Epilogue 3: Currying Favours

Currying favours

Leeds Other Paper (7/9/90)
A secret inquiry has cleared police and top Tories of alleged corruption. Tony Grogan investigates the curry house party which was too hot to handle

AN INTERNAL corruption inquiry led by Bradford council's Chief Executive earlier this year has cleared the city's ruling politicians of any impropriety.
The inquiry followed a private party hosted by some of the city's leading Asian businessmen.
Tory politicians are trying hard to win the support of Asian voters by cultivating links with the Asian business community. But when business comes before politics, this can prove a dangerous strategy. Leeds Other Paper investigates.

On Tuesday evening, November 21st 1989, guests began arriving for a private dinner party at the Nawaab restaurant in Bradford's city centre.

Most had been invited by a trio of the city's leading Asian Tory businessmen: Dayal Sharma - the influential director of the Institute of Asian Business, Nirmal Singh - vice chairman of the Institute and boss of the Nirmal Razai Mart Co Ltd., and Choudry Fazal Hussein - the owner of several local businesses, also known as the political "Mr Fixit".

The guests included the city's leading Tory politicians: Council leader Eric Pickles arrived with his close friend and fellow councillor Kath Metcalfe, front benchers Richard Wightman, Mike Gaunt and Margaret Eaton were there along with a number of prominent back benchers. Police officers were amongst the guests, led by Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Cooper - head of West Yorkshire's Western Area CID.

It was an impressive gathering. Food and drink were plentiful; "It was great" said one guest. "There was as much to eat and drink as you could manage, and all for free."

There was plenty for the guests to discuss. Eric Pickles' controversial Tory administration had been in control for over a year but council elections loomed in the approaching May. Fazal Hussein was already playing a key role arranging the shock defection of Labour front bench councillor Mohammed Riaz to the Tories, which was due to be announced a month later.

Dayal Sharma and Nirmal Singh were undoubtedly concerned that a council grant application for their Institute of Asian Business had only been partly realised. The council were still considering grant awards at that time. Although it was a private function, it was hardly secret. During the course of the evening Labour leader Phil Beeley and his wife, councillor Marilyn Beeley turned up at the restaurant for a quiet meal and stumbled across the party.

It seems few of the guests knew who was footing the bill or exactly what the function was designed to celebrate. A spokesperson for Bradford council told Leeds Other Paper. "Councillor Pickles and councillor Wightman were invited for a meal by a third party. When they realised the true host was someone else, they considered leaving immediately, but decided to stay so as not to cause offence."

The true host was Sarwan "Sammy" Singh, former landlord of the Belle Vue and Spotted House pubs. According to Sammy Singh, the party was simply an early Christmas celebration to which he'd invited a few friends.

Sammy was an unlikely benefactor for this particular gathering; he was a long time member of the Labour Party and a close friend of a number of "left-wing" Labour councillors.

Sammy Singh had run strip shows at his pubs since the mid 1980s, which proved a lucrative business but had also set him on a collision course with his Labour colleagues. In 1986 when Labour took control of the council, they introduced a ban on pub strip shows. Sammy battled through the courts against the decision which ended the strip shows at his pub, The Spotted House, but with no success.

However, by the time the entertainment licence for his other pub, the Belle Vue, came before a council committee, the Tories were once more back in the council driving seat. At a controversial committee meeting in April last year, the Tories overturned the strip ban and Sammy was given his licence. Labour councillors were appalled.

Late in the evening Sammy Singh rose to speak. During the speech he thanked the guests for granting his licence.

"Alarm bells suddenly began ringing" explained one of the guests. "If I'd have known what was happening, I'd never have gone to that do."

The guests had good reason to be concerned, for Sammy had been host at a function in almost identical circumstances five years earlier which had led to public allegations of corruption and a year-long top level police inquiry.

Sammy's "thank you" speech proved particularly embarrassing for Chief Superintendent Kevin Cooper, who found himself enjoying the hospitality of a man his police force had investigated five years before. According to several witnesses Cooper left the party in a furious mood.

