How 'Teflon MP' Vaz has survived numerous scandals

UK Labour MP Keith Vaz. Picture / AP
UK Labour MP Keith Vaz. Picture / AP

During his 29-years as a British MP, Keith Vaz has had a lot of mud thrown at him, but very little has ever stuck.

Despite​ resigning as a minister, being suspended from Parliament and having to fend off lurid speculation about his private life, the married father-of-two has repeatedly bounced back from scandals that would have finished off less robust politicians.

But even the man dubbed the 'Teflon MP' and Keith 'Vaz-eline' may struggle to slide out this latest fix, after he was accused of paying male prostitutes for sex and even intimating that he might offer to purchase cocaine for them.

It was his decision nine days ago to meet two male escorts at a flat he owns in Edgware, north London, that looks like finally proving his undoing.

In arranging the liaison Vaz told the two young men, who are originally from Eastern Europe: "Try and pick up some poppers".

The message was a reference to the chemical, amyl nitrate, which can heighten sexual experience and is popular among the gay community.

Earlier this year Vaz had argued in Parliament that the substance should not be included in a bill proposing to ban so-called legal highs.

Despite his high profile and almost daily appearances in the national media, Vaz was clearly convinced he would be able to hide his true identity from the male prostitutes, telling them he was a washing machine salesman called Jim.

Unfortunately for him, it appears his notoriety even extends to Eastern European escorts, with one of the male prostitutes saying he recognised him immediately as a powerful Westminster politician.

According to the Sunday Mirror, the men had arranged for a younger Romanian escort to join them for a group sex session, which was allegedly fuelled with a Viagra-like substance.

The liaison took place at a sparsely furnished £380,000 flat the MP owns just a short walk from the £2.1 million home he shares with his wife, Maria Fernandes, and their son and daughter.

The men claimed the flat did not look lived in and had no sign of any personal effects with nothing on the walls and nothing in any of the drawers.

During the conversation, that was secretly recorded, Vaz, the chairman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee, suggested he might be willing to pay for some cocaine for their next liaison - although he stressed he was not interested in taking any of the Class A drug himself.

In 2010 Vaz headed up a government inquiry into the scourge of cocaine, claiming despite becoming socially acceptable in some quarters it was a "dangerous and lethal" drug.

When the other male escort arrived Vaz allegedly told him: "Take your shirt off I'm going to attack you", before they engaged in an encounter lasting around 15 minutes.

In a statement, Vaz indicated that he would stand down from his position as chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, when it meets later this week, but it is not clear whether he intends to stay on as a member of the committee.

If this incident does end his political career it will be seen as long overdue by those who have marvelled at his ability to survive through a career frequently dogged by controversy.

Born in Aden in Yemen in 1956 to Indian parents, he moved to the UK when he was nine years old and after studying law at Cambridge University qualified as a solicitor, before entering Parliament as the MP for Leicester East in 1987.

A master networker with a vast number of contacts within the British Asian community, he was made Europe Minister in the Blair Government.

But in 2000 he became the subject of an investigation by the parliamentary standards watchdog, Elizabeth Filkin, over claims he had accepted financial contributions from a solicitor friend that he had not declared.

He faced 18 separate allegations of wrongdoing, which he denied, but managed to escape censure on all but one, after Filkin said he had failed to hand over information or answer questions.

The following year he was again under the spotlight regarding claims he helped process the British passport applications of the billionaire Hinduja brothers.

Amid the controversy he eventually stepped down from his ministerial post, citing "health reasons".

In 2002 he was accused of making false allegations about a retired policewoman and was suspended from Parliament for a month.

There were further potential banana skins, including claims that he had helped a business associate avoid extradition to France and allegations that he had written to a High Court judge in an attempt to have proceedings against a friend stopped, but each time Vaz appeared to come away unscathed.

In 2007 he was appointed chairman of the highly influential Home Affairs Select Committee, which meant he was able to put public figures, including police chiefs, MPs and civil servants under intense and uncomfortable scrutiny.

But similar scrutiny over his own affairs never seemed to bruise his confidence.

During the Daily Telegraph MPs expenses scandal it was revealed that he had "flipped" his designated second home from his London flat to his Leicester constituency office and while not illegal was forced to pay back a four figure sum.

In September 2012, the Daily Telegraph revealed how Vaz was the subject of a Scotland Yard into allegedly "suspicious payments" amounting to almost £500,000 that had been paid into his bank accounts.

He had not publicly declared the source of the money, and insisted it had been the proceeds of property deals.

The investigation focussed on a company called Mapesbury Communications, which was set up by Vaz in 1994 to receive earnings from outside Parliament.

Despite a lengthy investigation, Scotland Yard was not able to determine what the source of the funds had been and it was eventually decided that it would be a matter for the parliamentary authorities rather than the police. The parliamentary authorities subsequently declined to investigate.

It is not yet clear whether the police will investigate any of the matters raised in the latest incident, although there is no suggestion at this stage he has committed any crimes.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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