People close to U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg were told as early as 2011 that the then energy secretary, Chris Huhne, forced his ex-wife to lie for him over a speeding ticket, according to e-mails released after a court case.
Huhne’s former wife, Vicky Pryce, was found guilty today of perverting the course of justice for taking Huhne’s penalty points for speeding in 2003, when the couple were married, so he could avoid disqualification. After Huhne left her for an aide, Pryce sought revenge by telling the story to the Sunday Times newspaper. Huhne pleaded guilty to the same charge last month and resigned from the House of Commons as a lawmaker for Clegg’s Liberal Democrat party. He quit his Cabinet post after being charged in February 2012, saying he was innocent.
The e-mails may raise renewed questions about Clegg’s attitude toward allegations of wrongdoing within his party. Women activists suggested last month that the Liberal Democrats had tried to cover up accusations of sexual harassment by Chris Rennard, an upper-house lawmaker who was once the party’s chief executive officer.
“I have told VC, MiriamC, MOak ... and a few other Lib Dem Lords and others working close to NC,” Pryce said in an e- mailed response to questions by Sunday Times journalist Isabel Oakeshott dated April 26, 2011, that was among those released following the verdict at Southwark Crown Court in London. VC is Business Secretary Vince Cable, MiriamC is Clegg’s wife, MOak is upper-house lawmaker Matthew Oakeshott, a cousin of the journalist, while NC are the initials of the Liberal Democrat leader.
In another e-mail to Isabel Oakeshott on April 9, 2011, Pryce referred to Cable and his wife and when they knew of the allegations.
“Actually I had told Vince and Rachel about points before when the three of us were having supper about a month ago --they were horrified at the time but VC has probably forgotten it by now. He was v tired that night,” Pryce wrote.
A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, who asked not to be named in line with the party’s normal practice, said that Cable, his wife and Miriam Clegg were clear that the allegation had not been raised with them, and that nobody in Clegg’s team had a recollection of Pryce doing so.
“Vince and Rachel have no recollection of the issue of points being raised with them over the course of dinner with Vicky Pryce on Jan. 28, 2011,” Cable’s office said in an e- mailed statement. “They have consulted their personal records which confirm that the issue first came to their attention in May 2011 when the story broke in the press.”
The jury in the Pryce case reached a verdict today after a retrial, ordered when a first jury failed to agree last month.
Pryce also questioned in the e-mails how Huhne, a multimillionaire, had been able to make his money and buy real estate, when he had largely worked as a journalist and a member of the European Union’s parliament.
“How did CH make his money and manage to build a property portfolio on mainly a journalistic and MP salary???” she wrote in an e-mail to Oakeshott on March 5, 2011. “Facts, from public sources should be easy to come by, dodgy investments in mining companies etc.”
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