The following morning some of the councillors, including Eric Pickles, reported the incident to the council's Chief Executive, Richard Penn. There was a very real fear that news of the meal would be made public and allegations of corruption would follow.

Penn launched his own internal council inquiry. The inquiry was conducted in secret and concluded in March this year.

A council spokesperson told Leeds Other Paper: "The Chief Executive found no evidence of any impropriety."

Penn contacted the Chief Whips of each party and a "warning" was passed on to all councillors, advising them to be careful of their associations in future. It was received by most councillors in mystified ignorance.

Chief Superintendent Cooper is also believed to have reported the events to his superiors the following day. Leeds Other Paper understands that internal police inquiries were made by Chief Superintendent Sowden of Bradford's South Division. The results are unknown.

Sowden retired shortly afterwards and in June this year Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Cooper announced his early retirement on "health grounds" at the age of 50.

Sammy Singh, who no longer runs either pub, is philosophical about the whole affair: "I can't say much, it's all water under the bridge" he said, adding that his unfortunate habit of attracting controversy was "just one of those things. That's life, life's like that, isn't it?"

The Institute for Asian Business

The Institute of Asian Business is seen by many as the focus for Asian Tory politicians in the city. The brainchild of its director Dayal Sharma, it was started in 1986 with central government backing and is an accredited Enterprise Agency, concentrating on helping a small number of trainees set up new businesses.

Initially it aimed to he self financing, achieving a membership of 700 by 1989. In fact the present membership stands at around 28. Consequently the Institute has relied on public funds, including a total of £25,000 from Bradford Council.

Dayal Sharma himself is employed by the Inland Revenue, but has been seconded on full pay to run the Institute since its formation. Sharma is renowned for his contacts, he is the Ethnic Minority Liaison representative for the West Yorkshire Police, a member of Bradford's Economic Forum, Governor of several schools and colleges, member of the programme advisory council for Yorkshire Television and a key local Tory Party member.

The Asian membership of the Institute appears to he almost exclusively Indian. A number of influential characters lend their names to the Institute, including former Bradford Tory MP, Geoff Lawler, Tory MP Gary Waller and Labour MP Barry Sheerman, who all act as Vice Presidents. The Assistant Chief Constable John Botterill is a member and the Institute's advisory council is headed by former Bradford University Vice Chancellor, Professor John West. In July, Dayal Sharma was awarded an honourary Master of Arts Degree by Bradford University for his work as director of the Institute for Asian Business.

Spotted House Inquiry

In February 1985 a council committee had granted Sammy Singh an "extended hours" licence for his pub The Spotted House, in the face of staunch opposition from the police and council officers.

Shortly afterwards Sammy hosted a celebration party at the pub where free drinks were provided. Guests included several Labour councillors, mostly members of the left wing Campaign Group, along with a number of police officers.

Some time later allegations of corruption were made to the council's Chief Executive by other Labour councillors, who claimed the free drinks party was a "pay off' for aiding the success of the licence application.

The allegation seemed difficult to justify, particularly since the committee which granted it was Tory controlled. None the less the Chief Executive passed the allegations to the police, headed by Superintendent Kevin Cooper.

The case was then passed to an officer from outside the area - Superintendent Ken Baines of the Calderdale Division.

A number of Labour councillors, including the group's leaders, were quizzed at great length by the police and the investigations were given prominent media coverage which proved particularly damaging to the Campaign Group councillors who were centrally involved in the Honeyford Affair at the time.

Indeed, police questioning seemed to focus primarily on the politics of the Campaign Group and the anti-Honeyford campaign.

A year later, in July 1986, the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that no charges would he pressed.

Former top detective arrested in laundering inquiry
Money quiz for ex-chief

By Carol Mouncey and Rod Hopkinson, (T&A 26/7/93)

A FORMER senior Bradford detective has been arrested and questioned by police in the wake of an investigation into an alleged drugs money laundering operation.

And a leading member of the Asian community in Bradford has also been arrested and quizzed in connection with the major inquiry.

The developments are a spin-off from a top secret probe which has been going on for three years and has involved officers from around the force area drafted into West Yorkshire CID HQ at Wakefield.

