On 11 occasions the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards either acknowledges that George Galloway did not personally benefit from “moneys derived from the former Iraqi regime” or accepts that George Galloway did make many declarations of interest over Iraq (Commissioner’s memorandum pars: 281, 292, 306, 308, 315, 321, 322, 325, 331, 336 and 354).
His memorandum also finds no evidence that the sums raised by the Mariam Appeal were spent on anything other than the purposes for which the Appeal was established. This is the third report (there have been two by the Charity Commission) to find that Mariam Appeal funds were properly spent.
The Commissioner’s report explicitly exonerates George Galloway of the libellous accusation made by the Daily Telegraph that he personally received moneys from the former Iraqi regime. At par 321, it states:
“If Mr Galloway had personally received moneys, whether properly or improperly, from the former Iraqi regime, or any other overseas source, he would have been obliged to register it under category 7 of the Rules (Overseas benefits and gifts). However I have not found evidence that Mr Galloway, directly and personally, received such moneys, and this issue does not therefore arise.”
The Commissioner also directly dismisses the libellous claim that George Galloway was in the “pay of Saddam Hussein”. At par 336, the Commissioner’s report says:
“I do not think it can be argued convincingly that Mr Galloway’s stance in opposing UK government policy on Iraq and the UN sanctions arrangements in particular were motivated by that financial support. Mr Galloway’s views were consistent over many years and long predated the establishment of the Mariam Appeal. To argue that he was simply a paid-mouthpiece of those governments would be a travesty of what I believe to be his consistent views on these issues, views which I have no reason to doubt stemmed from deep conviction.”
The accusation that George Galloway was in the pay of Saddam Hussein was defamatory before this report and remains so now.George Galloway wrote to the Commissioner’s predecessor on 5 July 1999 highlighting Mariam Appeal funding from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. He was not advised to register that in the Register of Members Interests. He did register foreign trips made on behalf of the Mariam Appeal and did make consequent declarations of interest in some debates, but not in all. There is no suggestion, given the “random” nature of these declarations, that there was any intention to deceive.The donations to the Mariam Appeal by Mr Fawaz Zureikat were well known and his connection to the Appeal was so transparent that he was made chairman and was introduced to a plethora of British journalists and Members of Parliament. He has never been charged with, let alone convicted, of any wrongdoing in his business dealings in Iraq. He continues to do business in Iraq and travels freely in the United States. He categorically denies ever having paid any surcharges to obtain contracts in Iraq. His donations to the Mariam Appeal, taken as a whole, do not correspond to any pattern of his business dealings.Whatever the status of the “Telegraph documents”, the information in them is untrue. For example, according to one of the documents George Galloway met a senior Iraqi intelligence official on Boxing Day 1999 and asked for an “increase” in his supposed “oil allocation”. But even the Commissioner’s own memorandum does not suggest any improper donation to the Mariam Appeal before August of 2000. There were no “allocations” to “increase”.The parliamentary investigation has refused to consider the existence, still less the origin, of two sets of forged documents about George Galloway which came to light in the same week and in the same city as the Telegraph documents apparently did. The expert called before the Committee to attest to the authenticity of the Telegraph documents accepted that it is not impossible that they too were forged. They are, in any case, fake.Two witnesses who gave evidence to the Commissioner damaging to George Galloway have been demonstrated in Galloway’s submission to have not told the truth. (See the sections on “Tony” Zureikat and Stuart Halford). In an abuse of the procedure an inquisitorial investigation is meant to follow, the Commissioner has ignored evidence of mendacity and chosen to give invest credibility in these witnesses. One egregious lie was an attempt to smear Galloway’s former wife, Elaine Galloway, as a forger, interfering with cheques to pay them into her account. An entirely baseless accusation. One witness – “Tony” Zureikat – has worked closely and is on first name terms with staff in the office of Senator “Norm” Coleman, who presided over the Senate hearing into Galloway in May 2005.The majority of the Committee voted for the war on Iraq. Two of its members are former chairs of the Labour Friends of Israel. One of them, Kevin Barron MP, played a pivotal role in the witch-hunt of miners’ leader Arthur Scargill in 1990.The entire affair is, as George Galloway put it in his submission, an argument about political funding. Nowhere does the Committee claim that Galloway should have investigated the provenance of the funds donated to the Mariam Appeal by the King of Saudi Arabia or the late Emir of the UAE. If it were to transpire that part of the Saudi King’s wealth came from kickbacks paid by the Ministry of Defence or BAe, it would doubtless be embarrassing. But no one could hold the trustees of the Mariam Appeal responsible for not knowing that at the time. Parliament has voted to back the government in halting the SFO investigation into BAe’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Yet a Committee of Parliament has seen fit to criticise the funding of the Mariam Appeal against non-military sanctions on Iraq. The partiality is blatantly political.The claim that the Mariam Appeal benefited George Galloway in his role as a Member of the House of Commons is unsustainable. The travel expenses paid to Galloway to speak on behalf of the Appeal were to further the aims of the Appeal. No reasonable person could hold that the Appeal advanced Galloway’s career as an MP. Similarly, the charge of advocacy in the House cannot be accepted by any reasonable person. The advocacy rule relates to initiating proceedings related “specifically and directly to the affairs and interests” of a body in which a member has a Registrable interest. The relevant example given in the guidelines to the rules governing Members’ conduct is advocating a grant-in-aid for a charity or campaign a Member is a paid advisor to. Galloway was not a paid advisor to the Mariam Appeal and never once asked for it to be given public money or to receive any other preferential treatment by the government or Parliament. Speaking out against sanctions cannot possibly be considered to be advocating for the financial benefit of a campaign and any fair reading of the rules would support that conclusion.This has been from beginning to end a political process. It began with a leak – the media informed Galloway there was a complaint against him – and it ended with a leak of the Committee’s findings. The timing of that leak and the Committee’s report – two days before the Southall by-election – could not be more political. Furthermore, the chairman of the Committee, when asked to investigate the source of the leak, chose not to say that he would do so and, indeed, chose not even to express regret that there had been a leak – an abuse of Parliamentary privilege – by the body charged with policing Parliamentary privilege.
Also read our May 2005 coverage » How they forged the case against Galloway