TONY Baldry last night denied he misused his position as an MP to help an African politician named in a money laundering case.
The Banbury MP spoke out after The Independent on Sunday revealed he had written to Foreign Secretary David Miliband to warn a Scotland Yard investigation into Nigerian businessman James Ibori could “damage British interests in the country”.
The letter followed the investigation into fraud and laundering money through British banks.
The paper also said Mr Baldry had criticised a freezing order on Mr Ibori’s assets.
Last night the Tory MP branded the story “seriously defamatory and untrue”, stating that all his dealings with Mr Ibori and on his behalf were only as a barrister.
He said: “I am immediately instructing libel lawyers for their advice and assistance in obtaining an early apology and corrections.
“At no time did the Independent on Sunday put to me any allegations of how or in what way they considered that I as a public figure had behaved improperly, let alone give me the opportunity to respond to those allegations.
“The Independent on Sunday by its headline and subsequent text alleges that I as an MP have ‘lobbied ministers for reward’.
“This is a serious charge and completely untrue. I have taken absolutely no action whatsoever in this matter as an MP.
“I have only acted in my professional capacity as barrister, properly instructed and fully in accord with the code of conduct of the Bar.”
The Independent on Sunday refused to comment.
Three people are due to go on trial at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday charged with a range of offences, including money laundering and fraud.
Mr Ibori, who is in Nigeria and is a former state governor, is cited as co-conspirator in three of the charges. He has not been charged.
The House of Commons register of members’ interests, shows Mr Baldry records was paid more than £37,000 for 29 hours work between September and December by Sarosh Zaiwalla, a London-based solicitor who had acted for the Ibori family.
However it is not recorded what work this was for. Mr Baldry would not comment whether this was as part of the work which included the Miliband letter.
The register also states that between July 29 last year and January 6, Mr Baldry, who earns £64,766 a year as an MP, earned £48,749.75 from company directorships, and that between September 28 and January 14 he earned £63,222.57 for ‘remunerated employment’.