November 27, 2020
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The Vaz-ir And His Checkered Board

In his checkered political career, Vaz has faced several allegations for which the media named him as the "Teflon" because "nothing sticks"

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The Vaz-ir And His Checkered Board
The Vaz-ir And His Checkered Board

The sordid revelations about the longest serving Asian MP Keith Vaz and two male escorts appears to be taking him hurtling down towards his political end.

Within 24 hours of the Sunday Mirror exposure that he even told the escorts to bring poppers and offered to pay for cocaine, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said, "I am calling for a full police investigation into his (Vaz's) affairs and a full parliamentary inquiry."

Soon after, Vaz stepped down from his position as Chairman of the prestigious Home Affairs Select Committee following a meeting with the committee members. Conservative MP, Tim Loughton who took over as acting chair, pending the election of Vaz's successor said, "The committee listened, I think in sadness, to what Keith had to say and with a good deal of respect."

Loughton noted that Vaz who was the longest serving committee chairman had overseen the publication of 120 reports during his nine years in office and "I think he has a reputation for getting the best out of witnesses, for being a robust chair, but also being a fair chair as well. I don't think it is an understatement to say the work of the committee under his chairmanship has had a direct and big impact on government policy, on law and also on public opinion at times as well."

A Labour MP, Vaz was born in Aden, Yemen, to Goan parents, he attended Latymer Upper School in London and Cambridge University before working as a solicitor. After he was elected MP for Leicester East in 1987, he became one of Britain's most influential Asians.

He is known to be a resilient MP, and the father-of-two showed that resilience when he went to Parliament after the scandal.

The recent scandal is a private affair and should not compromise his public position, but his position became untenable because of conflict of interest. The exchange of sexual services for money is legal. Taking poppers is legal according to the Psychoactive Substances Act announced by the Home Office. As for Vaz offering to pay for cocaine, under the Misuse of Drugs Act it is an offence to supply another person with a controlled drug. But according to the newspaper account no cocaine was purchased. 

The argument for his conflict of interest being raised by many is that under his chairmanship the committee was investigating a ban on poppers and sex work criminalization, both of which Vaz has opposed. 

Now the Charity Commission is also investigating claims made by The Mirror that an individual "linked to the diabetes charity Silver Star", set up by the MP, paid money into the account used by one of the escorts. Amitabh Bachchan has in the past been the international patron of the charity and has been the chief guest at some of the charity's dinners in London. 

On the other hand, though, there are also allegations that The Mirror paid the escorts in the sting £30,000.

In his checkered political career, Vaz has faced several allegations for which the media named him as the "Teflon" politician and "Vazeline" because "nothing sticks".

It was in 2000, when Vaz was appointed Europe minister, the parliamentary commissioner for standards Elizabeth Filkin began an investigation into whether Vaz had secretly taken thousands of pounds from solicitor Sarosh Zaiwalla to fund his parliamentary office, which he had not declared. The report concluded that information provided by Vaz and Zaiwalla was 'unsatisfactory' and could not reach a conclusion.

In 2001, Filkin investigated allegations that Vaz had received payments via Mapesbury—a company set up by the MP, of which his wife was the sole shareholder—from the Hinduja brothers for help with their applications for British passports. Vaz admitted he 'made representations' on behalf of the Hindujas who had paid money into Mapesbury. He quit as Minister for Europe on 'health grounds'.

In 2002 Vaz made untrue allegations against a former Special Branch chief and seriously breached the MP's code of conduct, a parliamentary investigation found.

In 2008, a year after he became the chairman of the select committee, Vaz wrote in his official capacity for the adjournment of court proceedings in a case involving an associate. He was cleared by the parliamentary commission for standards of wrongdoing.

In 2009 Vaz was said to have claimed more than £75,000 in expenses for a flat in Westminster despite his family home being 12 miles from parliament. He repaid about £19,000. Then in 2012 a police document suggested Vaz apparently held hundreds of thousands of pounds in a series of bank accounts. He said the money came from property deals. 

He has hit the headlines frequently for all the wrong reasons, but has come out of them quite unscathed. Although this is the most serious setback to his career many believe he will not go down without a fight.

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