Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Briton Quits Government over Payoff Minister Took Money from Prestigious Store

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Briton Quits Government over Payoff Minister Took Money from Prestigious Store

Article excerpt

A government minister resigned Thursday after admitting he accepted payoffs from the prestigious Harrods department store.

Northern Ireland Minister Tim Smith was accused of taking money to plant questions in Parliament that would benefit Harrods' owner. Also named in the scandal is Trade and Industry Minister Neil Hamilton.

In accepting Smith's resignation Thursday, Prime Minister John Major said: "I believe it to be unavoidable."

Hamilton has denied taking payoffs and intends to stay in office, Major said.

Hamilton and Smith are accused of taking the payoffs between 1987 and 1989, when Harrods' Egyptian-born owner, Mohamed al-Fayed, and his brothers were battling with the British conglomerate Lonrho for ownership of the London store.

The lawmakers allegedly were paid the equivalent of $3,200 a question to raise questions hostile to Lonrho, including references to alleged arms dealing and suggestions that the company's accounts had been falsified.

Major told the House of Commons on Thursday that a representative of al-Fayed had told him about the payments three weeks ago and that he had ordered an investigation. …

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