Debacle over Liam Fox & his links to the USA
which ended in his resignation was well documented at the time and since but in view of the recent elevation of Andrew Dunlop to the Lords and his subsequent insensitive appointment to the Scottish Office I decided to dig around the archives to see what might surface. It seemed to me that the Charity Commission was over much eager to put the charity to bed without chastising the Trustees who had failed in their duties. The report will be lengthy and perhaps not for the faint hearted but given the characters will be heavily involved in Scottish politics I believe the journey to be worthwhile. The first post will provide an opening narrative and I expect to add to it daily.
Margaret Thatcher’s Scottish “Rat Pack”. Hurt and dangerous they wait patiently to strike
*. Dr “old Blue Eyes” Liam Fox (offered a role in the new cabinet but turned it down. Will return to lead the Party sometime before the next election)
*. Adam “Mr Bojangles” Werritty ( Still around, in London, Near to Westminster. Still close friends with Liam Fox)
*. Michael “Northern Light” Gove (appointed to a key role as Justice Secretary)
*. Andrew “Rich Boy” Dunlop (recently elevated to the Lords by David Cameron and given a key role in the Scottish Office overseeing a potentially troublesome SNP dominated Holyrood)
The Atlantic Bridge Research and Education Scheme
The scheme was an educational charity founded in 1997 with Margaret Thatcher as its President to promote Atlanticism, a philosophy of cooperation between the United Kingdom and the United States regarding political, economic, and defence issues.
It was set up by Liam Fox, former Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom. It was dissolved in September 2011, following a critical report from the Charity Commission the previous year.
In discussion with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Fox claimed that the think tank was intended to “bring people together who have common interests and recognise that…[they] will all be called upon to defend those… interests”.
Its work largely consisted of uniting British and American Conservatives and foreign policy hawks. This included meetings with John Ashcroft and Karl Rove and the presentation of awards to Rudy Giuliani and Henry Kissinger.’
In 2003, when Fox was Shadow Secretary for Health, he also chaired a conference on “scientific research and medical provision”. Speakers included Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, Timothy Morris of GlaxoSmithKline and Peter Farrow of Pfizer.
The Atlantic Bridge was briefly a partnership program of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a free-market organisation with extensive links to American State Legislators and corporate and industrial groups. It hosted events with the Center for Security Policy, the Heritage Foundation and representatives from Lehman Brothers.
Patrons of the Atlantic Bridge included Pfizer, UK Conservative Party donor Michael Hintze and Michael Lewis of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.
The Atlantic Bridge gained charitable status in 2003 as an “education and research scheme”.
In September 2009, the Charity Commission started a regulatory compliance case after receiving complaints about the charity’s political activity which, as a 501(c) organisation, the US-arm, Atlantic Bridge Inc, was “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” The offending statement was:
“Americans should look forward to 6 May 2010, after which David Cameron and his government will likely assume power. He will be good for America and better for the Special Relationship.” – Atlantic Bridge CEO Amanda Bowman. Other allegations have Conservative shadow cabinet ministers, sitting on the management structures of the charity, responsible for rubbishing the NHS in US healthcare debates.
A 2010 report by the Charity Commission ruled that it was “not evident that [it] had advanced education” and “may lead members of the public to call into question its independence from party politics”. It was ordered to enact a 12-month review to bring it into line with its charitable objectives. On 30 September 2011, The Atlantic Bridge was dissolved by its remaining trustees.
The Atlantic Bridge drew upon the experience and expertise of a board of directors, advisory council and an executive council. Each entity included experienced individuals from political, business and academic backgrounds on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Rt Hon. The Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC
Dr Liam Fox MP – UK Chairman
Senator Jon Kyl – Honorary US Chairman
Lord Astor of Hever DL – Trustee
Congressman John Campbell
Senator Lindsey Graham
Eleanor Laing MP
Senator Mel Martinez
Congressman Adam Putnam
John Whittingdale OBE MP
Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague and Chris Grayling have also sat on the advisory panel, as have American senator Joe Lieberman.
Scott Syfert – Executive Council Chairman
Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr.
Clark S. Judge
Board of Directors
Andrew Dunlop – Trustee
Professor Robert MacLaren
Professor Patrick Minford – Trustee
Catherine Bray – US Executive Director
Adam Werritty – UK Executive Director
Kara Watt – Operations Director
Gabby Bertin – Later David Cameron’s spokeswoman, admitted at interview by Sir Gus McPherson (head of the civil service) that she knew Mr Werritty from her time working for Mr Fox when the Conservatives were in opposition and Mr Cameron knew she had worked for The Atlantic Bridge.
5 October 2011: The Atlantic Bridge charity – Liam Fox, Adam Werrity and Trustees, including Andrew Dunlop (former SPAD to Baroness Thatcher) under investigation
Details were released, of an alleged improper relationship and interactions between Adam Werritty and Liam Fox, culminating in Liam Fox’s resignation on 14 October and a continuing official investigation. The controversy surrounded Werritty attending official defence meetings with Fox despite not being employed in any official capacity by the British government, Werritty’s running of Pargav Ltd, and his ties with powerful Tory figures, supporters, and lobbyists through The Atlantic Bridge.
Considering the rejected charitable status of The Atlantic Bridge, the question of Fox’s independence and the distinction between the government, think-tanks, charities, and private business and corporate interests was raised.
Werritty was investigated by senior civil servants led by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell. The published report implicated a company named IRG Ltd, “But the report, which named six companies and individuals that funded Werritty’s Pargav “slush fund”, raised more unanswered questions than it resolved.
Among the Pargav donors, including the mining tycoon Mick Davis, private investigations firm G3 and billionaire property mogul Poju Zabludowicz, was a company referred to as simply “IRG Ltd”.
But more than 30 companies and organisations use the same initials, including an Iraq-focused charity, an executive recruitment agency linked to the former Tory minister Virginia Bottomley and a pizza restaurant in Basildon.”
The story was first released to the public by the Guardian newspaper at the beginning of October 2011. Rumour was that the John Mann of the Labour Party intended to raise the matter of the charity that never was and it’s links to David Cameron who had promised, “open government” and “high standards” in public office in the tory manifesto.
There was to be no repeat of the sleaze so prevalent of previous Tory governments:
5 October 2011: Atlantic Bridge Charity created by Liam Fox axed – dissolved by trustees after Charity Commission criticism raises questions over Fox’s link with Adam Werritty
A charity, “The Atlantic Bridge” set up by Liam Fox, the defence secretary, had been dissolved by its Trustees after criticism by the Charity Commission.
The charity had already been suspended for promoting Conservative party policies in defiance of regulations.
Fox had installed Werritty, his best man and former flatmate, as executive director and sole employee of the charity in 1997.
Fox’s relationship with Werrity was drawn into question when it was revealed Werrity had visited Fox at Ministry of Defence offices 14 times in the past 16 months.
The charity had been wound up in response to the commission’s demand that its “current activities must cease immediately” because “the activities of the charity did not further any of it’s charitable purposes in any way”.
The Trustees decided to dissolve the charity rather than address the commission’s concern that its primary objective appeared to be “promoting a political policy [that] is closely associated with the Conservative party”.
A string of senior Tories had served on the advisory board of the charity, which was closely linked to neo-cons in America.
Baroness Thatcher was the honorary patron. The Atlantic Bridge hosted the New York launch of Hague’s biography of William Wilberforce. The charity said its mission was to promote the “special relationship” that flourished between Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
John Mann, Labour MP and former armed services minister, said the dissolution of the charity raised serious issues. “We need to know who funded this organisation and exactly what Liam Fox and Adam Werritty’s roles were,” he said. “David Cameron has talked about transparency and openness but that is being undermined by Liam Fox. “This raises yet more questions about the connection between Fox and Werritty and people will expect full answers sooner rather than later.
We need to be clear that the activities of The Atlantic Bridge had nothing to do with Liam Fox’s activities as Secretary of State for defence.” MPs questioned whether Werritty, who had falsely presented himself as Fox’s official adviser, had sought to financially gain from the pair’s close relationship.
Official records of the charity revealed the hedge fund CQS run by Michael Hintze, the world’s 880th richest person and one of the Tories’ biggest donors, had donated £29,000 to “The Atlantic Bridge” in 2010.
The Westminster “register of members’ interests” showed that Fox had travelled on Hintze’s private jet from Washington to the UK, after giving a speech at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of former President Ronald Reagan’s birth.
The commission said its investigation concluded that the charity had been established for charitable purposes and was “capable of operating for public benefit. However, its charitable purposes had not been advanced by any of its activities.” It asked the charity’s Trustees to complete a review and later met them to discuss progress.
At a subsequent meeting, the Trustees raised concerns about the future liability of the charity and whether, after the review was completed, it would be able to continue to operate.
The Trustees later confirmed to the commission that it was “their intention to wind up the charity as they considered that it could no longer continue to operate”. The charity was subsequently removed from the commission’s register of charities.
Liam Fox and Lord Astor of Hever, a junior defence minister, resigned as Trustees of the charity in May 2010.
The trustees at the time of the dissolution were Andrew Dunlop, a former adviser to Baroness Thatcher, Patrick Minford, a professor at Cardiff Business School, and Kay Ord, a friend of Fox who serves with the defence minster on the committee of the Royal British Legion’s poppy ball. http://scoops.co/VGUTiTfs
Stunned by the Guardian newspaper headlines and accompanying formal requests for an explanation of events the Tory party went to ground for a few days so that a strategy could be developed. But, Patrick Mercer MP entered the fray on behalf of the MOD who were concerned the distractions were creating problems at a time soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan and other theatres of war.
David Cameron responded briefing the commons that initial enquires, conducted through the Cabinet Office had revealed a need for a full investigation and this would be charged to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell to complete within a week.
The Labour opposition , sensing a cover up went on the offensive attacking the relationship between Fox and Werrity.
11 October 2011: Defence Secretary Liam Fox row distracting MoD staff
The row over Liam Fox has “distracted” the Ministry of Defence and is making it “very difficult” for staff to get on with their jobs, a Tory MP has said. Former Army officer Patrick Mercer said a meeting he had been due to attend at the MoD was cancelled on Monday amid “the fuss and the dramas”.
Senior civil servants investigating the defence secretary’s conduct have interviewed his friend Adam Werritty. They were expected to ask him why he has joined Mr Fox on 18 overseas trips.
Number 10 has said serious mistakes were made and asked an internal inquiry to address “all remaining questions”. Mr Cameron is understood to have discussed the findings of an interim report on the inquiry with Mr Fox, but is not expected to make a final decision on his future until he sees the full report, which is due on 21 October.
According to MoD records, Mr Werritty joined Mr Fox on a third of his overseas visits – 18 out of 48 – since he came to office in May 2010. They included visits to Singapore, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Qatar and Sri Lanka.
Mr Werritty also visited Tampa in Florida, where he dined with General John Allen, who has since become the head of Nato forces in Afghanistan.
In statement to MPs on Monday, Mr Fox apologised for allowing a “blurring” of his personal relationships and his professional life, but insisted he had done nothing materially wrong and had not put national security at risk.
Note the introduction of Harvey Boulter the multi millionaire financier who had moved the operating centre of his business from the UK to the Gulf States simplifying his tax burden. He becomes a major player in the Fox/Werrity saga over a period of nearly 4 years.
But a businessman, Harvey Boulter, who was introduced to Mr Fox by Mr Werritty, had accused the defence secretary of telling a “half-truth” to the Commons about their meeting.
Mr Boulter told the BBC his meeting with Mr Fox was “pre-planned” and “pre-organised” and it was “nonsense” to suggest it had come about “accidentally” after he and Mr Werritty found themselves dining at nearby tables in a Dubai restaurant.
The defence secretary has dismissed Mr Boulter’s account, describing him in the Commons as “a very poor witness and lacking in credibility”.
Mr Mercer commented that the defence secretary was running a department “under serious financial strictures” and fighting military campaigns in Afghanistan and Libya. “The last thing that busy civil servants and busy uniformed staff need inside the MoD is this sort of distraction with their boss,” he said.
The MP said Mr Fox retained the support of his Conservative colleagues, but he added: “I was due to have a meeting in the Ministry of Defence on Monday, and it was clear that the fuss and the difficulty and the drama was making business very difficult to conduct.”
Mr Werritty, 34, was Mr Fox’s best man in 2005 and a former flatmate and also used to carry cards describing himself as an adviser to “the Rt Hon Liam Fox MP”. But he had no formal or paid role at the MoD or the Conservative Party and little is known about how the visits were funded.
The Times had claimed Mr Werritty declared about £20,000 in income from his private companies over the past four years. In Parliament, Mr Fox said Mr Werritty’s income was “not dependent on any transactional behaviour to maintain his income”.
The BBC’s deputy political editor James Landale said government sources had indicated that Mr Werritty had agreed to meet officials at a location outside London on Tuesday. They said this was intended to be an initial conversation between the investigation team and Mr Werritty in order to help answer some outstanding questions.
‘Heart of trust’
Meanwhile, Labour had been stepping up the pressure on Mr Fox over the affair. MP John Mann asked the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate allegations that the defence secretary allowed Mr Werritty to live rent-free and run a business from his expenses-funded property.
Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman demanded to know why the investigation into Mr Fox’s conduct was not being carried out by the independent adviser on ministerial standards, Sir Philip Mawer. Speaking at deputy prime minister’s questions in the Commons she said the Ministerial Code of Conduct made clear it was not the role of senior civil servants, led by the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, to enforce the code.
“Doesn’t this show that they are prepared to sacrifice high standards in public office to protect the Secretary of State?” she said. “There is clearly a need for investigation, not least into whether Mr Werritty profited by his association with the Secretary of State. This goes to the heart of trust in government.”
Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman was very unhappy about the internal investigation being completed by Sir Gus O’Donnell since protocol demanded it should be conducted by Sir Philip Mawer the independent adviser on ministerial standards. Cameron, setting the agenda refused to budge on the issue. The final report therefore might be considered incomplete.
8 October 2011: Adam Werritty – Liam Fox’s shadow becomes the man in the spotlight
The defence secretary and his best man have at various times shared a home, an office, and a holiday
As Liam Fox’s best man, Adam Werritty was photographed by the side of the defence secretary at his wedding in 2005, the younger man towering over the groom. But it is Werritty’s role during Fox’s travels that has suddenly brought him into the spotlight.
For 14 years, Werritty has shadowed Fox, their association enduring the politician’s rise from the ranks of opposition to leading cabinet minister. At various times the pair have shared a home, an office, a holiday and other ties that appear to have blurred the lines between friendship and official government business.
Fox met the 34-year-old in the 1990s when Werritty, from St Andrews, was studying public policy at university in Edinburgh. After graduating with a 2:2, Werritty worked for a healthcare company, but was soon recruited by Fox to run Atlantic Bridge, the charity founded by the politician to promote the “special relationship” between Britain and the US.
While in London, Werritty ran the day-to-day operations of the charity from a room in the MPs’ block at Portcullis House, provided to Fox at taxpayers’ expense while he was in opposition.
Werritty collected a £90,000 annual salary from Atlantic Bridge, until regulators ordered it to close in the summer of 2010 for failing to comply with its goals.
By that time Werritty had already attached himself to Fox as a self-styled adviser taking an active interest in Fox’s work in opposition, mirroring Fox’s health and defence appointments in the shadow cabinet with his own business interests.
The extent of their friendship was clearly demonstrated between 2002 and 2003 when Werritty shared Fox’s flat in Southwark, London.
This year he also reportedly joined the defence secretary and his wife at a villa in Spain during a break that drew criticism for its timing at the height of the Libya conflict.
9 October 2011: How Liam Fox was chased from denials to an embarrassing climbdown
The Defence secretary is left with questions to answer over nature of meeting in Dubai with investment fund manager
Liam Fox’s political hero, Margaret Thatcher, was famous for her loathing of the U-turn, but the defence secretary’s public handling of mounting questions concerning his relationship with close friend, former flatmate, best man and political ally Adam Werritty, has been littered with embarrassing corrections and clarifications that have left his position in doubt.
On 12 June, Fox may well have glossed over a small report in the Observer concerning a £41m-plus legal claim being brought in America against the US conglomerate 3M over alleged failure to develop and commercialise a technology invented by Ministry of Defence scientists for detecting the superbug MRSA.
Fox, at that time, was still smarting from the leak of a confidential letter to the prime minister, published weeks earlier in the Times, which appeared to challenge government plans to set in stone a promise to meet UN targets of overseas aid. It was the second letter from him to be leaked in as many years and had provoked open irritation in No 10 and the Foreign Office.
