British defence minister resigns over ties to best man

14th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox resigned on Friday, forced out over his links to the best man at his wedding who posed as a government adviser while foreign donors funded his trips with the minister.

"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," Fox wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron.

"I am very sorry for this."

Fox's close friend and former flatmate Adam Werritty, 34, became the subject of a government inquiry after it emerged that Werritty went on 18 trips abroad with the 50-year-old minister despite having no official role.

Cameron said he was sorry to see Fox go and praised him for his role in the British military campaigns in Afghanistan and in Libya, where he said he had helped to stop people being massacred by Moamer Kadhafi's forces.

The inquiry's findings were not due until next week, but Fox could not survive a flurry of reports on Friday that financial backers linked to Israel and a private security firm funded Werritty's first class travel and hotel stays during his time with the minister.

Fox said in his letter to Cameron that he had "repeatedly said that the national interest must always come before personal interest. I now have to hold myself to my own standard.

"I have therefore decided, with great sadness, to resign from my post as secretary of state for defence -- a position which I have been immensely proud and honoured to have held," he said.

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."

Fox, Britain's sixth defence secretary in the last 10 years, said he would stay on as a lawmaker.

Cameron said Fox had done a "superb job" in the 17 months since the Conservative-led coalition came to power in elections in May 2010.

"I understand your reasons for deciding to resign as defence secretary, although I am very sorry to see you go," the premier wrote to him.

"On Libya, you played a key role in the campaign to stop people being massacred by the Kadhafi regime and instead win their freedom."

Britain's Guardian newspaper first raised questions about Fox's ties to Werritty in August and the scandal erupted in full earlier this week with fresh revelations about their travels together.

Then on Friday the Times newspaper reported that donors funnelled £147,000 ($231,000, 167,000 euros) into a company set up by Werritty.

The Times said a money trail linked Werritty to G3, or the Good Governance Group, an international strategic advisory firm that has strong links to Sri Lanka, the destination of several trips by Fox and Werritty.

It said there were also links to an investment company, Tamares Real Estate, owned by Poju Zabludowicz, who also heads BICOM, an organisation that lobbies on behalf of Israeli causes in Britain.

The money paid into Pargav, a not-for-profit company set up by Werritty, was spent on first class flights and upscale hotels when he went abroad with the British minister, the Times said.

A spokesman for Tamares confirmed that it paid £3,000 to Pargav but said the investment firm "has supported an organisation, not Adam Werritty."

"In any case, it's a legitimate organisation with genuine peace purposes. There is nothing wrong with supporting organisations that are trying to increase peace," the spokesman told AFP.

There was no immediate comment from G3.

Fox revealed to parliament earlier this week that Werritty had accompanied him on 18 foreign trips since the minister took office in May 2010.

Werritty also visited Fox 22 times at the defence ministry in London during the same period and printed business cards describing himself as Fox's adviser.

He has made no public comment.

© 2011 AFP

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