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Thursday, 16 December, 1999, 14:33 GMT
Lawyer tells of 'Hamilton's tragedy'

Neil and Christine Hamilton in court for the closing speech

The High Court has been told the that "tragedy of Neil Hamilton" stemmed from his attempts to help Mohamed al-Fayed.

Mr Hamilton's QC Desmond Browne was making his closing speech to the jury in the cash for questions libel action and said the case was all about the issue of corruption.

Libel Trial
The former minister is suing Mr al-Fayed over allegations he made on a Channel 4 programme that the then MP 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 the Harrods boss.

Mr al-Fayed denies libel and pleads justification.

Mr Browne told the jury: "The truth is that it's all about his refusal to be corrupted by Mr al-Fayed and his inner circle."

Mr al-Fayed had a hold over Mr Hamilton, the court heard
The Harrods boss thought he could use Mr Hamilton when he became a minister at the Department of Trade and Industry to serve "their corrupt ends" to assist in overturning the DTI report into Mr Al-Fayed's takeover of House of Fraser, Mr Browne argued.

"And when they found it was not possible and he wouldn't take the bait, doesn't history show that in their different ways they took their revenge?"

Mr Browne went on: "The tragic thing about this case is that Neil Hamilton's downfall all stems from him trying to help Mr al-Fayed help him right the wrong which he seemed to be suffering at the hands of Lonrho and Tiny Rowland.

If there were Olympic medals for lying Mr Fayed would be a prime contender for a gold one
Desmond Browne QC
"If Neil Hamilton made a mistake, it was to take Mr al-Fayed at his word and accept his generous offer of hospitality at The Ritz."

Those days at The Ritz in September 1987, Mr Browne said, had given Mr al-Fayed "a hold" over Mr Hamilton which he had never ceased to try to exploit "in the most ruthless fashion imaginable".

The story went back to March 1985 with the takeover of the House of Fraser, said Mr Browne, adding: "His life since then appears to have been lies, lies, lies.

"If there were Olympic medals for lying Mr al-Fayed would be a prime contender for a gold one. I certainly suggest he is a habitual liar, a man whose lies have been of a scale that he dare not sue for libel when he is called a pathological liar."

Mr Browne said evidence from Mr al-Fayed's secretaries demonstrated the Harrods boss would not hesitate to draw employees into his lies.

Mr al-Fayed made allegations against Prince Philip in court
The clearest example of this concerned his repeated claims his son, Dodi, and Diana, Princess of Wales, were engaged at the time of their deaths, Mr Browne said.

"Ordinarily one wouldn't intrude into such matters but it is he who has brought this into the public domain repeatedly and has done so in the most public fashion imaginable by accusing Prince Philip, supposedly a man of Nazi views, of presiding over a conspiracy of intelligence agents to kill the couple before they could get married.

"An outrageous allegation, you may think, cynically contrived to distract attention from where the true responsibility for the crash really lies - the driver of the car and Mr al-Fayed's own employee."

Turning to Mr Hamilton's campaign of questions, early day motions and delegations on behalf of Mr al-Fayed over a four year period, Mr Browne said there was also no relationship in time between the alleged payments and the parliamentary services offered.

On the subject of damages, Mr Browne said Mr Hamilton was in court to clear his name and not to make money - although his action included a claim for aggravated damages to reflect the way the case had been conducted.

The allegations in the programme could not have come at a worse time with Mr Hamilton getting back on his feet after the events of 1994 and a general election in the offing.

"Also take into account the almost unimaginable stress of Mr Hamilton at this trial - he has lost a stone and a half in weight - and the way Mr Fayed insulted him throughout his evidence, calling him a man who would sell his mother, a homosexual prostitute and a crook."

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See also:
16 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton 'sacrificed truth and honour'
16 Dec 99 |  UK
Full house for court jesters
13 Dec 99 |  UK
Christine Hamilton in tears
14 Dec 99 |  UK
Fayed called 'biggest crook in town'
10 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton denies deceiving MPs
10 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton 'paid 10,000 to change Bill'
15 Dec 99 |  UK
The al-Fayed libel trial

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