Fox retaliated by letting it be known he believed one of his cabinet colleagues may have been the source of the leak. This spat had only just subsided when the Guardian and Observer reporter Rupert Neate, who had written the original 3M article, learned that the American group, best known as the manufacturer of Post-it notes, was pursuing a counter-claim containing sensational blackmail allegations which, if true, purported to have been made following a meeting at which Fox been present.
Harvey Boulter surfaces yet again
Neate immediately began contacting Fox’s office with questions concerning allegations that Fox had held a meeting in Dubai to discuss the 3M litigation with Harvey Boulter, the chief executive of Porton Capital, an investment fund that had collaborated with the MoD on the MRSA technology before it was sold to 3M.
Porton and the MoD’s civilian research arm, Ploughshare Innovations, were parties behind the claim against 3M.
What did they discuss? Had Boulter been sanctioned to send what appeared to be a threatening email to 3M’s British born chief executive, Sir George Buckley, in which he awkwardly hinted that Buckley’s recently awarded knighthood might be reviewed by the British cabinet?
A response came from the MoD press office: “Dr Fox met with Mr Boulter to discuss an entirely different matter. At no point did he enter into any discussion about this legal case, nor was there any mention of anyone’s knighthood.” The denial was emphatic.
Fox clearly believed he was drawing a line under the matter. However, the Guardian was able to obtain statements from two witnesses who confirmed that they had heard the 3M case being discussed at the five-star Shangri-La hotel in Dubai.
According to one, Boulter had updated Fox on progress in the 3M legal claim, to which the defence secretary allegedly replied: “I’m sure you’re handling this [the case] in the best way possible.” It was evidence that provoked first of several embarrassing U-turns by Fox.
The MoD issued another statement: “During their meeting Mr Boulter disclosed his involvement in a legal case as a matter of propriety, but Dr Fox did not enter into a discussion about this in any respect and at no point raised or discussed the issue of a knighthood.”
At the same time questions were arising about how official the Dubai meeting had been. The evidence suggested that Fox’s friend of 14 years, Adam Werritty, who had no official function in government, appeared to play a central role in brokering the meeting with Boulter, and was there in person.
Emails between the Porton Capital boss and Fox’s friend showed they had been meeting and corresponding on the subject of the 3M claim as far back as March.
Who exactly was Werritty? At first, the MoD simply said: “Adam Werritty is not an MoD employee.” Two weeks later, on 17 August, the department added: “He is a friend of the secretary of state,” adding that the MoD covers the costs of trips taken by only employees.
The department’s responses on the subject of Werritty then quickly descended into the realms of the absurd, with statements such as: “As he is not an MoD employee, he has not been on any official MoD visits with the defence secretary.” This was another statement – repeated almost verbatim in a written answer from Fox given in the House of Commons – that would not stand up to scrutiny.
Sri Lankan news footage, posted on the Guardian’s website, clearly showed Werritty shaking the hand of President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a meeting between the Sri Lankan leader and Fox in December 2010.
While in opposition, there had been previous overseas trips by Fox – to Israel and Sri Lanka – where Werritty had also been present.
Before these facts had fully emerged, however, questions about the relationship between Fox and Werritty were repeatedly batted away by an MoD press officer. “I am afraid my answers are going to be rather disappointing since Adam is not an MoD employee … If you need anything else in relation to Adam, I am not sure that I will be able to help.”
The next piece of evidence unearthed would again force Fox to change his story. The Guardian was shown a business card used by Werritty, embossed with parliament’s portcullis logo, on which he described himself as “adviser to Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP”.
It later emerged that Ursula Brennan, MoD permanent secretary, told Fox to stop him handing out the cards.
Fox asked Brennan to launch an investigation into what he called “wild allegations”. The defence secretary said: “I understand those cards are no longer used. I have made it very clear to him that it’s unacceptable to carry a card saying that he is a personal adviser.” The MoD said Brennan would “examine the access to departmental premises and information afforded to Mr Werritty, and establish that there has been no breach of security”.
Over the weekend, the political heat was turned up, a flurry of comments from the embattled defence secretary failed to clarify matters.
On Sunday night, however, he issued his most extensive statement, promising to take questions in parliament on Monday. “I do accept that, given Mr Werritty’s defence-related business interests, my frequent contacts with him may have given an impression of wrongdoing, and may also have given third parties the misleading impression that Mr Werritty was an official adviser rather than simply a friend. “With respect to my meeting with Mr Boulter in Dubai in June 2011, I accept that it was wrong to meet with a commercial supplier without the presence of an official.
I have apologised to the prime minister and agreed with my permanent secretary to put in place new procedures to ensure that this does not happen again.” How Fox changed his tune. On the meeting in Dubai …
* 24 June The MoD press office says: “Dr Fox met with Mr Boulter to discuss an entirely different matter. At no point did he enter into any discussion about this legal case.”
* 17 August The MoD says: “During their meeting Mr Boulter disclosed his involvement in a legal matter of propriety but Dr Fox did not enter into a discussion about this in any respect.”
* 8 October Fox to the BBC: “Actually, the defence industry representatives asked for it [the meeting] when they happened to be sitting at a nearby table at a restaurant. So, it’s not that unusual.” Seven hours later a Fox spokesman says: “Dr Fox was referring to Mr Werritty, and not himself, bumping into Mr Boulter at a restaurant prior to the meeting on 17 June.”
* 9 October Fox issued a statement: “With respect to my meeting with Mr Boulter in Dubai in June 2011, I accept that it was wrong to meet with a commercial supplier, without the presence of an official.”
On the status of Adam Werritty …
August email to the Guardian: “Adam Werritty is not an MoD employee. He is a friend of the secretary of state.”
* 6 October Fox says: “I have made it very clear to him [Werritty] that it’s unacceptable to carry a card saying that he is a personal adviser.”
* 9 October In a statement Fox says: “I accept that … my frequent contacts with him may have given … the misleading impression that Mr Werritty was an official adviser rather than simply a friend.”
10 October 2011: Full list of meetings between Liam Fox and Adam Werritty
The Defence Secretary and his friend met on a number of occasions – This is the list produced by the MoD. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/datablog/2011/oct/10/liam-fox-and-adam-werritty-links-liamfox
Liam Fox meetings 2010-11
Serial: Date: Location: Comment: Werritty present? y/n
1 ’20/05/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
2 ’21/05/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
3 21/05/2010-25/05/2010 Afghanistan Theatre Visiting
4 04/06/2010-06/06/2010 Singapore – Shangri La dialogue Conference attendance. Adam Werritty attended. y
5 07/06/2010-08/06/2010 Abu Dhabi and Dubai Meeting with Government representatives Adam Werritty present in Dubai on personal business. Not present in any official meetings. y
6 10/06/2010-11/06/2010 Brussels NATO Defence Ministers n
7 ’11/06/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
8 ’15/06/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
9 ’17/06/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
10 29/06/2010-01/07/2010 Washington DC Meeting with Pentagon n
11 02/07/2010-03/07/2010 Tampa Meetings at CentCom, Adam Werritty not present. Adam Werritty present at SofS’ informal dinner (3 July) with COMCENTCOM (COMISAF Desig) General Allen in steakhouse. y
12 06/08/2010-08/08/2010 Dubai SofS weekend leave break on route to Afghanistan. Adam Werritty present as a private individual. y
13 09/08/2010-12/08/2010 Afghanistan Theatre Visit n
14* ’01/09/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS, with FCO offcial y
15 10/09/2010-12/09/2010 Geneva – IISS Conference Conference attendance n
16 24/09/2010-27/09/2010 Saudi Arabia Government Meetings n
17 ’01/10/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
18 ’12/10/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
19 13/10/2010-14/10/2010 Brussels Joint NATO Ministerial meeting n
20 ’18/10/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
21* ’20/10/2010 MOD Adam Werritty arranged a meeting with Sri Lankan MFA (Dr Peries) and attended the meeting. y
22 31/10/2010-01/11/2010 Cyprus Operational visit n
23 ’03/11/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
24 ’09/11/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
25 10/11/2010-11/11/2010 Norway Government Meetings n
26 13/11/2010-14/11/2010 Afghanistan Remembrance Sunday with Duke of Cambridge n
27 ’15/11/2010 Oman Meetings with Omani Government on route back from Afghanistan n
28 19/11/2010-20/11/2010 Lisbon, Portugal NATO Summit n
29 21/11/2010-24/11/2010 India Meetings with Government Officials n
30 ’01/12/2010 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
31 02/12/2010-6/12/2010 Bahrain MANAMA Dialogue Visited British and US forces Adam Werritty present at Dialogue. Adam Werritty not present at official meetings or engagements. y
32 17/12/2010-22/12/2010 Dubai Meetings with UAE Government and British Military Adam Werritty present in personal / business capacity Adam Werritty not present at official meetings. On completion of official engagements, SofS took 21-22 December as leave, no officials remained to accompany. y
33 02/01/2011-06/01/2011 Afghanistan Theatre Visit n
34 06/01/2011-08/01/2011 Bahrain SofS took leave break on route back from Afghanistan n
35 ’13/01/2011 France Meetings with French Defence Minister n
36 16/01/2011-23/01/2011 Australia and New Zealand AUKMIN SofS travelled via Hong Kong on route to Ankara, taking a period of leave. Adam Werritty met him in Hong Kong in a private capacity. y
37 ’24/01/2011 Turkey Government meetings n
38 ’01/02/2011 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
39 04/02/2011-06/02/2011 Munich Munich Security Conference n
40 06/02/2011-07/02/2011 Israel Adam Werritty present at the Herziliya conference. Adam Werritty helped to arrange and attended a dinner with political figures which SofS and HMA Tel Aviv attended. y
41 17/02/2011-21/02/2011 Switzerland Skiing Holiday y
42 ’16/02/2011 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
43 ’25/02/2011 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
44 ’01/03/2011 MOD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
45 10/03/2011-11/03/2011 Brussels NATO Defence Ministers n
46 11/03/2011-12/03/2011 Malta Meetings with Maltese Government n
47* ’17/03/2011 MoD Adam Werritty in to see SofS for a meeting on Sri Lanka SofS, Adam Werritty, SpAd and PS present. y
48 ’24/03/2011 MoD Adam Werritty in to see SofS y
49 26/03/2011-27/03/2011 Brussels NATO Ministerials n
50 30/03/2011-04/04/2011 Qatar-Dubai-Bahrain 31 Mar – Qatar ] 1 – 4 Apr – Dubai ] Libya coalition and gulf initiative / visit to British Forces 4 Apr – Bahrain ] Adam Werritty present in Dubai in a private capacity. SofS introduced in passing to Harvey Boulter. y
51 14/04/2011-18/04/2011 Abu Dhabi SofS on leave with his Mrs Fox and Adam Werritty. SofS conducted an informal meeting en passant with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, neither Mrs Fox nor Adam Werritty accompanied him. y
52 18/04/2011-19/04/2011 Cyprus Trooping Colour n
53 19/04/2011-20/04/2011 Italy Meet Italian Defence Minister n
54 22/05/2011-25/05/2011 Tampa Washington Tampa – SofS conducted official meetings. Washington – SofS conducted political meetings and delivered a lecture. Adam Werritty was present at political meetings and accompanied SofS on private flight back to UK on party donor’s aircraft to attend President Obama State Visit. y
55 31/05/2011-01/06/2011 Hong Kong SofS travelled via Hong Kong to take leave on route to Shangri La dialogue. Met Adam Werritty in Hong Kong. y
56 ’06/06/2011 Singapore-Shangri La Dialogue Conference Attendance Adam Werritty present at dialogue. Adam Werritty did not attend any official meetings. y
57 08/06/2011-09/06/2011 Brussels NATO Defence Ministers n
58* ’13/06/2011 MOD Adam Werritty in MOD for scheduled meeting to discuss arrangements for visit to and lecture in Sri Lanka. SofS, Adam Werritty, SpAd, PS present. y
59 ’14/06/2011 MOD Adam Werritty in MOD to meet SofS y
60 14/06/2011-17/06/2011 Afghanistan Theatre Visit n
61 17/06/2011-19/06/2011 Dubai Brief stop in Dubai on return route from Afghanistan. Adam Werritty in Dubai in a private capacity. Adam Werritty had had a chance meeting with Boulter before SofS arrived, and told Boulter that SofS will be in Dubai that weekend. On arrival in Dubai, late evening 16 June, SofS met AW in hotel for drink. Morning of 17 Jun SofS and Adam Werritty conducted Boulter meeting. Adam Werritty was not present at official engagements conducted. y
62 ’21/06/2011 MOD Adam Werritty met with SofS and SpAds to discuss issue of business cards. y
63 08/07/2011-10/07/2011 Sri Lanka Met with Government and Opposition figures. SofS delivered Kadagamar Memorial speech. Adam Werritty in audience for the public speech as a guest of Mrs Kadagamar Adam Werritty not present at official meetings, not at official reception in High Commission. y
64 23/07/2011-24/07/2011 Gibraltar Operational visit n
65 ’29/07/2011 Gioia Del Colle (Italy) Operational visit n
66 31/07/2011-03/08/2011 Washington Meetings with Pentagon and The Hill Adam Werritty not present at official meetings, met SofS socially. y
67 05/08/2011-19/08/2011 Spain SofS on leave with family and friends – including Adam Werritty. SofS returned to UK 10-12 August for recall of parliament. y
68 30/08/2011-31/08/2011 Estonia Government meetings n
69 05/10/2011-06/10/2011 Brussels NATO Defence Minsters n
70 07/10/2011-08/10/2011 Libya (via Malta) Theatre Visit
10 October 2011: Harvey Boulter: I assumed Adam Werritty was an MoD man
Dubai-based businessman says Liam Fox’s friend discussed potential defence contracts and legal issues with him
Sipping jasmine tea in the spectacular atrium of Dubai’s five-star Shangri-La hotel, British businessman Harvey Boulter reflected on just how convincing Adam Werritty was in the role of Liam Fox’s gatekeeper. “I assumed an adviser to Dr Fox would be an MoD adviser,” said Boulter, gesticulating to the window table where he first met Werritty in April, as he sought access to the British secretary of state for defence.
“When he came, he presented me his card, which said he was an adviser to Dr Fox. The card looked pretty official and when we bumped into Dr Fox at the end of the meeting and he shook my hand, I thought well thank you, you are the adviser, that’s good enough for me.” The truth, as Fox has been forced to admit as he fights for his job, is rather different.
Werritty has been revealed to have no official role in the MoD and his greatest qualification for his self-styled business card title of “adviser to Rt Hon Dr Fox MP” appears to be that he was the defence minister’s best man and remains a close friend.
The impression must have been good, as Boulter is familiar with MoD officaldom. He now lives a wealthy life in Dubai overseeing a £450m investment fund, racing his favourite Ferrari and sailing his yacht, but an earlier part of his career was spent at the ministry advising on the breakup of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.
“He looked like a normal MoD guy,” Boulter reflected as he recalled his meetings with Werritty in April and June. “They dress in a boring style, they all have the same haircut. He fitted in very well. He suggested he could help me brief Dr Fox as the topics I wanted to brief on. He said he would organise a meeting when the boss was in town.”
Boulter had his reasons for hoping he had got the right man. After a deal to sell new technology for the early detection of MRSA worldwide had gone bad, the 41-year-old decided he needed government help in the coming legal battle. The technology had been jointly developed by his company Porton and the MoD’s research arm, and around £40m was on the table if a sale to multinational 3M went through.
Instead the deal collapsed. With such a sum at stake, Boulter spent tens of thousands of pounds on Westminster lobbyists, Tetra Strategy, to curry support and provide him with access. They pointed him to Werritty.
He seemed to Boulter more than just a gatekeeper to Fox: he was actively interested in the issues and would even proffer his views on what the government might do. When Fox was in Afghanistan visiting troops in mid-June, Boulter says he bumped into Werritty at an American-style steakhouse in downtown Dubai, where over a glass of wine in the bar he told him how another of his businesses, mobile phone encryption for use by military personnel, could help the MoD in the Libyan uprising.
“I told him there was an opportunity to use it in the Libyan situation,” Boulter said. “I said I could push it to a rebel commander in Libya and if I decide I don’t like him I can withdraw the licence. He seemed to think it was a great British technology. I also said I wanted to make an official offering for welfare calling to the troops.”
Boulter said he shared information with Werritty that was commercially sensitive and related to the government’s interests in the MRSA technology called Acolyte. He told him about the state of settlement negotiations and indicated how far apart they still were on the numbers. “I thought I was talking to my co-claimant in the case,” he said. “If he is an adviser to the minister of defence then he is my co-claimant in a high court action reaching litigation.”
