British defence minister's friend quizzed over trips

11th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

British officials interviewed a close friend of defence minister Liam Fox Tuesday to ask why he had joined the politician on many overseas trips despite having no government role, a source said.

Adam Werritty, Fox's former flatmate and best man at his wedding, was questioned by civil servants a day after Prime Minister David Cameron said the minister had made "serious mistakes" in his ties to the younger man.

Initial findings showed Fox, 50, had met the 34-year-old Werritty on 18 overseas visits since taking office in May 2010, and Werritty had visited him 22 times at the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

A British government source told AFP on condition of anonymity that civil servants had begun interviewing Werritty on Tuesday, but refused to give any further details about the interview or where it was taking place.

Fox has been under pressure for days after claims that Werritty posed as his advisor, brokered meetings with businessmen and accompanied him on ministerial trips including to Sri Lanka and Dubai, despite having no security clearance.

The defence minister addressed parliament on Monday, saying that the 18 trips where he met Werritty "in the margins" included family holidays, and insisted most of their meetings at the MoD were "short, social meetings".

According to a list of meetings released by the MoD 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 either commercial or defence matters, he had no access to classified documents, nor was he briefed on classified matters."

But British newspapers have called for an explanation of how Werritty was able to afford the trips.

London's Evening Standard newspaper calculated that the flights and hotels would have cost at least £32,000 ($50,000, 36,925 euros) and as much as £100,000.

The Times reported that Werritty's three known consultancies have earned him little more than £20,000 in four years.

Fox is a member of Cameron's Conservative party, although he has more right-wing views than the prime minister and they have clashed in the past.

© 2011 AFP

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