In January 1994, the day after board members at Anglia TV were notified of a buy out bid for the company, the former deputy Conservative party chairman, Lord Archer, rang his stockbrokers and purchased 50,000 shares, placing them unusually in the name of a Kurdish businessman named Broosk Saib.
Before the bid became public he repeated the same exercise, pressing his stockbrokers into scouring the market for sellers, and purchasing the 50,000 shares at the market price of 485p per share, compared to the soon to be announced buy-out price of 610p.
Scandal hit when the facts emerged since Archer’s wife was one of the board members of the company, sworn to secrecy, and Broosk Saib was a close associate of Archer’s on his then fundraising campaign supporting Kurds in Iraq who were being oppressed by Saddam Hussein.
Saib’s brother in law was the then youthful Nadhim Zahawi who was also active on Archer’s campaign. Archer nick-named them ‘bean Kurd’ and ‘lemon Kurd’ and he was to later co-opt Zahawi into his mayoral campaign and in return backed Nadhim’s successful efforts to gain a place on Wandsworth Council, thereby launching his political career in the Conservative party.
Archer’s own career would end in disgrace after numerous scandals many of which he survived, including the Anglia case where after an enquiry the President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine, announced there would be no further action.
Now himself chairman of the Conservative party, Zahawi, is starting to face what look like similar troubles, despite what might have seemed like a salutary lesson over what happened to Lord Archer who was ultimately forced to abandon his bid to become the first London mayor after it emerged he had perjured himself during an earlier successful libel trial where he had sued a newspaper for exposing him for paying a prostitute.
Archer was sent to jail for having failed to tell the truth. Meanwhile, there was considerable controversy over the Kurdish fundraising effort (labelled The Simple Truth) in which Saib and Zahawi had been involved. At issue was the alleged high percentage of administration costs with critics claiming that only a fraction of the £30 million in receipts from a Wembley concert ended up with Kurdish charities.
One of explanations given for Broosk Saib’s purchase of the shares organised by Archer was that the Kurd was a wealthy businessman who could afford to pay for them himself. Indeed, both he and Zahawi came from influential families in the oil rich region of northern Iraq which was being targeted by Saddam.
This reality clashes with the narrative currently being utilised by apologists for the Tory chairman depicting him as a hard up refugee who ‘came to this country with nothing’ and made good. Indeed, once the Iraq invasion was over Zahawi’s father swiftly returned to build the family’s multi-million dollar business in Iraq (as he described it) mainly profiting from allied construction contracts from Britain and America.
Zahawi himself was included as a key player in that Iraq based business whilst an MP and also acted as a consultant and advisor to oil companies seeking to get traction in the region and with foreign investors.
The familial business links to Broosk Saib have remained through Zahawi’s wife Lana who has been put in sole charge as director and shareholder of their former joint ‘consultancy and advisory’ firm Zahawi & Zahawi Ltd which started to invest in millions of pounds worth of London property from 2016.
Zahawi removed himself from the company on becoming a minister in 2018 and, shortly after, Lana Zahawi reverted to her maiden name of Lana Saib on the company register.
At the end of last week, whilst refusing to step down as chairman (something Archer had been forced to do after the original story about his engagement of a prostitute emerged in 1987) Zahawi did agree to cooperate fully with the ethics advisor appointed by Rishi Sunak to look into his management of his tax affairs and questions regarding the funds that had flowed into his various businesses.
The chairman has agreed to provide all his papers and full disclosure to that enquiry.
Of particular concern to any genuine and thorough investigation will be the allegation (yet to be effectively denied) that it was not only the HMRC but also the National Crime Agency that had been enquiring into Mr Zahawi’s affairs, at least prior to his appointment as Chairman of the governing party in 2021, after which the NCR is understood to have shelved its investigation.