At another stage, Boulter said Werritty asked what he wanted the MoD to do to help the legal dispute. “I said ideally I want a statement from the MoD saying something like: ‘We are disappointed Acolyte has been closed and we await the court’s decision,’ something supportive. He said: ‘That seems very reasonable. Let me see what I can do.’ He said it like what was on his card: adviser to Dr Fox.”
Weeks later, Werritty told Boulter on the phone that the MoD would not be giving a statement before the court judgment. Werritty seemed to be acting like a full-blown ministerial adviser and Boulter confided in him as if he were, on the assumption that he must have robust security clearance.
On the subject of mobile phone encryption for troops, Boulter said there were lots of “very sensitive emails on customer information that I sent to him because he was sending them to the boss. Clearly if I’d have known he wasn’t who he said he was I wouldn’t have sent them.”
The event that sparked the political storm around Fox took place 41 floors above the atrium in the Shangri-La’s Horizon Club business lounge, a discreet location with views across the desert emirate’s ever-changing skyline.
Here, on smart sofas around a screened corner table on 17 June, Fox had a 45-minute meeting with Boulter and two of his business associates about the mobile phone encryption and for the last “five to 10 minutes” about the MRSA legal dispute with 3M. Werritty observed quietly, according to Boulter.
Later that night Boulter flew to Italy, from where he spoke to 3M’s lawyer and then emailed him. “As a result of my meeting today you ought to understand that David Cameron’s cabinet might very shortly be discussing the rather embarrassing situation of George’s knighthood … At a headline of $30m+ you will allow the MoD to internally save face.” These emails were included in court documents filed in the US and have been published by the Guardian.
It sounded like the issue of 3M head George Buckley’s recent knighthood had been raised at the meeting or even that Fox had agreed to do such a thing in cabinet. Not so, said the MoD and Fox. Answering questions in the House of Commons on Monday, Fox said Boulter’s account of the June Dubai meeting was not reliable because he had initially implied that he discussed Buckley’s knighthood with Fox, but had subsequently stated that he did not.
Boulter had expected the email to remain confidential as part of the settlement negotiations with 3M. When it came out, Werritty was furious and tried to persuade Boulter to deny the meeting ever happened if anyone asked, Boulter confirmed to the Guardian. Werritty has not responded to a request for comment on Boulter’s allegation.
What happened at the Horizon Club was fogged further by the MoD, which initially denied the legal wrangle was discussed at all. Boulter said he was “frustrated and upset that Fox issued a statement that said we didn’t discuss Acolyte because it made me look like a liar to the world”.
Later, Boulter re-issued a statement making clear the knighthood was not discussed at the meeting. It was on his mind, however. He “discussed the knighthood at some length” with Werritty at the steakhouse two days before the meeting with Fox. “I said it was poor judgment of the government to sanction it. After all it had to go through the Cabinet Office. Werritty agreed with me that that seemed quite inappropriate. I was pointing out the obvious facts and some complicated politics that Fox needed to be aware of.”
Speaking about the scandal more generally, Boulter saves his toughest criticism for Fox’s best man rather than the minister. “It shocked me when I found out [Werritty] wasn’t who he said he was,” he said. “It reflected poorly on Fox to let these circumstances develop in this way. He was the minister for defence and he was clearly complicit … But I think Werritty really overstepped the mark. He leveraged friendship into officialdom.”
11 October 2011: Sri Lankans assumed Adam Werritty had official role at Liam Fox meeting
Opposition MP says he thought Werritty was ‘an assistant or an official’ at meeting with Fox in Colombo in 2009
Politicians in Colombo, Sri Lanka said that it was assumed Adam Werritty was a government official when he travelled with Liam Fox in 2009, as new details emerged of the extent of Werritty’s role in representing the defence secretary’s interests there. Fox is fighting allegations that his close friend has effectively acted as his unofficial adviser with access to official meetings.
Fox apologised to parliament on Monday for allowing the lines between his personal and ministerial life to become “blurred” after it emerged that, over the past 18 months, he had met Werritty 40 times in the Ministry of Defence and during visits abroad.
One Sri Lankan MP confirmed that during his meeting with Fox and Werritty in Colombo in 2009, he had assumed that Werritty was there in an official capacity. Ravi Karunanayake, an opposition MP, said: “I can’t remember who exactly arranged the meeting. I simply thought he [Werritty] was an assistant or an official or something similar.”
The respected Sri Lankan Sunday Leader newspaper reported that Werritty was also closely involved in negotiating with the Sri Lankan government after Fox was forced to pull out of a speech last December following a row with the Foreign Office.
The paper claims that Werritty travelled ahead of Fox to set up the event and then carefully negotiated to avoid a potential diplomatic crisis with the Sri Lankans when Fox was forced to pull out.
The official communiqué subsequently revealed that the trip had not been cancelled – the version reported in the UK – but simply postponed. Rohitha Bogollagama, the former foreign minister and a key contact of Fox’s in Colombo, refused to comment when contacted on Tuesday and asked about Werritty’s role, referring all inquiries to the foreign ministry.
Fox has a longstanding relationship with the Sri Lankan state dating back to when he was a junior foreign minister in John Major’s government and helped to broker what became known as the “Fox agreement”, which helped to establish dialogue between the opposing sides in the civil war.
Fox said in his statement to the Commons on Monday that he had worked with a number of contacts in business, banking and politics since 2009 to set up the “Sri Lankan development trust” to help with reconstruction of the country after its civil war through the private sector but when he entered government he passed control of it to Werritty and other unnamed associates.
He said: “The aim was to use a proportion of profits made to fund development projects in Tamil communities. Neither myself, Mr Werritty nor others sought to receive any share of the profits for assisting the trust.” Last year after entering government he held a final meeting with the Sri Lankan foreign minister, Werritty and MoD officials to formally end his participation in the project, he said.
The trust is registered to offices in Edinburgh, which is the address of dozens of companies but none with that name. It is thought the address is that of the trust’s legal representatives. The MoD refused to give further details of the trust, its work, its trustees or beneficiaries, saying that it related to Fox’s private office – despite the fact that officials from the department attended the final meeting. An aide to Fox confirmed only that it was a “legal trust”, stressing that it was not a charity or company.
The Foreign Office said the MoD was the “lead organisation” for the project, despite it having no defence interests, and the Department for International Development said it had no record of funding the organisation. Senior aid agency officials in Colombo said they were unaware of the trust, but did not rule out its existence.
Lord Bell, whose public relations firm Bell Pottinger worked for the Sri Lankan government until the end of last year, told the Guardian that Werritty had attended some meetings his firm had held with the Sri Lankan government but he could not say in what capacity or why he was present. “I’ve known him [Werritty] for a number of years, people here have seen him at meetings. I’ve known him for a long time – Liam Fox is a friend of 30 years.” Bell said he had never heard of the Sri Lanka development trust and there was no financial relationship between Bell Pottinger, the trust and Werritty.
11 October 2011: Michael Hintze: Liam Fox backer who helped to bankroll foreign trips
Australian former Goldman Sachs banker has donated almost £1.5m to the Conservative party since 2005
Some of Britain’s wealthiest hedge fund barons are counted among Liam Fox’s financial supporters, but none appear closer to him than the Australian former Goldman Sachs banker Michael Hintze.
A soldier turned money manager, Hintze built up one of Europe’s largest hedge funds CQS, and is among the richest men in the UK with an estimated fortune of £550m. Since 2005, he has donated almost £1.5m to the Conservative party, including financial assistance meeting the cost of several trips by his friend Fox.
Among the bills met by CQS were flight and accommodation costs for a 2007 trip to Mauritania “to meet competitors in the Paris to Dakar rally”, according to the register of MPs’ interests. Records show that months later, Hintze’s company flew the then shadow defence secretary to Florence to attend a conference.
CQS’s generosity had also helped meet the running costs of Fox’s office in Westminster, while in October 2008 Hintze flew the then shadow defence secretary to Washington so that he might attend the US presidential debate. In May this year, Hintze again arranged for a transatlantic flight, this time from Washington to Farnborough. The defence secretary’s friend Adam Werritty was also on board.
It was a transatlantic political row that ultimately triggered the demise of Fox’s charity Atlantic Bridge, set up with Hintze’s money to promote the “special relationship” between the US and UK. In 2009, the charity found itself embroiled in a bitter row over how the NHS was being presented to the American public in a fierce debate on Obama’s healthcare reform plans.
In an angry blog, congressman John Campbell, who sat on the Atlantic Bridge advisory board, wrote: “Britain’s socialised medicine system is enormously inefficient, wasteful, and costly. This is part of the reason why Britons have seen higher costs and the rationing of care.” The remarks incensed Labour politicians including Andy Burnham, who suggested Atlantic Bridge should be banned from the following Tory party conference.
A complaint was also lodged with the Charity Commission, which led to the regulator taking a closer look at Atlantic Bridge’s activities and ultimately striking it off. “Its charitable purposes had not been advanced by any of its activities,” the commission concluded.
In fact, records going back four years suggest the activities of Atlantic Bridge were largely speaking events, in the main led by the charity’s founder chairman, Fox. The accounts also show that £104,000 – or 58% of the charities voluntary income – had come from one source: the Hintze Family Foundation.
The charity’s address was given as Fox’s office in the House of Commons, and its executive director was Werritty. If Werritty drew a salary from the charity, it would effectively be earnings largely coming from Hintze.
Only a few other donors to Atlantic Bridge are named but among them is Security Futures, a company, since dissolved, which had connections to both Werritty and Hintze. Werritty had been a director at this company, although it appeared to do very little business, since 2006. Also a director from March of last year was Oliver Hylton, Hintze’s senior aide. In 2009, Security Futures gave £15,000 to Atlantic Bridge.
Alongside Hylton and Werritty on the board of the now defunct company sat lobbyist Iain Stewart and Laura Sandys, who ran her own PR business. Both now sit behind Fox as MPs on the Conservative benches. They could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Security Futures described its role as “promoting a better understanding of asymmetric ‘security’ risks that the UK faces and publishing work that encourages a better informed debate on these important issues”.
Though an Australian, Hintze has spent much of his career in finance in New York and London. He cut his teeth working for US investment bank Salomon Brothers in the 1980s before moving on to Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.
In 1999, Credit Suisse invested $200m in Hintze’s first private venture, Convertible & Quantitative Strategies, or CQS. He worked closely with Credit Suisse’s then European boss Hector Sants, who now heads the Financial Services Authority.
Other wealthy figures from the world of finance listed under Fox in the MPs’ register of interests are: Stanley Fink, formerly of Man Group; Alan Howard, of Brevan Howard; Jon Moulton of Better Capital; and the property tycoons David & Simon Reuben.
Alan HowardSir Michael Hintze
11 October 2011: David Cameron’s aide worked for Liam Fox charity
Gabby Bertin, now PM’s press secretary, was paid £25,000 by drug firm Pfizer to work as a researcher for Atlantic Bridge
One of the prime minister’s most senior advisers was paid £25,000 by a major US drug company to work as a researcher for Liam Fox’s charity while he was shadow health secretary.
Gabby Bertin, who is now David Cameron’s press secretary, was paid by pharmaceutical firm Pfizer to work for Fox’s controversial Atlantic Bridge charity.
Bertin was a close colleague of Adam Werritty, Fox’s best man and self-styled adviser. The charity, which was shut down last month after a damning report found it promoted Tory party ideals in defiance of regulations, has funded several of Werritty’s 18 trips to meet the defence secretary overseas.
Bertin’s job at Atlantic Bridge adds to the close links between the Conservatives and the charity, which boasted Lady Thatcher as its patron and George Osborne, William Hague and Michael Gove among its advisory board.
The charity was dissolved by its trustees on 30 September after the Charity Commission said its primary objective appeared to be “promoting a political policy [that] is closely associated with the Conservative party”.
Last night Bertin, a former banker said: “I was the sole employee [of the Atlantic Bridge].” She said she reported to Fox, but also worked with Werritty, who was the charity’s executive director. Bertin said Pfizer provided funding because “they have an interest in embracing transatlantic relations”.
Jim Murphy, shadow defence secretary, said: “The link between Downing Street and Liam Fox’s political crisis is far stronger than we all would have expected. We must now understand the full extent of Downing Street’s relationship with a man who has masqueraded as a government special adviser and any link senior No 10 staff have to Atlantic Bridge. “People will immediately question whether past colleagues of Mr Werritty’s should be the very same people advising the prime minister on the defence secretary’s political future and this underlines the case for an independent inquiry.”
This latest episode has also raised questions about Fox’s judgment in accepting money from a health company while serving as shadow health secretary. The charity is closely linked to a major US business lobby group, which is in turn funded by most of the world’s big drug companies including Glaxosmithkline, Novartis and Bayer.
Pfizer’s funding in 2003 is included in the register of members’ interests, and Fox’s states that Bertin did not work in any “health role”. “A researcher based in my office works exclusively for the Atlantic Bridge, a UK-American thinktank of which I am a founder member. In this role she receives funding from Pfizer Inc. She has no function in any health role.”
A spokesman for Pfizer said: “Pfizer can confirm that it provided support to Atlantic Bridge back in 2003/2004. We have not provided any funding in recent years. This funding has been declared in the Register of Members’ Interests. Pfizer supports a range of policy development initiatives including thinktanks. Any involvement in these initiatives is open and transparent and is clearly declared.”
11 October 2011: The Liam Fox affair shows we need tighter controls on lobbying
A lobbyists’ register would tell us who is attempting to influence our politicians – and how much they are paying
There are many questions thrown up by Liam Fox’s relationship with Adam Werritty, but perhaps the most significant is this: if the MoD isn’t paying Werritty, who is? It’s the question most in need of an answer, but the one we’re least likely to get. Which of Werritty’s “defence-related business interests” have had access to the defence secretary?
We now know about the “chance meeting” in Dubai between Liam Fox and the private equity firm Porton Capital. We may never know who funded the rest of Werrity’s trips abroad. But we might have known had the government delivered on its pledge to “shine the light of transparency on lobbying”. Ahead of the general election, Cameron promised that he’d “force our politics to come clean about who is buying power and influence”, because, he said, he believes “secret corporate lobbying … is why people are so fed up with politics”.
In May last year, in a concession to the Lib Dems, we saw a commitment from the coalition to deliver on this pledge, with the introduction of a compulsory register of lobbyists. The policy is straightforward enough: a decent lobbyists’ register would reveal who is lobbying whom, about what, and how much money is being spent to influence our politicians.
It requires a quarterly filing from lobbyists (above a minimum financial threshold) on a public register, some monitoring, sanctions and enforcement powers, and that’s it. The US has one, Canada too, Australia and Germany to an extent.
The public administration select committee, which called for a statutory register in January 2009, described a compulsory register as “proportionate and effective”. The committee’s then chair, the parliamentary reformer Tony Wright, echoed Cameron’s words: “There is a public interest in knowing who is lobbying whom about what”, he said.
And yet, since May’s agreement, the government has effectively sat on its hands. Eighteen months on, we are still no nearer to having public scrutiny of the UK’s £2bn lobbying industry. We’re told that a consultation on the register, which has been due since last autumn, is imminent. As things stand, Werritty’s actions look like those of a lobbyist. What’s more, it’s apparent that he’s trading on his friendship with Fox, first running a health consultancy when Fox was shadow health secretary, then a defence consultancy.
Had the prime minister heeded his own words when he described lobbying “as the next big scandal waiting to happen”, this latest crisis may have been averted. Werritty, and the hundreds like him, would be signed-up lobbyists. We would know who Werritty’s paymasters are, and his dealings would be subject to public and parliamentary scrutiny. Fox is rightly in the dock. But it’s high time those that trade on their friends in high places were made accountable too.
12 October 2011: Liam Fox adviser may have to face Whitehall officials again
Adam Werritty may be recalled for a second round of questions by the senior civil servants who are investigating breaches of the ministerial code by the defence secretary, Liam Fox.
Under pressure from Downing Street to complete the inquiry as quickly as possible, Werritty met Whitehall officials on Tuesday to provide details of his business arrangements and contacts, and to answer questions about whether he had profited from his friendship with Fox. Though no details were given, it was described by one source as a “full discussion”.
It is understood that a senior civil servant led the questioning of Werritty, but that Ministry of Defence civil servants were also present during the interview, which took place at a secret location away from the Cabinet Office.
They must now decide whether the evidence he provided is enough for them to consider all the issues. If not, they will ask him to return. They also have scope to widen the inquiry by summoning others for questioning, though no other names are thought to be in the frame just yet.
Though the inquiry has no formal powers to ask for evidence from outside the civil service, it is believed Fox has told Werritty to co-operate and to provide any material that is asked for.
