British-Indian MP Keith Vaz embroiled in sex scandal

Keith Vaz, Britain's longest serving Indian-origin MP, was on Sunday embroiled in a sex scandal and announced that he will "stand aside" as the chair of the influential House of Commons Home Affairs Committee after a newspaper claimed he had paid for male prostitutes.

The Labour MP from Leicester since 1987, who is a married father of two, paid for men to visit him one evening last month at a flat he owns in London, the Sunday Mirror' claimed.

The 59-year-old Goan-origin MP has since announced he will be stepping aside as chair of the influential House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, which he has headed for the past 10 years.

"I am genuinely sorry for the hurt and distress that has been caused by my actions, in particular to my wife and children. I will be informing the Committee on Tuesday of my intention to stand aside from chairing the sessions of the Committee with immediate effect," he said in a statement quoted by Sky News.

It is understood that Vaz has not resigned completely but temporarily, as he speaks to his lawyer and other members of the committee.

The committee is currently examining prostitution in the UK and had issued a report recently saying that soliciting by sex workers should be decriminalised.

Vaz allegedly paid for sex with two male prostitutes and offered to pay for a class A or banned drug, according to the newspaper report, which is accompanied by a video.

It is alleged the MP had two meetings with Eastern European-origin escorts, including a 90-minute meeting on 27 August.

One text, reportedly sent by Vaz, said the men should arrive at "11 pm, nice and late".

He is said to have added, "I want a good time please".

Vaz is accused of asking the young men to bring poppers to the flat, as well as allegedly joking about being a "pimp".

As the talk ranged from sex to pets, Vaz eventually said, "We need to get this party started".

He also spoke about having had unprotected sex.

A file photo of Keith Vaz. Reuters

A file photo of Keith Vaz. Reuters

And ahead of the meeting, he had allegedly sent a series of texts in which he jokingly called himself one of the men's "pimp" and "bank manager".

Vaz paid the escorts in cash, the report claimed.

"Money was also paid into a bank account used by one of them by a man linked to a charity set up by the MP," it said.

A Labour Party spokesperson said, "Keith Vaz has issued a statement on this matter.

"As with all departmental select committees, Keith was elected to the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee by the House of Commons, and his position is a matter for him and the House."

According to a report by The Guardian, Vaz's committee was recently carrying out an inquiry into prostitution, which makes these allegations more awkward. The interim report by the committee said that sex should be outlawed but soliciting by sex workers should be decriminalised.

Who is Keith Vaz?

Vaz was born in Yemen in 1956 to Indian parents. When he was nine, the family moved to UK where Vaz read law at Cambridge University and then in 1987 entered the parliament as the MP for Leicester East.

According to a report by The Telegraph, over the years, Vaz has been dogged by various controversies. In 2000, he came under investigation by parliamentary standards watchdog, Elizabeth Filkin, over claims that he could have accepted financial contributions from a solicitor friend. These contributions were undeclared.

In 2001, he faced criticism under claims that the had helped process the British passport application of the billionaire Hinduja brothers. He had temporarily stepped down from his post at the time.

In 2002, he was suspended from the Parliament for a month after making false allegations about a retired policewoman.

In 2007, he was appointed as the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee and hence given a position of power to scrutinise public figures, police chiefs, MPs and civil servants. At the time of The Daily Telegraph MPs expenses scandal, his name was mentioned and he was made to return a four figure sum.

According to a report by  The Daily Telegraph, he was subjected to investigation by the Scotland Yard, under allegations of 'suspicious payments'.

Earlier this year, Vaz had argued against a proposed ban on amyl nitrate, also known as poppers.

During his 29 years as an MP, he has been embroiled in many controversies. Many say that the latest incident could bring an end to his career.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Sep 05, 2016 12:05 PM

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