It is also understood that another line being pursued in the complex inquiry is the 1986 murder of Bradford restaurant owner Mushtaq Hussain, which still remains unsolved.

The body of Mr Hussain, 25, who lived in Little Lane, Girlington, was found in his car in nearby Fairbank Road more than seven years ago. He had been strangled

Retired Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Cooper, who spent 23 years in Bradford's CID before moving to force headquarters in Wakefield and becoming the deputy head of the CID in West Yorkshire, was arrested at his Leicestershire home.

He was questioned by officers from Nottinghamshire police who were acting on behalf of West Yorkshire police. He was released on bail pending further inquiries.

Mr Cooper, 53, who led the investigation into the Bradford City fire, retired from the West Yorkshire police force three years ago

He is thought to have been arrested following a major undercover police investigation into allegations of drugs running and money laundering operations

Today a spokesman for West Yorkshire police refused to confirm that Mr Cooper had been arrested or to comment.

In an official statement the spokesman said: "We can confirm a man has been arrested by Nottinghamshire constabulary during their conduct of an investigation carried out

"He has been questioned and released on bail pending further inquiries."

An outstanding career

KEVIN Cooper embarked on his police career in 1962 and was to become one of West Yorkshire's most experienced officers.

The former St Bede's Grammar School pupil joined the Bradford City force and three years later became a detective.

His 28-year career saw him lead more than 40 murder inquiries to a successful conclusion.

Only one case remains unsolved - the murder in 1986 of 25-year-old restaurant owner Mushtaq Hussain, who was found strangled in his car in Toller Lane, Bradford.

Mr Cooper's work on the investigation into the Bradford City fire in 1985 was praised at the public inquiry and the inquest.

During his career he received 13 commendations

Married with two grown-up sons, he retired in 1990. He was injured on duty in Bradford in 1977 when he was head of the drugs squad and became plagued with back trouble.

Police quiz honours list man

By Rod Hopkinson (T&A 27/7/93)

BUSINESSMAN Fazal Hussain MBE was arrested and quizzed by police probing an alleged drugs money laundering operation.

The Telegraph & Argus can reveal that the detention coincided with the arrest of former Bradford CID chief Kevin Cooper, 53. Both were bailed without charge.

The men were questioned as an off-shoot to a major drugs inquiry by West Yorkshire Police. They were arrested and interviewed by Nottinghamshire police, at the request of the West Yorkshire force.

Mr Hussain, 61, owns World Wide Stores in Great Horton Road, Bradford, and is the chairman of the city's Conservative East West Association. It is understood his premises were searched by police.

He said today: "I cannot comment on this at the moment."

Mr Cooper, now living in Leicestershire, retired as deputy head of West Yorkshire CID three years ago on health grounds.

West Yorkshire Police today would not confirm the identities of the men interviewed, or what the interviews were about.

A spokesman did say: "Officers from Nottinghamshire constabulary arrested a Bradford businessman on Tuesday, July 20, and searched premises under the authority of search warrants. The businessman was taken to Nottinghamshire where he was interviewed and later bailed pending further inquiries.

"Nottinghamshire officers are conducting a detailed investigation on behalf of the West Yorkshire force into serious allegations over a period of three years."

* Mr Hussain was awarded the MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List last month for his political and public service to Bradford.

Ex-chief hits back in drug cash probe

Exclusive by Rod Hopkinson (T&A 12/8/93)

RETIRED police chief Kevin Cooper today broke his silence for the first time after being arrested as part of a major inquiry and told the Telegraph & Argus: "My conscience is clear."

The ex-detective chief superintendent and former Bradford CID boss was detained for eight hours last month by Nottinghamshire police investigating alleged drugs money laundering operations.

The shock move was an offshoot of a major Inquiry being carried out by West Yorkshire police which has been running for three years and is being coordinated at force HQ.

Mr Cooper, 53, who spent 23 years in Bradford CID, hit back at "outrageous" allegations that police were probing claims about secret bank accounts holding nearly £1.5 million.