“The secretary of state has made it clear that he will do everything he can to ensure that all the relevant evidence is put before the inquiry,” said one Whitehall source. “The inquiry will take as long as it needs to take, and there are answers to all the remaining questions. The inquiry will now want to consider what came out of today’s meeting before deciding what to do next.” Werritty’s business interests are now the focus of an inquiry launched to consider whether Fox had abused his position by giving access to him that might have broken parliamentary rules.
Werritty was Fox’s best man and the two men remain close friends. The defence secretary has admitted he blurred the lines between “my professional responsibilities and my personal loyalties”, and apologised for his behaviour.
He has insisted that there was nothing improper about the 22 occasions he met Werritty at the MoD’s headquarters in London or the 18 times he met him during foreign engagements and holidays. The meetings all took place within the last 16 months and were mostly short, social occasions, Fox has said.
However, the inquiry will seek to corroborate Fox’s assurances before sending a report to David Cameron, possibly within a week. With the help of the propriety and ethics unit in the Cabinet Office, O’Donnell and the MoD’s permanent secretary, Ursula Brennan, will set out the strength and level of any breaches of the code, but will not make specific recommendations. “The decision about what happens to Fox is a political one for the prime minister, and not for civil servants,” said the source.
Labour made fresh calls on Tuesday for the inquiry to be put in the hands of the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, Sir Philip Mawer, fearing that the current investigation does not have the proper reach.
Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, said it was “not the job of the cabinet secretary or other officials” to enforce the ministerial code of conduct. She said that the government was prepared to “sacrifice high standards in public office to protect the secretary of state.”
Answering questions in the Commons, Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said the civil service inquiry must be allowed to run its course.
Whitehall officials confirmed that Werritty cannot be compelled to give further evidence if he decides this is not in his best interests. The civil service can demand documents, emails and testimony from its own employees, and from special advisers working for ministers, but it has no such powers over businessmen such as Werritty.
Professor Anthony King, a leading constitutional expert, said: “It is up to the individual whether to go along. And if he does go along, there is no guarantee he will say anything.”
Brennan has ordered the head of security at the MoD to conduct a trawl of emails and gather any other electronic evidence involving Fox and Werritty, including details of who else was present during their meetings abroad. She is also looking for any electronic paper trail that might show whether Fox’s private office provided information to Werritty, other than the dates and places of the trips the secretary of state was due to make.
In her interim report to Downing Street, Brennan did not, however, address whether Fox had told her about Werritty when he was first appointed to the post.
Under the ministerial code, Fox was duty bound to provide her “with a full list in writing of all interests which might be thought to give a rise of conflict” of interest.
As a businessman in the defence field, Werritty should have been flagged to her in May last year.
Though it was a high risk strategy, the MoD decided on Monday to publish all the details of Fox’s meetings and trips to stem the drip, drip of stories that have engulfed the defence secretary since last week.
Though Fox had apologised for his conduct, and Labour has accused him of “driving a coach and horses” through the ministerial code, the defence secretary believes he can save his job so long as no other significant revelations are uncovered by the civil service inquiry.
The MoD and the Cabinet Office refused to be drawn on specifics about the investigation. “We’re not going to provide a running commentary on who will be interviewed or when,” a spokesman said.
12 October 2011: Liam Fox claims thrown into doubt by Dubai hotel records
Adam Werritty said he was from defence secretary’s office when he booked into Shangri-La
Liam Fox’s claim that Adam Werritty was operating in “a private capacity” when the men met twice in Dubai this year has been thrown into fresh doubt by hotel records seen by the Guardian. They reveal that Werritty booked into the five-star Shangri-La hotel earlier this year describing his position as “office of Dr Liam Fox” and naming his company as “Atlantic Bridge”, the defence secretary’s controversial rightwing charity which had close links to a group of powerful American business lobbyists.
Hotel staff said it was normal, but not guaranteed, for the named company to pay all or part of the bill. Werritty also gave a contact address at the houses of parliament. The official explanation of Werritty’s role in Fox’s life is being increasingly called into doubt by evidence from countries where the pair travelled.
Politicians in Colombo, the Sri Lankan commercial capital, revealed that they too assumed that Werritty was an official adviser when he travelled there before and after Fox joined the cabinet. Ravi Karunanayake, an opposition MP in Colombo, confirmed meeting Fox in 2009. “I simply thought he [Werritty] was an assistant or an official or something similar,” he told the Guardian.
Channel 4 claimed Werritty was being asked by the Sri Lankan government to help them lobby for arms and aviation supplies, although its sources have not been confirmed. Lord Bell, whose PR firm Bell Pottinger worked for the Sri Lankan government up until the end of last year, said that Werritty had attended some meetings that his firm had held with the Sri Lankan government but he could not say in what capacity or why he was present.
After a big show of support for Fox in the Commons on Monday, there were some private signs that Tories were still disturbed by what they had heard, and were withholding judgment.
Werritty was interviewed by a senior Cabinet Office civil servant over claims that he may have profited from his close personal relationship with the defence secretary. It is understood Werritty has claimed that the funding for his trips did not come from defence contractors, but a variety of international Atlanticist philanthropists.
He was interviewed at a location away from Westminster by Sue Grey, the long-standing Cabinet Office civil servant responsible for propriety and ethics. There was no requirement for him to meet with civil servants since he is not a government or Conservative party employee.
But Werritty’s willingness to co-operate is essential if Fox is to survive in cabinet as Downing Street has privately made it clear the defence secretary will be in serious difficulties if it could be shown that some of Werritty’s income is derived directly or indirectly from his knowledge of Fox’s thinking on defence issues, or worse, from his privileged access to Fox’s diary.
Last night it also emerged that the prime minister’s press secretary, Gabby Bertin, was paid £25,000 by a major US drug company to work as a researcher for Fox’s charity while he was shadow health secretary. Bertin, who is now David Cameron’s press secretary, was paid by the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer to work for Fox’s Atlantic Bridge charity.
Bertin was a close colleague of Adam Werritty, Fox’s best man and self-styled adviser. The Guardian also understands that Werritty, 33, will be recalled to give further evidence if Sir Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet secretary, and Ursula Brennan, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, believe they have not had proper disclosure of his business interests, which will be crucial to establish whether he was able to profit from his friendship with Fox – something the defence secretary has denied.
It is understood that the Cabinet Office is asking Werritty to give written details of his income, including some bank statements. The inquiry is being overseen by O’Donnell.
No 10 is aware it cannot afford to be seen to be conducting a whitewash inquiry as David Cameron has courted controversy by refusing to refer the issue to Sir Philip Mawer, the government’s independent adviser of ministerial interests.
Mawer is kept on a £30,000 retainer, but cannot initiate an inquiry into a potential breach of the ministerial code unless the prime minister, in consultation with the cabinet secretary, refers the issue to him.
Downing Street tried to stonewall any details about the terms of reference of the inquiry, saying simply that all the facts would be established and all the questions being asked will be put to Werritty.
In the Commons, the shadow deputy leader, Harriet Harman, pressed Nick Clegg to refer the issue to Mawer, saying it went to the heart of trust in government. She said: “The deputy prime minister has always lectured us on high standards in public office, but while the defence secretary, by his own admission, has fallen short of those standards, the government have failed to refer him to … Mawer. “Does that not show that they are prepared to sacrifice high standards in public office to protect the secretary of state?”
Clegg replied by implying that the cabinet secretary will decide if Fox has broken the code. He said: “I am very clear, of course, that everybody in this government should abide by the very highest available standards and by the ministerial code, both the spirit and the letter, and that is exactly what the cabinet secretary has been asked to look into and to adjudicate on in his report.”
Cameron has said Fox made “serious mistakes” in his ties to his former best man, but appears willing to keep him if there is no evidence Fox knew Werritty was gaining from his numerous contacts with Fox.
According to a list of meetings released by the Ministry of Defence on Monday, the pair met during the minister’s visits to Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Florida, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Israel, Washington and Sri Lanka.
The meetings included one with a senior US general. Fox said they did not discuss “commercial or defence matters, he [Werritty] had no access to classified documents, nor was he briefed on classified matters”.
The hotel records in Dubai seen by the Guardian show that Fox took a room in the same hotel on 3 April, when Werritty was also understood to be staying there. It was during that stay that Werritty first introduced Fox to the British defence industry businessman Harvey Boulter in the lobby cafe of the hotel.
According to the booking records, Werritty took a room in the 40th-floor executive area which provides exclusive access to the business lounge where he and Fox met Boulter on 18 June in a meeting to discuss a possible defence contract and a legal battle involving the MoD. It is not certain the booking relates to that occasion.
The details relate to 2011 but do not specify the dates he was there, and it is possible Fox was unaware of how Werritty was describing himself. But even if the record does not relate to either of the two meetings Fox had with Werritty in Dubai in April or June, the fact Werritty travelled under the auspices of Fox and gave the Fox-founded charity, Atlantic Bridge, as his company will fuel concern about the proximity of their working relationship.
12 October 2011: Adam Werritty set up Liam Fox meeting with Iranian regime lobbyist
Revelation likely to add to claims that Werritty was running a shadow, more hawkish, foreign policy on Iran
Adam Werritty personally arranged a meeting between Liam Fox and a senior Iranian lobbyist with close links to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime, the Guardian has learned.
The Iranian lobbyist visited Fox in May 2009 at Portcullis House. Werritty met him at the entrance of the parliamentary building and escorted him up to Fox’s office, sitting in for half a meeting on Iran. “I thought Werritty’s was Fox’s assistant,” the lobbyist – who declined to be named – told the Guardian. “Werritty was the main contact for meeting Fox. He was the person who arranged the time of the meeting. He collected me at the gate of Portcullis House and took me up to Fox’s office.
“There was a meeting between the three of us. Werritty wasn’t introduced to me. I didn’t get the impression that Werritty was an especial expert on Iran. I didn’t know who he was but thought he was either an official or Fox’s assistant.” The lobbyist declined to reveal what was discussed. He described Werritty as “a very pleasant, sociable guy”. He said he met Fox briefly twice after he became defence secretary, with others present.
The revelation is nevertheless likely to add to claims not only that Werritty masqueraded as Fox’s international fixer but that he was running a shadow foreign policy on Iran – a policy more hawkish than the official government position.
David Cameron is said to have been annoyed by some of Fox’s more neo-con pronouncements on the subject.
Werritty and Fox flew to Israel for a high-profile strategic conference on regional security. Fox called for stronger sanctions to compel Iran to give up its nuclear weapons programme. He warned the Commons during the same period that it was “entirely possible” Iran could have a nuclear weapon by 2012.
Werritty also arranged and attended a dinner at the conference with Fox and Matthew Gould, Britain’s ambassador to Israel. Other top political figures also attended.
The Independent reported that senior Israeli diplomats were under the impression that Werritty was an official adviser to the defence secretary. It is not clear why Werritty, rather than Foreign Office officials, organised the dinner.
Werritty attended the same conference in February 2009 as an “expert” on Iran. He was a guest of a UK-based pro-Israeli lobbying organisation. The British Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom) paid for his flight and hotel bill.
Lorna Fitzsimmons, Bicom’s chief executive, said: “We have only ever done two things with Adam Werritty in the five years I have been at Bicom. We funded him to go to the Herzliya conference in 2009 to talk on a panel on Iran and I accepted an invitation from him to talk to a panel on Iran at an event in London in 2009 or 2010.”
It’s unclear, however, how deep Werritty’s Iranian connections are, and on what basis he is a specialist on the region.
Richard Dalton, Britain’s ambassador in Tehran between 2003-2006, said: he had not come across Werritty, either during his time in Iran and subsequently. “He hasn’t broken the surface of Iran expert circles. I’ve never read anything written [on Iran] by him.” One Iranian exile said that he had met Werritty in London to discuss Iranian politics. “We met over coffee several times”, he said. “He [Werritty] even spoke a few words of Persian,” the exile recalled.
A second Iranian exile added that Werritty was a regular participant at seminars on Iran held by Chatham House, the foreign affairs thinktank, and the Royal United Services Institute.
The source said that Werritty had visited Iran once back in 1997 and the Iranian chamber of commerce. He said that when he met Werritty in 2005-2006 he described himself as “someone very close to Liam Fox”. The source added: “I heard recently from Arab colleagues that Werritty had called himself an adviser to Fox. I didn’t get the impression he was an Iran expert. He could talk convincingly but I didn’t see any depth in his Iran information.”
It is understood that Bicom paid £1,000 for Werritty to fly to Israel to attend the 2009 conference, an annual event organised by academics and former luminaries of the country’s intelligence and security establishment to discuss strategic and Middle Eastern issues and promote Israel’s view of them.
Werritty was invited to attend by one of its organisers, Tommy Steiner, a Nato and international relations expert who served as the executive director of the Atlantic Forum of Israel, a network-based policy organization that promoted “Israel’s relations with the Euro-Atlantic Community”. Steiner was unavailable for comment.
Werrity is described in the list of 2009 Herzliya participants as “Dr Adam Werritty, Advisor, Office of Shadow Defence Secretary; UK Executive Director, The Atlantic Bridge” but is not listed as speaking on Iran or anything else.
He does not appear in the list of 2011 participants. In his speech in February Fox spoke of the need to resolve the Palestinian issue as way of undercutting Iran’s ability to cause trouble in the Middle East.
The 2009 conference was held just weeks after the end of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed.
Defence secretary’s allies describe Adam Werritty as a Walter Mitty figure who had exaggerated his connections.
The battle to keep Liam Fox in office is in disarray as allies of the defence secretary began to distance themselves from his close friend Adam Werritty, describing him as a Walter Mitty figure who had exaggerated his connections as Fox’s adviser.
It is understood that the briefings were not sanctioned by Fox or Downing Street, and were regarded as unhelpful to the embattled defence secretary.
The cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, is now due to decide in days rather than weeks how serious he regards Fox’s apparent multiple breaches of the ministerial code.
Fox’s cause is regarded as terminal if it is shown he knew Werritty was being paid by defence-related interests. It is understood that Werritty claims that his work, including his multiple global trips, was funded by ideologically sympathetic philanthropists, without any direct connection to specific defence contracts.
Some of them were introduced to Werritty by Fox. Senior figures in the Ministry of Defence said Fox’s chances of survival were 50-50. “If he goes, it will not be because of security leaks or his private life. It will be due to money.”
The initial attempt to denigrate Werritty by describing him as a fantasist is in part an attempt to argue that Fox neither knew nor condoned the extent to which Werritty was claiming he worked for Fox. “Essentially, he was masquerading as something he was not, ” said one official. “He [Werritty] shouldn’t have been acting that way. Liam has told him to tell the truth and not to hide anything.”
The Guardian understands that Werritty has admitted to the inquiry that he may have unintentionally misled some of his business associates about the role he played with Fox, allowing them to form the impression he was an official aide.
Werritty was interviewed on Tuesday by the Cabinet Office’s director of propriety and ethics, Sue Gray, who has asked him to provide documents setting out his business arrangements.
The inquiry has been told Werritty was being funded by ideological allies of Fox, both in the UK and the US. One senior Whitehall official told the Guardian it was “inconceivable” that the defence secretary did not know that his friend was passing himself off as his unofficial envoy.
Fox also continued to see Werritty even after he had reprimanded him for using a business card declaring he was an adviser to Fox, a fact that Fox did not tell his permanent secretary, Ursula Brennan, until she read it in a Guardian article.
A few days later Fox and his wife still went on holiday to Spain with Werritty.
It is also unlikely that Fox would have allowed “a Walter Mitty figure” to sit alongside him when he sat down for a social dinner with commander designate for Nato in Afghanistan at a Steakhouse in Tampa Florida.
David Cameron said at prime minister’s questions that he was waiting for the O’Donnell inquiry before deciding whether to sack Fox. “I ask people to have a little patience and wait for the facts to be established,” he said.
In a separate development, Conservative headquarters insisted there had been no attempt to cover up the fact that a man was staying with Fox when his home was burgled during the 2010 election campaign. Fox had a laptop, a mobile phone and keys to a Skoda taken, and the Skoda was driven away.
At the time, journalists were told that Fox was alone, but Fox says he told the police a friend was staying with him.
A Conservative spokesperson said: “As Liam Fox said last night, he told police at the time of the burglary that a friend was staying in his guest room, and that he does not know why the media were given the impression he was alone.
We have looked into how incorrect information was briefed out. We have established that it was released in good faith and that it was the result of a genuine misunderstanding.”
Friends of Fox, such as Chris Grayling, the employment minister, under pressure from the media, stressed that Fox was a “happily married” man.
Grayling said: “If you look around the Westminster village, you will find all kinds of wild gossip about all kinds of individuals in all parties. That doesn’t mean they are not good at their jobs. I’ve known Liam for many years, I’ve known Liam and his wife, they’ve always struck me as being a very happily married couple.
