted to know what the facts were.

"The other rule I observe is that I told each witness not to speak to another witness about the case."

Mr Marvin said it had not been his intention to take the statements.

"I had no idea what any of the witnesses knew. I went to meet with the Guardian lawyers simply to find out about the case and when it was going to take place and whether Mr Al Fayed would be a witness and when.

"During the course of the discussions, they brought to my attention this diary entry."

Libel denied

Mr al-Fayed's counsel, George Carman QC, asked: "Was there anything sinister in what you were doing?"

"Absolutely not," he replied.

Mr Carman: "Was it any part of some sinister plot that you should do this task?"

"Absolutely not," said Mr Marvin.

Mr Marvin said he saw the three separately and never revealed to one what the other had said.

He never "planted" an idea in a witness's head.

In reply to Mr Carman, Mr Marvin said Mr al-Fayed did not play any part in the statements whatsoever or give him any kind of instruction.

"He did not tell me what the witnesses knew. He did not tell me what he thought they might know.

"He did not tell me what to put in their statements. He was not present for any discussion I had with the witnesses."

Mr al-Fayed denies libel and pleads justification.

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See also:
30 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed's ex-secretary 'not lying'
29 Nov 99 |  UK
Hamilton took 'wodge' of cash
26 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed cries in court
25 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed's fury over cash withdrawal questions
24 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed 'persecuted Harrods staff'
22 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed challenges Duke to sue
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