The ex-top cop, who retired in June 1990 as deputy head of West Yorkshire CID, travelled to Bradford from his Midlands home for a meeting with his solicitor.

His solicitor, John Fitzpatrick, of Clough Fitzpatrick, said: "Mr Cooper has got a full answer to the preposterous allegations made against him which are devastating for a former officer of his calibre who left the police service after a distinguished career.

Mr Coopers full statement says: "The events of the last three weeks have been particularly harrowing, not just for myself, but, also for my wife and our families. I have held my counsel until now but in view of the escalating media reports and the distress they are causing I have decided that I have absolutely no choice but to break my silence and make this brief statement.

"I have never in any way whatsoever been involved in or had anything to do with any money laundering operation and I am outraged and extremely angry that such a suggestion has been made.

"With regard to my financial situation, about which there has been a lot of distorted and grossly exaggerated comment, I will say this: Over a period of 30 to 35 years, my wife and I have saved money using a variety of building societies.

"Like thousands of other people, we have from time to time moved part of our savings into more attractive accounts offering higher rates of interest or other benefits.

"Several of the accounts we have used have by definition been for short or fixed periods of time and as a result have been closed at the termination of the agreed period.

"Other accounts we have held have been discontinued by the building societies themselves and they in turn have recommended their closure and advised the transfer of funds into newer and updated accounts.

"In the 35-year period we have as a result held many different accounts but only a handful of these have ever been current at any one time. Of the building society books that are presently being examined, nearly all have been closed years ago with the money being transferred to newer accounts.

"All the movement of money between our accounts has been fully recorded and documented and when the accounts are examined they will reflect exactly what I am saying.

"With regard to the outrageous amounts of money that have been attributed to me by the media in the last few days, and I have read figures as high as £1.5 million, I will say this - I do not have, nor have I ever had, money even remotely approaching that type of figure and all the money that I have has come from either my salary, my pension, my investments or the sales of my previous homes.

"I will not be adding to this statement or making any further comment."

Bradford: Former CID boss cleared of drugs cash laundering hits back
Ex-Chief to sue police

By Alam Khan (T&A 25/2/94)

Former Bradford CID boss Kevin Cooper is to sue police after being cleared of laundering millions of pounds of drugs money.

Leading businessman Fazal Hussain, who was linked to a three-year probe into the accusations, is also to take civil action, a solicitor revealed today.

Mr Cooper may sue West Yorkshire police - who he served for 23 years - or the Nottinghamshire force which arrested him, but his solicitor would not give further details.

An inquiry is now being carried out into the way police conducted the affairs of Mr Cooper, who ended his career as deputy head of West Yorkshire CID in 1990, and 61-year-old Mr Hussain.

Mr Cooper, 53, was arrested and questioned last July by the Nottinghamshire constabulary in a top secret probe on behalf of West Yorkshire Police.

Mr Hussain, of Great Horton Road, Bradford, who was honoured with the MBE last year, was also quizzed as part of the investigation. Both men were released on bail without charge.

Now, after considering the report by Nottinghamshire police, the Director of Public Prosecutions has fully exonerated both men.

Bradford-based solicitor John Fitzpatrick said: "The DPP has concluded that there is no evidence which would justify any prosecution in respect of either man."

It has been revealed that senior officers from Leicestershire police have been investigating aspects of the original inquiry since October.

Mr Fitzpatrick, of Clough Fitzpatrick Solicitors, who is representing both men, said: "I do not wish to elaborate further at this time, but I have already placed on record my serious disquiet about the investigation into Mr Cooper and I can confirm that an inquiry is now taking place. Mr Cooper, who retired three years ago on health grounds, continually protested his innocence and said the allegations against him were totally false.

The former pupil of St Bede's Grammar School, Bradford, who is married with two grown-up sons, received 13 commendations during his police career.

He said today he was relieved he had finally been cleared.

Mr Hussain is the chairman of the Conservative East-West Association and owns World Wide Food Stores. He was awarded the MBE last June.

He said: "I am relieved the matter has finally been dealt with and I have been cleared. It has been a trying time."