The reality is that the gossip is certainly circulating. “I thought we had got past the point in politics though where we needed to worry about people’s private lives. The question is, is somebody doing an important and capable job?”
12 October 2011: Liam Fox: anointed by Thatcher, stymied by Whitehall
US benefactors and rightwing friends such as Adam Werritty helped defence secretary to promote the Atlanticist agenda
Liam Fox, the defence secretary, has always stood out as the pre-eminent Atlanticist in the cabinet, the man willing to carry the flame of the Reagan-Thatcher years beyond the cold war and into the modern global battles against Islamist terrorism. Only the education secretary, Michael Gove, comes close to his fervour.
In his speeches to the conservative US Heritage Foundation, including one delivered in Washington as President Obama spoke to the UK parliament last year, Fox has always hammered home the importance of the special relationship, the pre-eminence of Nato and the need for Britain to maintain a strong defence to maintain its global status.
In speech after speech he has warned the EU is trying to build a rival military command structure.
Some of his views set him apart from the rest of the cabinet and put him at odds with the defence establishment at the Ministry of Defence. One of his allies said: “Some describe him as vain, but he has something to be vain about. He is a genuine intellect and thinks big picture. He is not just an administrator.”
One argument may be that Fox decided in office to freelance too much, relying excessively on the network of contacts built up across the world during his years in opposition.
His friend Adam Werritty was just one of many like-minded rightwingers on whom Fox drew to push his agenda through a sometimes reluctant civil service.
The frequent speaking engagements in rightwing thinktanks in Washington gave him the chance to meet the kind of wealthy benefactors willing to finance such thinking. This belief in the pre-eminence of the Atlantic relationship led him to form the Atlantic Bridge, now shut after the Charity Commission ruled it was too political.
The presence of Lady Thatcher at his 50th birthday party in Admiralty House was almost an act of anointment as leader of the Conservative right. In office he has prided himself on developing what he describes as his own defence diplomacy, trying to redress the damage he believed Labour had inflicted by neglecting key allies. Fox discovered that the MoD formerly had independent funds to advance defence ties but, under Labour, the cash was taken away and pooled with money from other departments.
As a sign of his global activism, he has signed 27 defence agreements around the world while in office and hoped to sign eight more within months. He formed the Northern Group with Nordic and Baltic countries, signed the UK-France defence treaty and held the first bilateral visit to India in five years and to Turkey in seven years. It is possible that this activism will prove to be his undoing, as he failed to adapt a modus operandi that had worked in opposition.
12 October 2011: Liam Fox complained to Boris Johnson about Met handling of burglary
Liam Fox made a complaint to Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, that his security was not being taken seriously by the Metropolitan police after the burglary at his flat last year.
But when police reacted and sent in detectives from the diplomatic protection unit within the counter-terrorism command, it is understood Fox backed off as it appeared that he did not want any further intrusion into his life.
Details of how the burglary on 22 April 2010 was investigated emerged on Tuesday as Fox continued to fight for his political life. The intruders gained entry to his flat near Tower Bridge during the general election campaign.
They stole the keys to his Skoda from the flat, before getting into the car and driving away. Fox, who was a Tory opposition spokesman at the time, also had a laptop and mobile phone stolen in the burglary.
Sources told the Guardian that the police at no time suggested the burglary involved a break-in at the flat – instead the evidence suggested the intruders gained entry through an open patio door via a balcony.
But, at the time, Conservative central office briefed that the intruders had broken in and that Fox was alone in the flat. The defence secretary has now clarified this, saying he told police that a guest was staying with him in the spare room when the burglary took place.
According to the police records of the inquiry, on 1 May 2010, five youths were arrested for the burglary at Fox’s flat in a gated residential complex. Those arrested were two 14-year-old boys, a 17-year-old boy and two men aged 19 and 20. The 17-year-old was the only suspect to be charged in connection with the burglary. He appeared at Camberwell youth court with his mother and admitted aggravated vehicle taking. He was given a 12-month youth rehabilitation order and told to pay £200 in compensation.
The court was told that he was one of a group of intruders who gained entry to the then shadow defence secretary’s flat and took his car keys. The gang left knives on the kitchen table – apparently leaving them close at hand in case they were disturbed, the court heard.
The youth then got into Fox’s car – where a mobile phone and laptop had been left – and tried to drive away. But he did not get very far, smashing into 12 plant pots belonging to Fox as he attempted to drive the car.
The incident was initially investigated by a team from Southwark burglary squad. But Fox is understood to have contacted Johnson to complain not enough was being done to protect him.
Scotland Yard passed the inquiry over to the diplomatic protection unit within the counter-terrorism command and detectives began to investigate the affair, it is understood. The inquiry was short-lived. Police felt that Fox did not want any further intrusion into his life.
The Met gave no information at the time about whether he was in the flat alone that night. Fox has now said that he never suggested he was alone in the flat. “As I told the police at the time, a friend was staying in the guest room,” he said this week. “My wife was stranded in Hong Kong due to the ash cloud. For the sake of clarity, it wasn’t Adam Werritty. “I was the victim of a violent crime and I’m appalled at being portrayed as having something to hide.”
Later news: Soldier friend of Dr Fox was at his flat the night it was burgled
Lieutenant Colonel Graham Livesey was named after Dr Fox denied trying to hide he was not alone when thieves broke into his London property.
A source close to Lt Col Livesey, 44, said he stayed at Dr Fox’s flat near Tower Hill as he had been out drinking until late with the former minister and was unable to get back to his home out of London.
13 October 2011: Liam Fox: I’m focusing on job
Fox says he is concentrating on defence issues amid fresh claims over the financial affairs of his friend Adam Werritty
Liam Fox has insisted he is focusing on his job amid mounting questions over the financial affairs of his close friend and self-styled adviser, Adam Werritty.
New claims that wealthy backers of Fox had funded Werritty’s work and travel appeared to “blow a hole” in the defence secretary’s position, Labour said.
Werritty will be questioned for a second time by senior civil servants investigating his relationship with Fox either on Thursday or Friday.
The defence secretary, who pulled out of a keel-laying ceremony for a new submarine in Barrow scheduled for Thursday, said he had been attending a meeting of the National Security Council.
He said the fall of the last pro-Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte was “getting very close” in Libya, potentially bringing the conflict to an end. “That is what I have to focus all my attention on,” he told reporters as he arrived at the Ministry of Defence. “I’m continuing to do what is needed at the moment which is that the defence secretary focuses on defence issues.”
It has been reported that Werritty was being bankrolled by a number of wealthy private clients who shared his and Fox’s strong Atlanticist views.
Werritty, whose links with the politician are being investigated by the UK’s leading civil servant, was remunerated for “political and strategic advice”, he said.
13 October 2011: Labour questions £170,000 cost of Liam Fox’s official advisers
Labour has questioned why taxpayers are paying more than £170,000 a year for Liam Fox’s three official advisers when he appears to prefer to rely on the advice of his best man and travel companion, Adam Werritty.
Two of Fox’s highly trained official special advisers are paid £60,740 a year, while a third collects at least £52,215, giving a total wage bill of at least £173,695 a year.
The bill for Fox’s advisers is the fourth-highest of any minister in parliament, behind only the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and the chancellor. Fox spends more on advisers than William Hague, the foreign secretary, and the leader of the Lords, Lord Strathclyde.
But the defence secretary appeared to require the services of Werritty, who is not a government employee yet handed out a business card that described him as an “adviser to the Rt Hon Dr Fox MP”.
Fox has met Werritty 18 times during overseas trips, where he has met heads of state, ambassadors and dined with General John Allen of US Central Command at a steakhouse in Tampa, Florida.
The pair have also met at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall 22 times over the past 16 months.
Kevan Jones, Labour’s defence spokesman, said: “Each day the questions mount up for Liam Fox. He has to explain why he needs Adam Werritty, who appears to be an unofficial adviser, when he has three special advisers costing the taxpayer pay almost £200,000. “Adam Werritty has been travelling the world giving the impression he was an official adviser and it would appear Dr Fox has not counteracted this impression.
We need answers.” Another Labour source said: “Given the extensive connections we are aware exist between Mr Fox and Mr Werritty it is simply ridiculous to suggest he was not an adviser and it is inconceivable that Liam Fox did not know what Adam Werritty was up to.”
13 October 2011: Liam Fox took five MPs to Washington with donor’s money
Michael Lewis, donated almost £14,000 to Fox’s discredited Atlantic Bridge charity, unknowingly paying for newly elected Tory MPs’ flights in 2005. The donation was not made for the purpose of funding visits by Tory MPs to the United States.
Three MPs joined Fox on the flight from London to Washington on 18 October 2005, the same day as the first round of voting in the leadership election, which Fox subsequently lost to David Cameron. The other two MPs joined the trip on different dates.
It is thought that Fox’s long-term travel companion Adam Werritty was also on the trip, but this could not be confirmed. Fox and Werritty did not respond to requests to comment.
The Tory MPs – Mark Harper, member for the Forest of Dean; John Penrose, Weston-super-Mare; Brooks Newmark, Braintree; Adam Holloway, Gravesham; and Philip Dunne, Ludlow – had only months earlier been elected to parliament. All of the MPs declared in the register of members’ interests that their flights and hotel bills were paid for by Michael Lewis.
“Travel and accommodation costs for travel (18-21 September 2005), to the USA. Met by Dr Liam Fox’s office from a donation by Mr Michael Lewis, a businessman from London. I received flight upgrades on outward and return journeys from London to Washington from Virgin Atlantic,” Harper registered on 17 October 2005. The other MPs’ registers include similar entries, although some dates differ.”
Electoral Commission records show Lewis, was vice chairman of the Israeli lobby group Bicom until 2007 since when he has had no involvement in the organisation, save as a donor. He donated £5,000 to Fox’s leadership campaign in July 2005.
Bicom also paid for Werritty’s flight and hotel bill to attend a conference in Israel in 2009 where he was asked to join a panel and talk about Iran. The Herzliya conference was one of the events listed by the Ministry of Defence at which he met Fox.
Kevan Jones, Labour’s defence spokesman, said: “This is yet another question Liam Fox needs to answer. Why during his campaign to be Tory party leader, did Dr Fox’s office fund a visit to the United States for new Tory MPs from a donation by businessman Michael Lewis? The only declaration of money to Liam Fox from Mr Lewis is in regards to his leadership campaign. Did he use this money donated to his campaign to fund these visits?”
Adam HollowayMPPhilip Dunne MP
13 October 2011: Why didn’t Liam Fox make Adam Werritty a special adviser?
There are dozens of ‘spads’ despite Tory pledges to cut them, and Fox has three – but his protege is not one of them.
Whatever the final outcome of Liam Fox’s generous promotion of his chum Adam Werritty’s career, the defence secretary has already shone a bright light on a recurring tension, inherent to modern government in Whitehall and far beyond.
The appropriate relationship between elected public officials, politically neutral civil servants and assorted outside interests which, usually quite legitimately, seek to influence policy.
Ministers have views – their party’s and (not always the same) their own. Civil servants always murmur “Yes, minister, but…” Outsiders have views ranging from the saintly to the insane, from the noble to the venal, nationalisation (or privatisation) of key industries, a 17% flat tax or a 50% tax on bankers, EU integration or an early no vote referendum.
Oxfam and other high-minded charities (Save the Children’s boss is a former adviser to No 10) seek to influence decisions. So do major corporations, trade unions and their lobbyists. So do public-spirited and wealthy Americans who seek to nurture a neocon version of the transatlantic special relationship with no thought of vulgar profit – so the latest explanation for low-income Werritty’s high-end travel and hotel habits invite wary voters to believe.
In his struggles to cling to office Fox and his political allies deployed various justifications for Werritty’s near-ubiquitous presence at his side on foreign trips and for cuppas in the MoD canteen.
Pro-Nato, free market Thatcherite policies are one such, the “Walter Mitty” hanger-on fantasist’s self-importance is another. It smacks of desperation.
But the idea that an incoming minister with robust ideas and a sceptical attitude towards the conventional wisdom of the Whitehall elite – the “permanent government” whose departmental agenda never dies – is common to all incoming regimes.
As self-proclaimed heir to Margaret Thatcher, Fox persuaded himself that he was entitled to circumvent the MoD’s old boy network – but he clearly did so in ways which broke the ministerial code of conduct in reckless ways.
It was Labour’s Harold Wilson who created the post of ministerial special adviser SPAD in the mid-70s, outside experts with overtly political – in that instance, Labour – perspectives who could provide countervailing arguments to the advice of Whitehall’s smooth Sir Humphreys.
The French and Americans make no bones about it. The “spoils system” in Washington gives a new president up to 2,000 political appointments across the bureaucracy. The French concept of a “cabinet” – pronounced with a French silent “t” – was exported to Brussels, where the European commission is run that way, albeit along multinational lines.
Thatcher got the point when she asked of potential high flyers “Is he one of us?” – meaning a can-do official, not a feeble mandarin-type committed to merely managing decline.
Early special advisers (“spads” in the jargon) tended to be serious heavyweights in finance or macro-economics, transport or pensions, men and women with academic or corporate CVs who would return to the City, university, thinktank or quango-ocracy after a stimulating stint in Whitehall, wiser and possibly sadder.
But the professionalisation of politics increasingly saw bright young men and women become spads, virtually clutching their Oxbridge degrees, to advise – and warn – ministers on policy, politics or media spin.
Before winning their safe Tory seats. David Cameron and George Osborne were both such young thrusters. So were Ed Balls, James Purnell, Andy Burnham and Ed Miliband – young spads who caught the New Labour wave in their late 20s and rode into cabinet.
Labour in 1997 almost doubled the spad count from 38 under John Major to 70. The number peaked at 84 in 2004-05 but was back down to 74 in 2009-10. Cameron promised to cut the spad bill – by now £6.8m a year – and the number to 68 and has regretted the gesture ever since, as did Gordon Brown.
Brown, Cameron and Nick Clegg have been repeatedly wrongfooted by the poor political radar of advisers who are supposed to understand what voters want better than (London-based, well-pensioned and cautious) senior civil servants.
Rightwing Tory MPs, confident that they want more than a Lib-Con coalition offers, despise their centrist instincts. Almost certainly, Fox agrees.
But how did he manage to impale himself in ways that will require yet further amendments to the code governing spads? On the face of it, Werritty, his eager and trusted university protege, was an obvious choice for appointment as a special adviser in May 2010.
Fox had three: Luke Coffey, a 32-year-old former American army captain, Oliver Waghorn, a keen young Tory right-winger, and Hayden Allan, the ex-Tory party official who was given the task of explaining away the inconsistencies in Fox’s statements about the Werritty connection. Newspapers have also reported that he appointed an extra military adviser, Lt Col Graham Livesey against the wishes of senior military officers. (Is this where the leak originated?)
That is unusual, though not necessarily wrong: a strong minister determined to thwart the conventional departmental wisdom may resort to unorthodox methods, as Tony Benn, Keith Joseph and Gordon Brown all did in their time.
But why no job for Werritty? What was the impediment to someone who nonetheless gained extraordinary access at every level, personal as well as professional, abroad as well as at home?
It was an accident waiting to happen. Fleet Street’s baser instincts have been to insist that – like most political scandals – the mystery here must be about money or (at some level) sex. Labour scandals used to be about money, Tory public school boys tended to be brought low by sex. In recent decades, there has been convergence, as in much else.
But what looks more likely to have ended Fox’s cabinet career is the money trail. Who funded the Werritty globe-trotting? And were they paying to promote the aims of Fox’s now-defunct charity, the Atlantic Bridge, to keep an ear to the ground for commercial opportunities – or both? If Iraq proved anything it is that flag-waving patriotism can be a lucrative activity.
How could the defence secretary not spot the conflict of interest, MPs are asking each other.
And why did Werritty switch from being a lobbyist on health matters to becoming a defence and foreign affairs buff when his patron moved from being a very pro-privatisation health spokesman to defence in 2005? It is a striking detail in the case, one which may be without precedent.
Of course there may be wholesome answers and Sir Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet secretary, unhappily required to adjudicate (as his predecessor, Sir Robin Butler, ineptly did in Jonathan Aitken’s murky mid-90s conflict of defence interests), will no doubt be happy to find them.
13 October 2011: Fox and Werritty joined stag party during taxpayer-funded trip to Dubai
Liam Fox and his long-term travel companion, Adam Werritty, went on a “stag do” for one of the defence secretary’s special advisers while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Dubai, the Guardian can reveal. The late-night drinking session in some of Dubai’s most exclusive hotel bars was to toast Luke Coffey.
