Donor claims add to pressure on British defence minister

14th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

British defence minister Liam Fox faced fresh questions about his conduct Friday over reports that financial backers linked to Israel and a private intelligence firm funded the travels of a close friend.

The donors funnelled £147,000 ($231,000, 167,000 euros) into a company set up by Adam Werritty, who used the cash to accompany Fox on foreign trips despite his not being a government official, the Times newspaper said.

Werritty, 33, is due to be interviewed for a second time by civil servants on Friday over a slowly growing tide of revelations about his ties with Fox, 50, at whose wedding he was best man.

Fox has denied any wrongdoing and Prime Minister David Cameron has so far given him his support, while acknowledging that the minister made "serious mistakes".

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 the 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.

A spokesman for Tamares confirmed that they 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 said.

There was no immediate comment from G3.

Meanwhile Fox and Werritty attended a dinner in Washington with leading names from the defence industry costing £500 a head which was not declared by the defence ministry, the Daily Telegraph reported.

A spokesman for Fox said that he attended the event in a "private capacity" during a spell of annual leave.

The Daily Mail quoted an unnamed senior figure in Fox's Conservative party as saying that Fox would have to resign when the results of a formal civil service inquiry into his conduct are revealed, expected early next week.

Fox has been under pressure for days over revelations that Werritty posed as his adviser despite not having a government job and 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. He has made no public comment since the scandal blew up a week ago.

© 2011 AFP

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