Luke Coffey is an American political adviser (SPAD) and US Army veteran. He worked as a SPAD to Liam Fox. He is currently a Margaret Thatcher Fellow at The Heritage Founation an American Conservative party think-tank.
The six-strong party are understood to have started at the opulent Address hotel where Fox was staying at a £500-a-night cost to the taxpayer.
They went to the top-floor bar of the 63-storey Address, which is shaped like an ocean liner, before moving on to other bars where they downed giant “treasure chest” cocktails.
It is understood the celebrations lasted until 3am. A source who witnessed the session told the Guardian: “It was quite a boozy affair; they were drinking huge cocktails and they caused quite a stir. I was told it was a stag do for one of Fox’s advisers.”
Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central and a former parachute regiment officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, said: “Our forces will be shocked that, while they are on the frontline risking life and limb, the secretary of state for defence is on a stag do on taxpayers’ expense.
They expect leadership, particularly now, but they are not getting it from Liam Fox.”
Questions will be raised about whether Fox deliberately extended his stopover in Dubai to give Coffey a special send-off into married life. Fox was spending three nights at the exclusive Dubai hotel on his way back from visiting troops in Afghanistan in June, despite having only two official engagements scheduled in his diary.
Fox arrived in Dubai on 17 June and immediately met Werritty. After their meeting with Dubai-based British businessman Harvey Boulter on the 41st floor of the Shangri-la hotel the pair are understood to have spent the rest of the day lounging by the pool and in Werritty’s hotel room.
Questions have already been raised about Fox’s regular trips to Dubai.
According to the former defence minister Bob Ainsworth, a stopover in Dubai, sometimes known as “Las Vegas in the desert”, is unprecedented. “I have never been to Dubai,” Ainsworth said. “I doubt I made half the number of trips he made in all those three years.”
Protocol dictates that official trips back from Afghanistan or Iraq stop off in Qatar or Bahrain.
Fox has been to Dubai five times since the election, meeting Werritty on each occasion. The minister once took a “weekend leave break” in the emirate on 6-8 August 2010. However, on the visit in June, Fox did not take leave and was being funded by the taxpayer.
His only official engagements were to meet local journalists on 19 June and to visit troops at the nearby Al Minhad airbase. The Ministry of Defence declined to comment as to why Fox’s trip lasted three days when both engagements could have easily been done in one day.
Labour has questioned why taxpayers are paying more than £170,000 a year for Fox’s three official advisers when he appears to prefer to rely on the advice of Werritty.
Two of Fox’s highly trained official special advisers – Coffey and Oliver Waghorn – are paid £60,740 a year, while Hayden Allan collects at least £52,215, giving a total wage bill of at least £173,695 a year.
The bill for Fox’s advisers is the fourth-highest of any minister in parliament, behind only the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and the chancellor. Fox spends more on advisers than William Hague, the foreign secretary, and the leader of the Lords, Lord Strathclyde.
Coffey, who oversees policy on Europe, the US, the Middle East, military operations and welfare, married Emily Moore, a family lawyer, at St John the Baptist church on the Marquesses of Bath’s Longleat estate, Wiltshire, on 16 July.
13 October 2011: Adam Werritty and Liam Fox’s Sri Lankan connections
Defence secretary’s friend was familiar sight to network of diplomats, politicians and journalists
It was a classic south Asian scene. Sundown, some drinks, a colonial-era hotel with fans cooling a terrace, waves crashing on the nearby beach, a group of British diplomats, a minister – and a 34-year-old businessman called Adam Werritty.
Quite what Werritty was doing at the table of the Galle Face hotel on Colombo’s seafront that evening in July this year was unclear even to the senior Foreign Office diplomats sitting with him.
All they knew was that he had some connection to Liam Fox, the defence secretary who had flown out for a weekend to make a speech to a private local foundation.
Fox and his party slept at the high commissioner’s 1960s residence, filling its four guest bedrooms. Werritty made his own arrangements.
Yet he was present at the minister’s speech – in honour of a Sri Lankan foreign minister assassinated in 2005 – and at the tea afterwards where he worked a room full of local politicians, diplomats and journalists.
Then it was on to the Galle Face for a sundowner. Werritty’s connections in Sri Lanka were already extensive. Around the time of Fox’s speech, Werritty was seen in the company of Rohitha Bogollagama, Sri Lankan foreign minister from 2007 until April 2010, and Wijedasa Rajapakse, a constitutional lawyer and senior opposition MP who was recognized as a crusader who fought against corruption in the public sector, regardless of stature and the might of the politicians and the officials involved in such corruption, in the Spice restaurant of the Hilton, the luxury hotel in Colombo where Werritty had often stayed.
Bogollagama referred all inquiries to the Sri Lankan foreign ministry, but Rajapakse confirmed the meeting. “[Werritty] was introduced to me as an associate of Dr Fox by Mr Bogollagama,” he said on Thursday. “I was just there with my family and bumped into them by accident in the restaurant.”
Werritty had last been in Sri Lanka in December 2010 when he and Fox had got involved in a difficult diplomatic incident.
Fox had been forced to cancel his voyage as it had coincided with the WikiLeaks release of diplomatic cables revealing American diplomats’ concerns over the Sri Lankan government’s human rights record.
Werritty was left to explain the situation to local officials. This, however, he was already well-equipped to do. He and Fox had met the president himself, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a suite in London’s Dorchester hotel only two weeks earlier.
Werritty relayed the Sri Lankan request that the cancellation be termed a “postponement” to his friend. The official announcement duly referred to Fox being unavoidably detained in the Gulf.
A key interlocutor was the president’s foreign affairs fixer, a controversial former businessman called Sachin de Wass. Sajin has been accused of and has been involved in many controversies ranging from fraud, criminal record, remand time, fraud bureau investigations, unpaid loans, spying, overstepping and unfulfilled promises.
This was not the first time Fox had done Sri Lanka – or its government – a favour. His own relationship with the troubled island nation dated back to the mid-1990s, when as a junior foreign officer minister he brokered an agreement between competing parties to co-operate in the search for peace.
It did not hold but the “Fox Accord” laid the basis for a long involvement in the island’s tortuous politics.
A regular visitor throughout the last decade, it was a chance meeting with Bogollagama, the then foreign minister, in 2007 that brought the then shadow defence secretary back into the orbit of the Sri Lankan political elite.
Rajapaksa and his government were in need of friends. A populist who retains significant support among the ethnic Sinhala Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa was set on a radical solution to the long-running civil war that had crippled the nation’s development over previous decades. An expanded army with new equipment, backed by paramilitaries, would fight on to the finish, eradicating the Tamil Tiger separatists in the north.
Anticipating an international outcry, the government actively sought out helpful voices overseas. Some could be purchased and a multi million-pound contract with lobbyists Bell Pottinger was concluded.
With political officers in London telling Sri Lanka that Labour was almost certain to lose coming elections, Fox was seen in Colombo as a major potential asset.
Researchers working for human rights organisations during this period were so concerned by indications that the Sri Lankan government might be seeking to enlist Fox’s support to ease restrictions on arms imports from the UK to the island nation, they raised their worries with the Foreign Office in London.
Sources say now that they received specific information that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the feared defence secretary and the brother of the president, had asked Fox to lobby for more access to British weapons. Rajapaksa is largely credited for the successes achieved by the Sri Lankan Military in defeating the Tamil Tigers and ending Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long civil war but allegations of war crimes have been sent to the World Court for further investigation. He might yet face prosecution.
In March 2009, as the fighting intensified in the north of the island, Fox made a further visit to Colombo, meeting both government and opposition figures.
It is unclear if Werritty accompanied him on previous visits but local journalists recall seeing the younger man in Sri Lanka with the minister during almost all visits from spring 2009 onwards.
Others said they believe they saw him on trips earlier, possibly from the middle of the decade, but that certain identification is impossible.
Often Werritty’s role appeared unclear to those who met him. One local reporter remembered a series of emails exchanged with Werritty discussing details for a potential interview with Fox. “He was the man to go to for access,” he said. Others saw Werritty in press conferences. “I just thought he was part of the [Fox’s] staff,” one said.
Ravi Karunanayake, is a Sri Lankan Member of Parliament. an opposition MP, he met Werritty with Fox in August 2009 in Colombo. He told the Guardian that, with nothing indicating the contrary, he had believed Werritty was an aide.
Though he was careful to meet representatives of all communities, Fox’s visits in March and August 2009 were seen by some observers as an endorsement of the hardline government which has so far refused either a full inquiry into the claims that tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed at the end of the civil war or pressure to move towards any broader postwar political settlement with the Tamil population.
It was in March 2009 that Fox first publicly suggested an investment fund for reconstruction in Tamil zones devastated by decades of conflict.
The Sri Lanka Development Trust was registered in the UK but appears to have done little since other than contribute to paying expenses for three of Fox’s trips.
The funding of Werritty’s own travel expenses is unclear. In November 2009, during a trip paid for Fox by the trust and the Sri Lankan government, Werritty is believed to have stayed at the Hilton, where rooms cost from £100 a night.
Reaction to Fox’s troubles in Sri Lanka has been mixed. The affair has been cautiously covered in the local press. No senior government official was prepared to be interviewed by the Guardian.
MA Sumanthiran, a senior Tamil politician, said his hope was that “anyone [like Fox] who is close to the government of Sri Lanka will be in a position of influence with them”.
However Mano Ganeshan, an independent Tamil politician who met Fox in August 2009, said that “the credibility of the British establishment, whether Tory or Labour”, had been hit. “We have always assumed that those coming here had the interests of everybody – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim alike – at heart,” he said. Mano was in the forefront of those seeking an end to the abductions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings that afflict Sri Lanka and for his commendable demonstration by showing his integrity in combating the climate of impunity for human rights violators.
Rohitha Bogollagama, Sri Lankan foreign ministerMano Ganeshan
13 October 2011: Liam Fox faces fresh questions on Sri Lanka links
Liam Fox faced fresh accusations of running a shadow foreign policy after it emerged he was involved in setting up a private investment firm to operate in Sri Lanka in apparent contravention of UK government policy, with his controversial friend Adam Werritty as its key contact.
The defence secretary was intimately involved in negotiations with the Sri Lankan regime as recently as last summer, according to Lord Bell, his friend of 30 years, agreeing a deal that allows the Sri Lankan Development Trust to operate in the country in the same period in which he now says he withdrew his involvement.
The trust was a venture designed to rebuild the country’s infrastructure using private finance with a sideline in charitable projects for Tamil communities.
Labour urged the government to come clean on Fox’s work in Sri Lanka and whether it might have contravened the government’s official policy, while a senior Whitehall source said the minister had been operating a “maverick foreign policy” and it is this that will ultimately decide his political fate.
The government has adopted an arm’s-length policy on Sri Lanka, calling for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes. Since 2006 it has also had a policy to limit development work to urgent humanitarian assistance and “de-mining” areas affected by the civil war.
Fox told the Commons on Monday he had worked with “a number” of business, banking and political contacts to establish the trust in Sri Lanka.
He named only Werritty, his close friend who is at the heart of the scandal over his unofficial role as Fox’s adviser. “Neither myself, Mr Werritty nor others sought to receive any share of the profits for assisting the trust,” he said.
In June 2010, he met the Sri Lankan foreign minister in Singapore, along with Werritty and MoD officials. “The purpose of the meeting was to make it clear that although I would no longer be able to participate in the project, the others involved would continue to do so,” he said on Monday.
It was then revealed that discussions took place last summer in which Fox agreed with the governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka that the trust would invest in roadbuilding and other infrastructure projects using private investment.
Lord Timothy Bell was instrumental in the Conservative general election campaign victories of Margaret Thatcher. For her first 1979 victory, he created the ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ campaign and advised the future Prime Minister on interview techniques, clothing, and even hairstyle choices. He also courted newspaper editors and worked on devastating attacks on the Labour party.
Bell, whose PR firm Bell Pottinger was employed by the Sri Lankan government until last year to improve the country’s reputation abroad, said the deal had been struck between Fox and the head of the Sri Lankan bank: “In order for these funds to operate they would need an agreement with the country.
The financial interests of Sri Lanka come under the governor of the Central Bank. My understanding is that the infrastructure development fund would be set up and have an agreement with the Sri Lankan government to invest in Tamil communities in Sri Lanka.
It’s a fine idea with a good sense of purpose.” He added that “of course” part of the strategy was to improve the regime’s reputation abroad.
Kevan Jones, shadow defence minister, said: “Liam Fox told the house about the trust on Monday. It’s clearly not a full explanation. If he was still striking deals with the Sri Lankans last summer, how does that fit with official UK foreign policy? He has to explain these negotiations.
You can’t have a situation where a government minister is appearing to run a completely separate foreign policy from that of the government.” Fox’s parliamentary and private offices both said last night that Fox ceased to have any involvement with the trust on entering government.
The only activity the Sri Lanka Development Trust appears to have engaged in has been the payment of up to £7,500 of Fox’s travel expenses, incurred on three trips to the country in 2009 and 2010.
The trust was originally registered to an address close to the Houses of Parliament in London, 40 George Street, which is also the offices of 3G, the “Good Governance Group”, which is chaired by Chester Crocker, a former US politician.
G3, or the Good Governance Group, is a strategic advisory consultancy which specialises in providing advice on risk mitigation, governance and regulatory compliance. The company also provides intelligence for businesses, such as competitor analysis and cyber security, including for the defence contractor BAE Systems. The company is reportedly worth about £20 million.
Cocker also sits on the board of Bell Pottinger LLC, the US wing of Bell’s publicity firm.
Bell denied that there was any connection between his firm or its US subsidiary and Fox’s Sri Lankan operation.
The trust has since transferred to the Lothian Road in Edinburgh, giving its address as No 50, a substantial granite and glass-fronted office block where a number of firms including the HQ of the Scottish oil exploration firm Cairn Energy and corporate offices for Clydesdale Bank are based.
Visitors to the building advised there was no sign of any physical presence of the organisation.
Two legal firms also based in the building are not believed to be connected. As a legal trust, it does not have to register either with the Charities Commission or on the register of businesses at Companies House. It does not have to publish the names of its trustees, it purpose or its beneficiaries.
Bell said that the trust consisted of two bodies, the Sri Lanka Infrastructure Development Fund, which was intended to raise money abroad from investors who would then share in the profit of ventures on the country, and the Sri Lanka Charitable Fund which would undertake charitable projects in Tamil areas in the north and east.
Inquiries in Colombo could not establish any activity the trust or its subsidiaries have so far carried out. Aid experts, senior politicians and officials in Sri Lanka said they had no knowledge of the trust.
Nether the trust nor its subsidiaries are registered by the National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organisations, a prerequisite for any such project.
On a trip in March 2009, shortly before the end of the bloody but successful government offensive, Fox called for the creation of “a special fund with the help of international partners … to help the Sri Lankan government in handling the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the war ravaged areas in the north and east [of the country].” Fox told local journalists he was suggesting “a new, independent, Sri Lanka construction fund”. One aim of the fund, he said, would be to divert cash that had been flowing from ethnic Tamils overseas to the LTTE into reconstruction.
No activity on the ground appears to have occurred. “I have my ear pretty close to the ground and I doubt a major new reconstruction project in the north [of Sri Lanka] could get going without my knowledge and I have never heard of this trust,” said one senior aid official in Colombo, the commercial capital.
The source of the trust’s money for the transport to Sri Lanka for Fox is unknown. Contributions to the cost of the trips were also received from the Sri Lankan government via its London embassy.
Human rights groups have been critical of Fox’s outspoken support for the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is now in his second term of office and has been accused by campaigners of repressing the press and opposition.
WikiLeaks cables revealed American diplomats’ concerns at alleged government complicity in human rights abuses committed by troops and paramilitaries during the latter stages of the civil war.
The United Nations has repeatedly pressed Sri Lanka for greater accountability and transparency.
14 October 2011: How Adam Werritty’s role as self-styled adviser to Liam Fox unravelled
A meeting in Dubai brought the defence secretary’s close friend – and his role in Fox’s life – into the spotlight. Liam Fox said he had met Adam Werritty 14 times inside the MoD in the 16 months after the 2010 election.
On 17 June 2011 Liam Fox touched down in Dubai after a gruelling visit to the troops in Afghanistan. Almost immediately he met up with Adam Werritty, his best man, former flatmate and firm friend of 13 years.
Werritty, 33, a Scottish Tory who first met Fox when the defence secretary went to speak at Edinburgh University – where Werritty was a student of public policy – had arrived in the emirate a few days earlier to set up meetings for his “boss”. Top of Werritty’s agenda for Fox was a meeting with Dubai-based British businessman Harvey Boulter on the 41st floor of the five-star Shangri-La hotel.
Late evening and Werritty and Fox were whisked into the hotel and rode the elevator to the executive meeting suite, one floor above Werritty’s room on the 40th floor. Waiting for them was Boulter, 41, chief executive of Porton Capital, and two executives from Cellcrypt, a Porton company that creates state-of-the-art encryption software.
As they settled into the sofas, Boulter offered to supply Cellcrypt for free to British troops in Afghanistan so that they could call their loved ones back home without fear of their calls being intercepted by the Taliban. Fox loved the idea. But just as they were about to wrap up the 45-minute meeting, Boulter got to the topic that had been worrying him for months: of money that had slipped through his fingers.
The last deal Boulter and the MoD teamed up on had gone wrong. Boulter had helped the government commercialise and sell potential life-saving MRSA technology to the American conglomerate 3M for £41m.
But 3M, the maker of Post-it notes, had refused to pay all the money, claiming the MRSA technology, called Acolyte, didn’t work. Boulter had managed to get coverage of the story in the Observer a few days earlier.
While Fox and Werritty went out partying that night to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of Fox’s official adviser Luke Coffey, Boulter jumped on a plane to Milan.
Early the next morning, as he stepped off a plane in Italy, Boulter cranked up the pressure on 3M’s lawyer. He sent a hastily drafted email that 3M later alleged implied that the government would raise questions about a knighthood awarded to 3M’s British chief executive. Boulter’s email said: “David Cameron’s cabinet might very shortly be discussing the rather embarrassing situation of George’s [George Buckley, 3M’s chief executive] knighthood”.
Life was about to get even tougher for Boulter, one the richest western men in Dubai, as 3M launched a blackmail lawsuit against him based on that email allegedly punched out on his BlackBerry in the middle of the night. But the first he heard of the lawsuit was when the Guardian called on the afternoon of the following Monday to seek comment.
The private equity boss denied that the emails, constituted blackmail, and claimed that when he mentioned the threat to Buckley’s knighthood he was not referring to the meeting with Fox. On 24 June 2011 the MoD commented “Dr Fox met with Mr Boulter to discuss an entirely different matter. At no point did he enter into any discussion about the legal case.”
Curious. Who was telling the truth? A flamboyant race car-driving businessman or the secretary of state for defence? The other two executives present at the meeting confirmed that the Acolyte case had been discussed.
The MoD then issued a backtrack statement on 17 August 2011. “During their meeting Mr Boulter disclosed his involvement in a legal case as a matter of propriety, but Dr Fox did not enter into a discussion about this in any respect and at no point raised or discussed the issue of a knighthood.”
Surely the MoD official who sat in on the meeting must have kept a record of the meeting? So why was the department changing its position? There was a simple answer from the MoD: there were no officials present at the meeting.
Who, then, was Adam Werritty? “Adam Werritty is not an MoD employee. He is a friend of the secretary of state,” the MoD said.
But Boulter was adamant Werritty was Fox’s official adviser, and he said he had his business card to prove it. “Adviser to the Rt. Hon. Dr Liam Fox MP”, the card read under the House of Commons Portcullis logo.
But questions did not stop there. How many meetings had this unofficial adviser set up? Who had he met? Defence bosses? Generals? Heads of state? Did he often travel abroad with Fox? Did they meet up at the MoD’s HQ on Whitehall?
The MoD was “unable” to say if Werritty had been to the MoD because those sorts of records were hard to collate and the paper would have to wait for the answers to a Freedom of Information request.
Step forward John Mann MP, who tabled a parliamentary question, to which Fox replied that he had met Werritty 14 times inside the MoD in the 16 months since the election.
The defence secretary added “Mr Werritty is not an employee of the Ministry of Defence and has, therefore, not travelled with me on any official overseas visits.”
Given the defence minister’s not very transparent track record, was this really true? Trawling the internet revealed photos and videos showing the dynamic duo meeting the president and various ministers of Sri Lanka.
But these were not “official” meetings, the MoD said. But by now things had started to smell, and Fox’s department was forced into releasing a record of every meeting the pair had ever had.
There were 40 – 22 at the MoD and 18 overseas – where Werritty had been present including meetings with the forthcoming British ambassador to Israel and US General John Allen, who was soon to be appointed commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
Werritty’s jetsetting – he appeared to be on a plane, first-class, almost every other week – raised further questions about the self-styled adviser who did not appear to have a regular job.
Fox reassured the house on Monday that Werritty was “not dependent on any transactional behaviour to maintain his income”. This distinctly odd turn of phrase had Fleet Street a-flutter trying to track down how Werritty funded the 19 overseas trips (the MoD added one more at the last minute on Thursday night) that are estimated to have cost more than £50,000.
Revelations that Tory donors and shadowy figures were supporting a company set up specifically to support Werritty appears to have been the final straw in the pair’s long relationship.
For the record: denials issued in the month of October 2011;
“Mr Werritty is not an employee of the Ministry of Defence and has, therefore, not travelled with me on any official overseas visits.” Liam Fox in the House of Commons, 13 September 2011.
“A number of baseless accusations have been made in recent days.” Liam Liam Fox, responding to Guardian reports, 6 October 2011.
“Adam Werritty was not part of Dr Fox’s delegation [to Sri Lanka] and he did not attend any official meetings.” MoD spokesman, 8 October 2011.
“The defence industry representatives asked for it [the Dubai meeting] when they happened to be sitting at a nearby table at a restaurant. So, it’s not that unusual.” Liam Fox, 8 October 2011.
“He [Werritty] said anybody who asked like a journalist, tell them we didn’t meet. I said I can’t do that because clearly we have met.” Harvey Boulter, the Dubai businessman told to cover up his meeting with Fox.
14 October 2011: Liam Fox quits as defence secretary
The prime minister lost his first Conservative cabinet minister on Friday when Liam Fox folded under the pressure of relentless revelations about a close friend and the access he gained to the heart of government.
Performing a reluctant reshuffle, David Cameron made minimal moves to the front bench from his constituency home in Oxfordshire, replacing Fox by phone with the transport secretary, Philip Hammond, who in turn was succeeded by Justine Greening.
No 10 said Fox had crumpled under the weight of this week’s news stories and could not bear to contemplate another weekend of claims surrounding his friendship with his best man, Adam Werritty.
Fox’s departure came only hours after Werritty had been back for a second interview with the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell. He has been conducting an inquiry into claims that Werritty’s friendship with Fox potentially jeopardised national security and raised issues around conflicts of interest.
Sources said Werritty’s evidence had not impressed O’Donnell and that the cabinet secretary was concluding Fox had repeatedly broken the ministerial code.
Downing Street insisted it did not push Fox and that the prime minister had been prepared to tough out the relentless coverage and wait for O’Donnell’s report to be concluded.
However, senior figures began to question whether he could survive that long with new allegations that emerged on Friday.
They showed that some of the businessmen who were funding Werritty’s trips abroad had an interest in influencing defence policy.
The Guardian was poised to report that two of Werritty’s financial backers had defence interests.
This put into question Fox’s repeated assertion that neither he nor Werritty had profited from the 40 occasions they had met over the past 16 months.
Fox had been insisting up until Friday morning that he would tough out the crisis, telling aides that he believed the O’Donnell inquiry would exonerate him from serious wrongdoing.
He had also believed that his apology on Monday would take the sting out of any criticism from O’Donnell.
But that changed quickly when word began spreading around Whitehall that the investigation was going to draw some harsh conclusions: both about Fox’s personal conduct, and the mosaic of business arrangements that Werritty was involved in. “I don’t think the resignation was a done deal until early in the afternoon,” said one Whitehall official.
But the mood music from the Cabinet Office was that the inquiry was going to be very damaging. It didn’t leave Liam very much choice. He didn’t get a chance to say too many goodbyes. He was in his car on the way home by the time the statement came out.”
Fox will now join the backbenches, where he enjoys some popularity, but he has been so wounded by the past week that the chances of his being a standard bearer for rightwing discontent have waned.
While he will receive considerable sympathy for falling out of a top-level job he had spent his life working towards, many Tory MPs believe the revelations week have damaged him beyond repair politically.
The shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, said Fox had his “deepest sympathy”, though Labour’s reaction also contained criticism of Cameron for allowing Fox to survive through the week.
A Downing Street source acknowledged there had been some ambiguity about whether the report now needed to be completed, though O’Donnell is likely to continue with his work.
Fox sent a resignation letter to the prime minister at just after 4pm but actually resigned in a phone conversation with Cameron. In his resignation statement, he repeated a formulation he had used in his apology in the Commons on Monday when he and his supporters thought he could still ride out the issue.
He said: “I mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred. The consequences of this have become clearer in recent days. I am very sorry for this.
“I have also repeatedly said that the national interest must always come before personal interest. I now have to hold myself to my own standard.” Fox said he was “proud also to have played a part in helping to liberate the people of Libya, and I regret that I will not see through to its conclusion Britain’s role in Afghanistan, where so much progress has been made. Their bravery, dedication and professionalism are second to none.”
In his return letter, the prime minister emphasised that Fox and his wife Jesme Baird have “always been good friends” and that Fox had been a “key” member of his team who had done a “superb job” over the past 17 months.
He said: “On Libya, you played a key role in the campaign to stop people being massacred by the Gaddafi regime and instead win their freedom. You can be proud of the difference you have made in your time in office, and in helping our party to return to government.”
Fox was a well-liked secretary of state for defence for his part in overseeing a successful campaign in Libya, though he did disagree with the prime minister over funding cuts to the armed forces.
But the welter of allegations about Werritty, 33, eventually forced him to take a decision he had resisted all week. “He was fighting on too many fronts to survive,” said one official.
The Guardian was the first newspaper to highlight Werritty’s closeness to Fox, which had been privately causing alarm at the MoD for months.
A key issue was whether Werritty could be shown to have benefited financially from the friendship; that key link appeared to emerge on Friday.
The Times reported that a corporate intelligence company with a close interest in Sri Lanka and a venture capitalist keen on strong ties were said to have funded him with donations totalling £147,000.
The MoD insisted that Fox’s resignation would not change the department’s strategy of reform. “The department knows where is it going. We have established a clear direction of travel and everyone will support the new secretary of state,” said an official. “That won’t be a problem for people in the MoD. We have got used to change.”
Greening’s promotion is well won with an increased tally of women in cabinet an unexpected boon for the prime minister in a situation otherwise distracting for Cameron.
Greening, who held the post in opposition immediately before the election, is economically fluent and ahead of the growth review to be delivered on 29 November 2011, she strengthens the economic voices in cabinet.
Justine Greening MPPhilip Hammond MP
14 October 2011: Liam Fox resignation: Adam Werritty money trail was final straw
Jetset lifestyle revealed in detail of donations to self-styled adviser’s company forced defence secretary’s hand
By Thursday 13 October 2011, even friends of Liam Fox feared he would have to resign after months of disclosures about his undeclared relationship with his best man, Adam Werritty.
The final revelation that appears to have forced the defence secretary to buckle came on Friday from documents which showed that his self-styled adviser had received £147,000 from companies which had paid for a jet-set lifestyle.
Those who had paid money to Werrity’s company, Pargav Ltd, included a corporate intelligence company with alleged close links to Sri Lanka, a property investor who lobbies for Israel and a venture capitalist.
The money, according to the donors, was supposed to help foster peace initiatives.
In the process, it paid for five-star hotels and first-class travel for Werritty. And at some of the destinations, he had met Fox in the company of heads of state and foreign generals.
The disclosures of a money trail and further undeclared meetings were, it seems, to prove crucial in the decision by Fox to stand down.
It emerged on Friday that Werritty was the hidden hand behind Pargav Ltd, a not-for-profit company.
According to the Times, six different financial entities had paid £147,000 – up to £35,000 each – to the company since October last year.
The entities include Tamares Real Estate, an investment company owned by Poju Zabludowicz, a Tory donor who is also the chairman of and major donor to Bicom, an organisation that lobbies on behalf of Israel.
Zabludowicz, 57, who was born in Helsinki and now lives in Hampstead, is one of Britain’s richest men. He has some investments in the arms industry – his father built up the Israeli arms company Soltam in the 1950s after working closely with Shimon Peres, who was then the director general of the Israeli defence ministry. A spokesman for Zabludowicz said he owned a “legacy” arms business in the US, but added that it was not a significant part of his empire. Most of his assets were now in property, he said.
“Any suggestion that he has benefited from this relationship [with Pargav] would be completely wrong,” he said. “For many years, Poju Zabludowicz has helped fund not-for-profit organisations, not individuals, due to his passion for the promotion of peace and understanding between peoples in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.”
Another firm, G3 Good Governance Group, a private intelligence company, made a reported donation of £15,000 to Pargav, which was intended to go towards charitable work. The private company, which provides advice on risky overseas investments and investigative services, had attracted little attention from the media until this week.
It styled itself as an “independent strategic advisory firm” offering “insight, analysis and advice to help leaders make informed decisions and realise value in complex situations”. It said it placed the “highest priority on integrity, discretion and trust”.
It operated out of an undistinguished building in Mayfair and had been chaired by Chester Crocker, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President Ronald Reagan, since at least 2005. With another office on Madison Avenue in New York and a network spread around the world, the firm reportedly has 32 analysts.
Interest in the links between G3 and Fox was aroused earlier this week when it emerged coincidentally that the Sri Lanka Development Trust was also based at the same building as G3.
The trust was set up by Fox to rebuild the country’s infrastructure using private finance and is now based in Edinburgh.
Crocker refused to comment. One of his allies had told the press that he had no involvement with Sri Lanka and had not heard of the trust.
Perhaps the most damaging disclosures showed that many of the financial transactions of Pargav corresponded with the 18 destinations that Werritty and Fox visited together over the past 16 months.
Reports claim that £583.34 left the company’s accounts on 21 December to pay The Palace, a five star resort in Dubai.
Ministry of Defence records showed that Fox was also in the UAE city from 17-22 December. Pargav’s finances, according to reports, track Werritty back to Dubai in June, when he fixed a meeting with Fox for Harvey Boulter, a British businessman.
In Sri Lanka the following month, the accounts reportedly showed that Werritty withdrew £117.73 from the Hatton National Bank.
Records at Companies House show that Werritty is not the director of Pargav, despite being its only prominent employee.
Oliver Hylton, a charity adviser to a hedge fund, told reporters on Friday that he had signed up as its director after being asked by Werritty.
He said that Werritty was an “adviser of some sort” to Fox. “Adam is a good and honest man. He has just been making a living,” he said. Hylton added that he had met Werritty through Tory donors.
Another reported Pargav sponsor was Michael Lewis, 52, the vice-chairman of Bicom until 2007 and boss of Oceana Investments.
A Conservative party donor, he also gave £13,832 to Atlantic Bridge, the charity set up by Fox and run by Werritty from Fox’s parliamentary office. Lewis donated £5,000 to Fox’s leadership campaign in 2005.
There have been other intriguing connections between Fox’s best man and Bicom, which is devoted to seeking a more supportive environment for Israel.
It also paid for Werritty’s flight and hotel bills when he attended a conference in Israel in 2009 to speak about Iran.
Bicom’s former communications chief is Lee Petar, who left Bicom several years ago. Mr Petar, co-founded Tetra Strategy, and recently won the account to advise the emirate — one of the United Arab Emirates — on strategic communications and reputation management. The deal, reportedly worth around £500,000, is one of the biggest PR deals this year. “It’s a real communications challenge and a real opportunity for me,” Mr Petar tells People.
Emails seen by the Guardian show that Petar had been working to arrange a meeting between Boulter, a private equity boss based in Dubai, and Fox or Werritty since March this year.
Following this week’s media storm surrounding Fox, the donors to Pargav may now be ruing the day they got involved with Werritty.
Jon Moulton, a venture capitalist who has been listed as making several donations to Pargav, issued a statement following Fox’s resignation claiming that Fox had lobbied him for money on Pargav’s behalf. “Before the last election, I had made several on-the-record donations to support Dr Fox following a request to do so from a Conservative party fundraiser. “After the election, I was asked by Dr Fox to provide funds to a non-profit group called Pargav involved in security policy analysis and research and, after obtaining written assurances as to its activities, I provided personal funding to Pargav. “Neither I, nor any of my associates, have sought or received a benefit of any form from Pargav. I have not received an account of Pargav’s activities, nor have I been involved at all with Pargav, since funding. I will not be doing this again,” he said.
15 October 2011:Labour says the inquiry into Liam Fox’s relationship with Adam Werritty should continue despite the defence secretary’s decision to step down,
The shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, has called on the government to widen the investigation to include a broader investigation of rules governing ministerial conduct.
He told the BBC that there were still many unanswered questions, such as who paid for Werrity to fly around the world with the defence secretary and whether they benefited from it in any improper way. “What is the flow of money?” asked Murphy. “Liam treated Adam Werritty as a good friend. Adam Werritty seems to have treated Liam Fox like some sort of franchise to make money from.
David Cameron’s hopes that Fox’s resignation on Friday will have drawn a line under the affair were dashed by a deluge of fresh claims about Werritty’s financial affairs.
The Daily Mail claimed that Fox had solicited a donation from a company financing Werritty’s activities while he was defence secretary – the most damaging allegation yet.
Venture capitalist and millionaire Jon Moulton revealed that Fox approached him after the general election seeking funds for a company, Pargav, set up by Werritty.
Moulton told the Times: “Before the election, I had made several, on-the-record donations to support Dr Fox following a request from the Conservative party fundraiser. “After the election I was asked by Dr Fox to provide funds to a non-profit group called Pargav involved in security policy analysis and research and after obtaining written assurances as to its activities I provided personal funding to Pargav,” he added.
It emerged on Friday that Werritty was the hidden hand behind Pargav, a not-for-profit company which had received funding from six different entities including Moulton and another investment company with links to an organisation that lobbies on behalf of Israel.
Moulton insisted that he did not seek or receive any benefits from the Tories as a result of his financial largesse.
“Neither I, nor any of my associates, have sought or received any benefit of any form from Pargav. I have not received an account of Pargav’s activities, nor have I been involved at all with Pargav since funding. He added: “I will not be doing this again.”
Pressure continued to mount on Fox as it emerged that Lord Bell, PR consultant and one of Fox’s oldest friends, was present when an employee of one of his clients passed bank account details to the Times, which revealed how Pargav was funded.
According to the Daily Mail Moulton bought a defence company eight months before giving money to Pargav.
In February 2010, Moulton reportedly paid £60m for Gardner UK, which makes components for aircraft including RAF fighter jets and troop transporters. He reportedly gave a sum of up to £35,000 to Pargav in October of that year.
The cabinet secretary, Gus O’Donnell, who is heading the internal inquiry to the Fox affair was due to publish his report next week.
However Murphy said the goalposts had changed and this inquiry now needed to switch focus. “So we need to know as part of the inquiry just where’s the money? Why has Liam resigned? Let’s continue to carry out the investigation and if need be, broaden the investigation further.”
15 October 2011: Liam Fox resignation exposes Tory links to US radical right
David Cameron has been accused of allowing a secret rightwing agenda to flourish at the heart of the Conservative party, as fallout from the resignation of Liam Fox exposed its close links with a US network of lobbyists, climate change deniers and defence hawks.
In a sign that Fox’s decision to fall on his sword will not mark the end of the furore engulfing the Tories, both Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians stepped up their demands for the prime minister to explain why several senior members of his cabinet were involved in an Anglo-American organisation apparently at odds with his party’s environmental commitments and pledge to defend free healthcare.
At the heart of the complex web linking Fox and his friend Adam Werritty to a raft of businessmen, lobbyists and US neocons is the former defence secretary’s defunct charity, Atlantic Bridge, which was set up with the purported aim of “strengthening the special relationship” but is now mired in controversy.
An Observer investigation reveals that many of those who sat on the Anglo-American charity’s board and its executive council, or were employed on its staff, were lobbyists or lawyers with connections to the defence industry and energy interests.
Others included powerful businessmen with defence investments and representatives of the gambling industry.
Fox’s organisation, which was wound up last year following a critical Charity Commission report into its activities, formed a partnership with an organisation called the American Legislative Exchange Council.
The powerful lobbying organisation, which receives funding from pharmaceutical, weapons and oil interests among others, is heavily funded by the Koch Charitable Foundation whose founder, Charles G Koch, is one of the most generous donors to the Tea Party movement in the US. In recent years, the Tea Party has become a potent populist force in American politics, associated with controversial stances on global warming.
Via a series of foundations, Koch and his brother, David, have also given millions of dollars to global warming sceptics, according to Greenpeace.
Labour said it wanted to know how, in 2006, when David Cameron travelled to Norway for his famous photo opportunity with huskies to promote his new-look party’s “green” policies, his senior colleagues were cosying up to US groups that were profoundly sceptical about global warming.
Writing in the Observer, the shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, said the Tories still had many questions to answer and claimed that “while David Cameron’s compassionate conservatism has been undermined by his actions at home, it could be further damaged by connections overseas”.
Murphy wrote “With each passing day there have been fresh allegations of money and influence and it appears that much of the source was the Atlantic Bridge network and its US rightwing connections.
We need to know just how far and how deep the links into US politics go. This crisis has discovered traces of a stealth neocon agenda. For many on the right, Atlanticism has become synonymous with a self-defeating, virulent Euroscepticism that is bad for Britain.”
Fox resigned on Friday after admitting that he had allowed his friendship with Werritty, a lobbyist who portrayed himself as an adviser to the defence secretary, to blur his professional and personal interests.
His resignation followed a drip-feed of revelations about the links between Werritty and businessmen and organisations with defence interests. The revelations over Atlantic Bridge have triggered questions about the role played by Fox, chair of the charity’s advisory council, and that of four of its UK members:
William Hague, George Osborne, Chris Grayling and Michael Gove.
As a UK charity, the organisation enjoyed tax breaks but had to comply with strict rules prohibiting it from promoting business interests.
The charity’s political agenda, which it articulated in conferences devoted to issues such as liberalising the health sector and deregulating the energy markets, chimes with the thinking of many on the right of the Conservative party whom Cameron has been keen to check as he holds the Tories to the centre ground of British politics.
Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshot said: “Dr Fox is a spider at the centre of a tangled neocon web.
A dubious pattern is emerging of donations through front companies. We need to establish whether the British taxpayer was subsidising Fox and his frontbench colleagues. What steps did they take to ensure Atlantic Bridge didn’t abuse its charitable status?”
Werritty, the group’s UK director, was funded by a raft of powerful businessmen including :
* Michael Hintze, one of the Tories biggest financial backers whose hedge fund, CQS, has investments in companies that have contracts with the Ministry of Defence.
* Poju Zabludowicz, chairman of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, who chairs a US munitions company; and the Good Governance Group, a private security firm set up by a South African businessman, Andries Pienaar, who also has an investment firm, C5 Capital, focused on the defence sector.
The potentially explosive mix of big business interests and politicians that triggered Fox’s demise is the subject of an investigation by the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell.
Murphy said it was essential that the government then referred the wider issues to Sir Philip Mawer, the independent adviser on ministers’ interests. “He should look at the issues in their entirety to establish precisely how this never happens again,” Murphy said.
Questions are being asked over the role played by an organisation called the Sri Lankan Development Trust, whose headquarters were listed at the Good Governance Group.
The trust paid for three of Fox’s trips to Sri Lanka. In a statement the group said: “Our involvement with the Sri Lankan Development Trust was not done for profit or at the behest of any clients.”
Arriving at the Ministry of Defence to take up his new role in charge of the department, Philip Hammond, the new defence secretary, said Fox had “done a great job”.
16 October 2011 Adam Werritty may be investigated for fraud, police confirm
William Hague dismisses claims that Liam Fox’s friend had helped run a shadow foreign policy as ‘fanciful’
Ministers have indicated David Cameron and the Conservatives will press ahead with moves to regulate political lobbyists in the wake of Liam Fox’s resignation as defence secretary.
But the foreign secretary, William Hague, dismissed suggestions that Fox’s friend Adam Werritty had helped run a shadow foreign policy as further claims were made of Tory links to the US radical right.
Labour’s spokesman, Jim Murphy, said it was “time for a wider inquiry into the 18 months of off-the-books money at the heart of government”.
Police on Sunday confirmed they were considering an investigation into Werritty for possible fraud, with Fox’s former ministerial colleagues saying further political action must wait until the cabinet secretary, Gus O’Donnell, has completed a investigation into the links between the two men.
Hague, speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, dismissed as “fanciful” the idea that Werritty could have been running a shadow foreign policy: “One adviser or non-adviser, whatever he may have been, is not able to run a totally different policy from the rest of government.” Hague said: “We will have to wait to see what the report says about these things. My own experience about dealing with Liam Fox on these questions – on Sri Lanka, for instance – [was] if I asked him not to go to Sri Lanka at a particular time, he didn’t go.
If I asked him when he went, to convey the messages of the government and messages from me to the Sri Lankan government, then he conveyed those messages.” Hague said “It is wrong to purport to do things on the part of the government if it is not on behalf of the government.”
He had not met Werritty since becoming foreign secretary, and “only in passing when I was shadow”. Later he said: “I think you will find that contacts with other ministers apart from Liam Fox with Mr Werritty would be very slight.” Hague said he had only been a “name on the letterhead” for the Atlantic Bridge think-tank set up by Fox. “It doesn’t mean that you know how the thing is being run in detail,” he said.
On Sky’s Murnaghan programme, Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, said : “I’m quite sure the prime minister and cabinet secretary will be looking to see if there are any lessons which need to be learned as a result of what has happened.”
David Cameron was committed to “cleaning up politics”, Mitchell said. He added: “It is right that government should be as open and transparent as possible and is practical.”
Labour MP John Mann wants City of London police to investigate whether Werritty had committed a crime by calling himself Fox’s adviser.
He also plans to ask the police and Electoral Commission to look at whether Fox, who resigned on Friday, should face criminal proceedings. “I referred the matter to the police to investigate whether there is a potential fraud”, Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, told the Sunday Telegraph. “Mr Werritty gave out business cards saying he was an adviser to Dr Fox. If that is not the case and he was getting money – for whatever purpose – by misrepresenting his relationship with the defence secretary, that cannot be right.”
City of London police confirmed it had received an allegation of fraud. A spokesman said: “Officers from the force’s economic crime directorate will consider the matter and establish whether or not it is appropriate to launch an investigation.”
17 October 2011: Cowed officials silenced over Fox
Mandarins, diplomats, and military chiefs, knew about Fox but said nothing. They need to speak truth to power. The top brass, senior diplomats, MI6 – they all knew what Liam Fox and his friend Adam Werritty were up to.
They did not know everything that enterprising journalists from the Guardian and subsequently other newspapers have disclosed. But they knew that Fox and Werritty were pursuing their own priorities and interests – in the US, Israel, Iran, and Sri Lanka.
The question which the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, should address in his report, expected on Tuesday, along with how Fox breached the ministerial code of conduct, something the former defence secretary has in effect admitted already, is why didn’t they blow the whistle.
The former chief of defence staff Air Chief Marshal (now Lord) Stirrup, and Sir Bill Jeffrey, former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, are reported to have expressed their concerns some time ago.
Senior officials were privately calling Fox a “neocon” the day he was appointed defence secretary in May 2010.
William Hague, the foreign secretary, may insist, as he did on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday, that “the idea that it’s possible to run a completely separate policy by one minister is a fanciful idea” but that was simply using exaggeration as an easy put down.
The Foreign Office might be dismissing Werritty’s activities but MI6 called him in to find out what he was up to – and what intelligence he could share.
It is “inconceivable” that Ursula Brennan, Jeffrey’s successor, did not know what was going on, says one well-placed official.
How much we do not know. What is clear is that the affair has demonstrated that officials seem frightened to reveal their anxieties – to speak truth to power.
They seemed cowed. David Cameron did not help, telling military chiefs in June, “You do the fighting and I’ll do the talking.” No wonder the military retreated like scolded children.
Military commanders have been in the firing line before for not telling ministers the truth about the predicament facing the armed forces, in particular what their troops have needed in Afghanistan – in terms of resources and equipment. “Senior military advisors should…have raised serious concerns about the unpredictable nature of the conflict on which they were embarking”, the Commons defence committee said in a report last July. “Such concerns as were raised by the armed forces were inadequate at best,” it continued. “We regard it as unacceptable that hard pressed forces…should have been denied the necessary support to carry out the mission from the outset, and that this shortage had not been brought to the attention of ministers”.
The government has just responded to the the committee’s criticisms and it blames the military. “Military commanders have acknowledged that mistakes were made”, it says, adding that it is “not aware that senior military advisors failed to raise concerns to the very highest levels of government, only that these concerns underestimated the threat”.
If Fox’s departure means that officials, both civil and military, will in future be encouraged to speak up, not to lobby for sectional interests but to promote a healthy debate about Britain’s real defence and security interests, that would be another important reason to welcome it.
18 October 2011: Liam Fox damning verdict reveals ‘failure of judgment’
The scale of Liam Fox’s defiance of Whitehall rules was laid bare this evening when it emerged the former defence secretary blocked civil servants attending key meetings alongside Adam Werritty, failed to tell his permanent secretary that he had solicited funds to bankroll his close friend, and ignored private office requests to distance himself from the relationship.
The damaging findings in a report by the cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell will raise questions as to whether the Ministry of Defence informed either the intelligence services or Downing Street of their private concerns about Fox’s serial misconduct.
David Cameron will also face questions on Wednesday about how such a systematic breach of the ministerial code in Whitehall’s most security-sensitive department was apparently undetected until a Guardian investigation.
In what amounts to a serious reprimand to the Ministry of Defence permanent secretary, Ursula Brennan, No 10 insisted no warnings about Fox’s misconduct were passed to O’Donnell, Britain’s most senior civil servant.
In a sign of the sensitivity of the issues, publication of O’Donnell’s report was delayed for nearly eight hours as lawyers for the key actors pored over its contents, and last minute changes were inserted.
In a 10-page report O’Donnell stated “Dr Fox’s actions clearly constitute a breach of the ministerial code which Dr Fox has already acknowledged. This was a failure of judgment on his part for which he has taken the ultimate responsibility in resigning office.”
Number 10 made it clear that Cameron would have sacked Fox if he had not resigned last Friday, saying “his conduct was not consistent with remaining a member of the government”. His chances of returning to a ministerial post in the medium term look minimal.
Sir George Young, the leader of the house, will make a statement on the report on Wednesday, and will try to focus on future changes in ministerial procedure, rather than why Fox felt determined to breach the rules.
The report names six donors to a not-for-profit company set up by Werritty to bankroll his activities, including for the first time Mick Davis, chief executive of Xstrata, the FTSE 100 mining company.
Davis is a close friend of both Michael Lewis and Poju Zabludowicz, two donors whose identities had already been made public.
The report found Fox exposed himself and his officials to security risks by giving Werritty access to his diary, and repeatedly left foreign powers with the impression that Werritty was part of the UK government, or was working for Fox in an official capacity.
It also finds that Fox rejected officials’ requests to be present at two meetings attended by Werritty, first with businessman Harvey Boulter in Dubai in June and then with senior Israelis in Tel Aviv in February.”Private office attendance was offered for both visits and declined by Dr Fox.
This should not have been allowed to happen. Ministers should respect the advice they are given, particularly where there are security or propriety implications for the decisions they take,” O’Donnell found.
Fox also ignored concerns voiced in August by Brennan. “The risks of Dr Fox’s association with Mr Werritty were raised with Dr Fox by both his private office and the permanent secretary.
Dr Fox took action in respect of business cards but clearly made a judgment that his contact with Mr Werritty should continue.” One of Werritty’s 22 visits to the Ministry of Defence was dedicated to a discussion with Fox’s special advisers on his improper use of business cards.
Fox also failed to inform Brennan of his financial links with Werritty.
O’Donnell stated: “He should have declared to his permanent secretary that Mr Werritty was a friend who had a company, Pargav, which was funded by a number of donors, some of whom had provided funding to Dr Fox when in opposition.”
The report says Fox facilitated an introduction between Werritty and a donor. “The links between Dr Fox and Werritty means that donations given to Werritty could at least be seen to be giving rise to a conflict of interest.”
O’Donnell stated: “There is no evidence that Pargav sought to win contracts from the MoD or to influence procurement decisions.
Both Dr Fox and Werritty are clear that Werritty never lobbied Dr Fox on behalf of donors.” Number 10 insisted Werritty had co-operated with the inquiry, but some of his disgruntled financial backers, notably Jon Moulton, forced the pace by disclosing how much they had given to Werritty and how they had been unhappy at the way in which some of the money had been used.
Last night Fox issued a brief statement saying he was grateful the report found there had been no threat to national security and no suggestion he gained financially from allowing his friend into heart of government.
“I am pleased that the report makes clear that the two most serious allegations, namely of any financial gain sought, expected or received by myself and any breach of national security, have no basis.
As I said in the House of Commons last week, I accept that it was a mistake to allow the distinctions between government and private roles to become blurred, and I must take my share of the responsibility for this.”